Virgin Atlantic closes Flying Co and joins BlueBiz, the Air France, KLM and Delta SME loyalty scheme

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We have written before about ‘On Business’, British Airways’ loyalty scheme, which rewards the companies that book employee travel.  Our latest overview of how On Business works is here.

Virgin Atlantic has a similar program called Flying Co, which we have never covered in detail.

And now we never will ….. because Virgin Atlantic is closing down Flying Co on 31st July.

Virgin Atlantic announced this week that it is joining the same SME loyalty scheme that Air France, KLM, Delta and Kenya Airways (!) uses, BlueBiz.

If you were previously enrolled in Flying Co you should have received an email stating that:

any flights booked before [31st July] will still earn Flying Co miles, and any bookings with ground partners before 31st December 2019 will earn miles too, as long as travel has been completed by this date. You can continue to exchange Flying Co miles for rewards until 31st December 2020.”

This doesn’t sound too great to me.  Your Flying Co points will not be converted into BlueBiz points.  There is presumably a decent chance that you will be stuck with too few points to get a decent redemption with no way of earning any more.

What is BlueBiz?

Let’s take a look at the new scheme that Virgin Atlantic has joined, and which it wants your company to join too.

The key thing to know is that BlueBiz is not new.  Air France, KLM and Delta have been using it for some years, and it is well used by the many companies – mainly outside the M25 – who rely on Air France and KLM for long-haul travel via regional connections.

The BlueBiz scheme is explained on a stand-alone website here from where BlueBiz members can manage their account.  Ironically, despite the name, the website has been re-branded in red when you log in as a Virgin Atlantic customer.

Note – as this is a key question that always comes up – you CAN collect both Virgin Flying Club miles and Blue Credits for the same flight. If you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller and double dip.

The sign-up page for BlueBiz is here. Virgin Atlantic is not signing you up automatically even if you were previously a Flying Co member.

Signing up for BlueBiz

Unlike British Airways On Business, it does NOT appear that you need a VAT registration number to join BluzBiz.  This means that it should be open to many more companies that do not meet the VAT threshold or which operate in a VAT-exempt sector such as charities.

Once you sign up, it says that the BlueBiz sales team will contact you to ‘verify your company status’.  It is not clear what this process entails and it is not clear if you need to have a registered company, as opposed to being a sole trader, to join.

Travel agents are not eligible. You also cannot join BlueBiz if your company has a directly negotiated corporate discount although this is very unlikely for an SME.

How to earn Blue Credits

As with On Business, BlueBiz is 100% revenue based, both for earning and redeeming.  The more you spend, the more Blue Credits you earn.

You earn 2.5 Blue Credit for every £100 you spend.  Since each credit is worth exactly £1, this is a 2.5% return on your company’s spending.

You will earn Blue Credits on ‘eligible flights’.  The BlueBiz website has not been updated to reflect Virgin Atlantic joining the program, but we assume that all flights with a Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France, Delta or Kenya Airways flight number should be eligible.

To earn Blue Credits you must add your BlueBiz number during the online booking process, or ask your travel agent to add it to your company profile in their reservation system.

On Air France and KLM reservations it is possible to add your BlueBiz number after booking.  This functionality will presumably appear on the Virgin Atlantic website in time.

You can retroactively claim Blue Credits up to 6 months after your eligible flight.

Blue credits are valid for two years following the membership year in which they were accrued.  This is a hard expiry and there is no way to keep Blue Credits active after that, irrespective of how much activity you have on your account.

BlueBiz Virgin Atlantic

How to spend Blue Credits

You can use Blue Credits to purchase flights, upgrades or “flight-related services.” Each credit is worth exactly £1.

The snag here is that you cannot combine Blue Credits with any other form of payment. This means that you must accrue enough Blue Credits to pay for a complete ticket.

It makes the scheme far less useful than it could otherwise be.  For an Upper Class return flight from London to New York, for example, you would need approximately 3000 credits outside sale periods.  Since you earn 2.5 credits per £100 spent, you would need to spend £120,000 on eligible flights.

To put it another way:  you would get 1 free Upper Class return for every 40 Upper Class trips you or your colleagues make. This makes the program almost unworkable for small and even medium-sized companies.  I think that most Virgin Atlantic travellers will end up redeeming for KLM and Air France flights around Europe.

On the positive side, when you redeem Blue Credits there are no additional taxes or fees to pay.  Once you have enough Blue Credits to spend, your ticket is 100% paid for.

There is currently no user interface for booking Blue Credit tickets on Virgin Atlantic.  To use your credits you must contact the BlueBiz self-service centre and get a quote for your requested flights at least 5 days before departure.

Paying for upgrades and flight related services with Blue Credits are currently only possible on KLM and Air France tickets.

Is it worth it?

Fundamentally, this comes down to whether your business can drive the kinds of numbers to make BlueBiz useful.   For most people, I imagine that the credits earned from long-haul travel on Virgin Atlantic will only ever be enough to pay for short-haul flights to Paris or Amsterdam.

However, the BlueBiz website does mention additional benefits – such as increased ticket flexibility, free name changes and priority boarding in economy – may make signing up worth it.  It will take some time before we find out what small print, if any, is attached to these benefits.

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Comments

  1. Not all flights on KLM and Air France are currently eligible. The cheapest fare classes don’t earn any BlueBiz points. Air France has a list here of the fare classes which count:
    https://www.airfrance.com.cn/CN/en/local/avotreservice/entreprises/bluebiz_gagner_bareme.htm

  2. Joseph Heenan says:

    I’ve found the flight related services bit of bluebiz has been handy a few times – I’ve had a few free economy comfort seats, and there’s the option to use bluebiz credits for ‘time to think’ (holding a flight for a few days for a fee), premium meals and excess baggage too. Presumably once the IT integration catches up those options will be available on Virgin too.

    The process for using the credits is rather tedious – you have to login to blue biz, then you get redirected to a page to access your booking, which tends to offer you two options:

    1) manually enter booking reference & surname

    2) login to flying blue account

    You *have* to go with ‘1’. If you login with your flying blue account you will NOT be able to use your bluebiz credits.

    The ‘priority treatment’ used to worked out well a few years ago (when I didn’t have KLM status), adding the bluebiz number to a booking added ‘sky priority’ on my boarding card – which got me priority security, lounge access and priority boarding at Glasgow. (I’m not sure if the lounge access was a mistake; I got refused lounge access on the return leg.)

    I’ve definitely got far more value from bluebiz than I have from BA’s onbusiness. It’s probably one of a whole host of little reasons that where I have to choose between BA and KLM I will choose KLM.

  3. Waribai says:

    Possibly a pre-cursor to the end of Flying Club?

    • ChrisC says:

      Why do you think that?

      VS isn’t a member of Sky Team and no plans to join (at present) so needs some sort of loyalty scheme of it’s own

      And recently Flying Club was spun off to a separate company jointly owned by VS and DL.

      • marcw says:

        Virgin Atlantic joining SkyTeam is more likely today than yesterday.

        • I was with Shai Weiss two weeks ago. It is looking substantially more likely under his leadership, let’s put it that way.

          • Waribai says:

            Ok, I’m just hoping they offer some kind of transfer of miles at a decent rate!

  4. @alastairtravel says:

    This is a positive step for Virgin as Flying Co was pretty poor, and relied on manual administration to link all of a companies travellers to an account.

    Blue Biz simple in its execution, and you can redeem it on anything at the cash value, including for low values seat bookings etc.

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