Virgin Atlantic isn’t known for dragging its heels with high flyers. After all, the carrier has long offered bars and lounges onboard most of its planes – and heck, even a recording studio at its London Heathrow Clubhouse. But how do you make an impression on those not easily impressed? That’s where Virgin Atlantic’s secretive UNIQ program comes into play.
Much like its sister airline Virgin Australia has Beyond, Virgin Atlantic has its own way of recognising true VIPs. Here’s your exclusive look behind the curtain.
How to get Virgin Atlantic UNIQ
An invitation to Virgin Atlantic UNIQ is quite coveted. After all, and particularly in its home market, UNIQ is Virgin’s equivalent of the elusive British Airways Premier tier. With members scattered across both sides of the Atlantic, UNIQ is also on-par with American Airlines ConciergeKey, Delta 360° and United Global Services.
Now, airlines don’t often talk about these by-invitation tiers. A hush-hush approach usually adds to the mystique. But Virgin Atlantic is happy to drop a few hints around how an invitation might be extended.
There’s a select group who need and demand extra attention. We’re talking about VIPs, or as we like to call them, our UNIQ customers. (These can include) royalty, industry leaders and our most frequent flyers. They might also be government ministers, politicians and ambassadors, or people from the media, film industry or art world.
In other words, it can be status, spending or loyalty that gets you on the list, but it’s mostly made up of our highest value, frequently flying customers.– Virgin Atlantic spokesperson
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t publicise exactly how frequently one must travel to reach the heights of UNIQ. But it’s fair to say, even with a handful of paid Upper Class journeys each year, you’re probably still a long way off. Gold status in Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a much easier goal.
VIP service for Virgin Atlantic UNIQ members
Some airlines roll out the red carpet for VIPs with private lounges and tarmac transfers in luxury vehicles. Virgin Atlantic UNIQ doesn’t go quite that far… by default. But if a customer desires it, consider it done.
The trick is to instinctively know what the UNIQ customers want. You never know what sort of day they’re having. You need to be aware they might have something on their minds and not want to converse. On the other hand, they can sometimes be extremely talkative, which demands a different set of social skills.– Maggie Woods, Virgin Atlantic Senior Agent
Most VIPs are content with just being greeted on arrival at Heathrow Terminal 3. Once check-in is done, a walk through to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and then an escort onto the plane is easy. But the UNIQ team can also draw outside the lines. For instance, by arranging access to Heathrow’s private Windsor Suite – at a cost, of course.
The Windsor Suite is completely separate to the public terminals. Those desiring the utmost privacy can have their chauffeur drop them straight at its secluded entrance. After clearing security behind closed doors and enjoying an à la carte meal, the Heathrow VIP team will dispatch a car for a direct transfer to the aircraft.
Everyone has a list of things that are important to them when they fly. It might be that you like to be left alone to watch a movie, or you want to avoid the waiting paparazzi. Everyone is different, and that’s the skill of our team; being flexible and creative when it comes to making those journeys both smooth and special.– Maria Bedford, Virgin Atlantic Global VIP Programme Manager
Attention to detail is paramount with Virgin Atlantic UNIQ
Virgin Atlantic UNIQ is as much about what you see as what you don’t.
Before each UNIQ member flies, airport staff, Clubhouse attendants and cabin crew leaders are briefed. Notes can be as simple as favourite drinks or as detailed as how they should be greeted, topics to avoid in conversation or if they prefer to be left in peace.
There’s even a team dedicated to monitoring Virgin Atlantic’s reservation database, to make sure VIPs are appropriately flagged. After all, you wouldn’t want to overlook a high-value customer just because they (or their assistant) were too busy to note their Flying Club number.
It’s those special extras that make us stand out from our competitors. That, and anticipating their needs. We aim to get to them before they ask.– Hannah Welton, Virgin Atlantic UK VIP Coordinator
UNIQ members also enjoy the greatest access to Virgin Atlantic reward flights when spending Virgin Points. These Flying Club members can ask for reward seats to be opened up – much as Qantas Platinum members and above can ask the same of Qantas.
Fancy booking with a partner airline? The UNIQ team can monitor availability and snap up that preferred seat, should it become available. After take-off though, the inflight service is much the same.
I will, of course, personally say hello to any UNIQ customers onboard in the same way I do our Gold Card holders. But I’m also aware that a first-time flyer in Economy may have saved up years to buy their holiday so they, of course, deserve equally good service. Where our UNIQs are different is that flying might be very rare private time for them. We have to respect that. Also, some of them know more about our flights and service than we do!– Rachelle Jardine, Virgin Atlantic Flight Service Manager
Flying Club’s little-known Million Miler rank
Separate to UNIQ, Virgin Atlantic also recognises those who’ve flown more miles than most. If you happen to notch up one million miles on paid tickets on Virgin Atlantic-operated flights, you’ll unlock Flying Club Gold status for life.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily come with an invitation to UNIQ. But at this level of flying, you’d certainly be on the airline’s radar for some VIP treatment. And for a snazzy gift to mark the milestone.
These presents can change over time, but one recent gift was a pair of high-end headphones. Why, you might ask? To listen to a custom soundscape engineered by Virgin Atlantic. Each flight you’ve taken towards those million miles is represented by a soundwave. Every wave reflects the varying distance and changes in altitude of each flight.
It’s certainly an ‘out of the box’ idea. After all, what can you really give a person who practically lives in the sky? But I know what you’re thinking – what would that even sound like? I’m glad you asked.
You can also secure Flying Club Gold status for life without hitting a million miles. It’s achieved by being a Flying Club Gold member for 10 consecutive years, and earning 7,500 Tier Points on Virgin Atlantic flights during that same time.
Flying Club Gold requires 1,000 Tier Points to earn and maintain each year, so this provides some leeway for those mixing in some partner airline flights.
Virgin Atlantic has a reputation for doing things differently – a bit like its counterpart Virgin Australia. When it comes to UNIQ, Virgin Atlantic adapts each journey to suit the VIP, rather than simply rolling out a standard set of benefits.
Having said that, UNIQ cardholders do enjoy all the usual privileges of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold status. This includes access to Virgin Australia lounges prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights. But access to the private Beyond lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane isn’t part of the parcel.
For that, only a Virgin Australia Beyond card will do.
All uncredited photos and video footage courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.
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