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Space Flight for Miles: Virgin America Upgrades Benefits

Virgin America this week unveiled new status benefits for members of its Elevate frequent-flier program, including the chance for a free sub-orbital space flight on Virgin Galactic.

Photo: Darren Booth for CNBC

New to the frequent-flier program will be the creation of a silver and gold level. Members who accrue 20,000 or 50,000 points respectively will earn upgraded perks. The new offerings include priority check-in, security clearance and boarding; free checked bag allowances; an expanded advance purchase first class upgrade window; and complimentary upgrades to the enhanced legroom Main Cabin Select seating area.

"As we prepare to mark our 5-year anniversary, we wanted to roll out a new level of benefits to the loyal business and leisure travelers who got us where we are today," says Virgin America President and CEO David Cush in a press release.

The program enhancements go into effect August 8, timed to coincide with the airline's fifth anniversary.

Status points in the Elevate frequent flier program are awarded based on the published, base fare purchased and generally equate to five points per dollar of airfare.

To qualify for silver status, 20,000 Elevate points are required in a calendar year. Benefits at this level include a 25 percent status point bonus, one free checked bag up to 50 pounds and a dedicated telephone number to silver elite reservations.

To qualify for gold status, 50,000 Elevate points are required in a calendar year. Benefits include a 100 percent status point bonus, three free checked bags up to 50 pounds each and dedicated telephone number to gold elite reservations.

Qualifying existing members, who have accrued enough points during the past year for one of the new status levels, will automatically be "grandfathered" in and receive silver or gold status once the program takes effect on August 8.

So what about that space flight? The Elevate member who earns the most status points between August 8, 2012 and August 7, 2013 will earn a free seat on the sub-orbital space flight on Virgin Galactic.

For more information and a detailed list of all the new Virgin America frequent flier benefits, click here.

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