You have to cast your mind back to 1999 in order to recall that Singapore Airlines once owned 49% of Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, a stake that cost it GBP600 million, S$1.6 billion in those days, giving the British airline a highly profitable partner at a time Virgin was up against strong competition on its transatlantic network.
The partnership even predated SIA’s induction to the Star Alliance in 2000, but unlike that longstanding pact the relationship with Virgin Atlantic was set to sour in the meantime.
In 2012, SIA sold its stake in Virgin Atlantic to Delta Air Lines for GBP224 million, around S$439 million, less than a third of the Singapore carrier’s initial investment.
Since then Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have remained partners, but it’s safe to say there wasn’t much love left in the relationship, with neither carrier offering much (if any) award space to one another’s members being the main drawback most of our readers will recognise.
Elite miles earning axed on Virgin Atlantic flights
KrisFlyer members used to earn Elite miles, which count towards your KrisFlyer Elite Silver and Elite Gold qualification, on all Virgin Atlantic flights. That policy changed in July 2016, with Elite miles earning then restricted to non-transatlantic flights on the airline.
Presumably it was just getting too easy for US- and UK-based KrisFlyer members to clock Elite Silver and Elite Gold status on Virgin’s regular transatlantic services to and from London, and now that SIA wasn’t even getting 49% of the revenue for these tickets, that probably vexed a little.
Therefore, between 1st July 2016 and 28th February 2023, KrisFlyer members travelling only on non-transatlantic flights with Virgin Atlantic were eligible to earn Elite miles when linking their membership to the booking, in addition to KrisFlyer miles.
That has meant earning Elite miles on a relatively limited list of the carrier’s routes to and from London Heathrow for the last few years:
- Cape Town
- Dubai (ceased Mar 2019)
- Hong Kong (ceased Dec 2021)
- Tel Aviv
From 1st March 2023, Elite miles earning on these routes has unfortunately ended – Virgin Atlantic is no longer an Elite miles earning partner of the KrisFlyer programme, since its tie-up with the SkyTeam alliance, which took effect the following day.
Which airlines still award Elite miles?
KrisFlyer members can continue to earn Elite miles based on the actual miles flown and any cabin class multiplier when travelling on paid flights operated by:
- Singapore Airlines
- Star Alliance carriers
- Juneyao Air
- Virgin Australia within Australia, Trans-Tasman, and between Australia and the Pacific Islands (these must be Singapore Airlines codeshare flights)
- Vistara within India (these must be Singapore Airlines codeshare flights)
You cannot accrue Elite miles with other partners, like Alaska Airlines, jetBlue and Olympic Air (but in those cases, you never could).
Virgin Atlantic has now joined that ‘exclusion list’.
KrisFlyer miles earning is unaffected
The good news is that you’ll still earn KrisFlyer miles on all Virgin Atlantic routes, as you did before, based on your booking class and fare code, when linking your KrisFlyer membership to your booking.
Here’s how that looks.
|KrisFlyer Miles earning on Virgin Atlantic flights|
|Cabin||Booking Class /
|KF Miles Earning
(distance flown x)
|C, D, J, I, Z||125%|
|Premium Economy||H, K, S, W||100%|
|Economy||B, L, M, R, U, V, Y||100%|
|E, N, O, Q, X||50%|
KrisFlyer Elite Gold members also continue to benefit from Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse access before departing on a Virgin Atlantic flight in any cabin class, a perk available in London, Boston, New York, Washington, San Francisco and Johannesburg.
Virgin Atlantic retains tier point earning on SIA
Interestingly, Virgin Atlantic has not ‘retaliated’ against Singapore Airlines over this decision, and still awards its own Flying Club members Tier Points (its own equivalent of Elite miles) when flying on paid Singapore Airlines fares.
Here’s how it looks for Flying Club members.
|Virgin Atlantic Tier Points earning on Singapore Airlines flights|
|Cabin||Sectors under 2,000 miles||Sectors over 2,000 miles|
|First / Suites||125||175|
This includes the intra-Europe Milan – Barcelona “fifth-freedom” route, which can be a great way for Virgin members to net 75 Tier Points in each direction on a cheap Business Class fare, if they are a little short of the next upgrade or renewal threshold.
Virgin members need 400 Tier Points a year to earn or retain Silver status, or 1,000 a year to earn or retain Gold status, with no Virgin Atlantic flights necessary.
Virgin Flying Club members also continue to earn points (their equivalent of KrisFlyer miles) based on distance flown on Singapore Airlines flights, as outlined here, except when travelling on SIA’s Economy Value and Economy Lite fares.
In 2012, Delta bought Singapore Airlines’ 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for more than S$1 billion less than SIA originally paid for it 13 years earlier, and it’s fair to say that the relationship between Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic has been pretty tenuous ever since.
Virgin Atlantic offers nearly no award space whatsoever to KrisFlyer members, and in the other direction Singapore Airlines offers only a smattering of Economy Class space to Virgin Flying Club members, with some regional Business Class seats in the mix.
The latest development is that Singapore Airlines has stopped awarding Elite miles for all travel on Virgin Atlantic, a benefit that was previously available on the carrier’s non-transatlantic routes, and it’s clearly no coincidence that this happened on the day Virgin joined the SkyTeam alliance.
It’s will be interesting to see how much longevity there is in this partnership going forward, though Virgin Atlantic still offers its members Tier Points when flying with Singapore Airlines – an oddly one-sided state of affairs.
(Cover Photo: Virgin Atlantic)