Virgin is running several bonuses through December 5th on purchased, gifted,
and transferred miles and also on their new ‘miles booster‘ that lets you buy miles in conjunction with the purchase of paid travel.
The bonus on purchased and gifted miles (up to 30,000 miles received per account) is 25%.
The bonus for purchasing miles in conjunction with a paid ticket is 15%. There’s also a permanent bonus of 1000 miles with each purchase.
These bonuses strike me as interesting because they seem like a continuation of the ‘Amerification’ of world frequent flyer programs, historically the programs themselves began in the states and have been the most aggressive in the States in printing miles and monetizing them. Miles are a big business.
It’s always seemed odd to me that airlines offer additional — very expensive — miles for sale in the ticket purchase process. Sure, there are customers and giving those customers the chance to spend more money is potentially profitable. But the miles are simply not a good deal. The standalone purchase of miles can make sense to me, a member is stuck needing a few miles in a hurry to have enough for an award ticket. But the impulse purchase at checkout when buying a ticket?
I used to imagine that the uptake on these offers was low, but it was worth offering because it was cheap to implement. It turns out, though, the a large percentage of customers buy miles when buying airline tickets. And it’s not the less sophisticated, occasional travelers either — it tends to be elite members of a frequent flyer program, folks who should be more like to both have plenty of miles already and also be savvy about the value of those miles. But it seems that elites are the ones who really like their airline’s miles, so want to buy more.
While Virgin is making moves in the direction of direct mileage sales, and goosing the same, they haven’t made the miles booster process easy since the purchase can’t be completed online — it actually requires a phone call to the program.