The European low-cost airline Virgin Express has published details of its forthcoming 'Flight Club' frequent flyer loyalty scheme, revealing that one free flight will be earned for every fifteen one-way flights booked. However, airport charges and taxes must still be paid by the member, and a number of restrictions apply.
The new online-only Flight Club programme is already being publicised by the airline's web site (see here), although the airline quickly points out that programme benefits are "subject to continuation of the programme".
The programme is only available online, and was created to provide benefits for registered members who book seats through the airline's own online flight booking while logged in using their unique membership ID.
In order to register for the programme, the consumer enters their personal contact details through an online registration form. Once registered, any information registered (except the log-in ID and the consumer's name) can be changed. Membership is only available to individual consumers aged at least 18 years old, and is not available to companies, groups or associations. Membership accounts and loyalty points are non-transferable.
Once they have logged in, the web-based loyalty system gives members the option to view all the flights they have ever booked through the programme, and changes to bookings can be made very easily in real-time (for example, members can change the schedule of a flight or even the destination).
The loyalty currency, Bonus Points, is relatively simple. When a logged-in member books a flight online, 5 points are automatically added to their Flight Club account. Whenever the member's Bonus Points total reaches a multiple of 75 points, they immediately qualify for a free flight booking by means of an automatically issued Flight Bonus.
While Flight Bonuses can only be redeemed for flight tickets in the name of the membership account holder (which can't be changed after registration), Bonus Points can be earned on flights booked for absolutely anyone, as long as the Flight Club member makes the actual payment for the flight. No points are earned on flight bookings for infants, or when paying for the booking using a voucher, or when redeeming a Flight Bonus for a free flight. And finally, Bonus Points and Flight Bonuses expire 12 months after they are issued.
One question that springs to mind concerns the allocation of points for connecting flights. According to the Virgin Express web site's FAQ (frequent asked questions), such a flight is equal to a single one-way flight (5 points). In the example cited by the airline, a Barcelona-Geneva flight via Brussels earns a total of 5 Bonus Points, not 10, because the entire trip is made on a single ticket.
Award travel can then be booked (using up one Flight Bonus per one-way flight) through the programme's members-only Flight Club bookings web site. While there are some nice benefits to the system (for example, members don't need to enter their contact details for each flight booking because the system already knows who they are), there are a number of terms and conditions to award travel bookings. For example, a limited number of seats are pre-selected by the airline for Flight Club award travel on each flight. Members are also required to pay airport charges and taxes using a credit card when booking their "free" flight.
As soon as a member gains enough Bonus Points for a free flight, they are sent an e-mail containing information about booking a free flight. To do so, the member simply visits the Flight Bonus bookings engine on the airline's web site (having first logged in), and checks which flights are available. The value of their Flight Bonus is then transferred from points into its Euro equivalent (i.e. the value of the seat being booked), and the booking is made.