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Virgin America loyalty program takes off

Virgin America airline has teamed with Loyalty Lab to start offering rewards through its Elevate frequent fliers program.

Fliers have been able to collect points — based on dollars spent, not miles traveled — with the airline since its launch in August 2007 and, as of six months ago, they are able to view their point balances online. Points redemption online started this month with a slow rollout that included messaging on the Virgin America Web site and an e-mail blast to existing customers. More than 500,000 people are members of the Elevate program, with 1,300 new members joining daily, according to the company.

“Part of our model from the beginning was to win over a loyal and targeted customer base,” said Abby Lunardini, director of communications for Virgin America. “Our core demographic now is between 30 and 45 years of age, and they are travelers that want upscale features and amenities.”
Elevate points can be redeemed any time for any seat, with no fixed rewards schedule and no blackout dates. Fliers earn five points for every dollar spent and, in 2009, they will be able to combine points and dollars to buy tickets through the online rewards system.

“Virgin America is really about reinventing the domestic flight, so we wanted to do things differently — take advantage of the latest technology and design and create a system that was easy and customer-facing,” Lunardini explained. “People hate frequent flier programs with blackout dates, where they have to game the system, so we wanted something simple and transparent.”

Virgin America is using Loyalty Lab’s software-as-a-service to support Elevate. The loyalty and CRM software allows customers to maintain personalized profiles on the rewards site. It also enables service representatives to direct targeted reward offers to specific fliers, based on their profiles.

Loyalty Lab underwent a lengthy RFP to win Virgin America’s business. Virgin America also works with Eleven, an ad agency based in San Francisco.

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