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Virgin America Adds Boutique Hotels to Elevate Program

Members of Virgin America’s Elevate program can now earn points for stays at Joie de Vivre hotels, a collection of California boutique properties.

To earn Elevate points—one per dollar spent—travelers must also be members of the hotel’s Joy of Life Club and indicate Elevate as their earning preference. But through December, as a launch promotion, hotel guests can earn both Elevate points and Joy of Life points for the same stays.

The press release characterizes the hotel group as follows: "San Francisco-based Joie de Vivre is the second largest independent boutique hotel company in the U.S. and manages the largest boutique hotel collection in California." What that amounts to, though, is just 33 hotels, paltry by the standards of the major hotel chains.

Naysayers will knock the latest addition to Elevate as more style than substance. That’s true in part. But Elevate already partners with Hilton—the multi-brand behemoth, with thousands of properties worldwide—and another boutique hotel collection, the Morgan Hotel Group. That’s a significant amount of hotel choices for members of a program as small as Virgin America’s.

And the Joie de Vivre collection makes up in personality what it lacks in size and scope. While not on the must-stay lists of the average business traveler, such hotels as the Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur and the Hotel Erwin in Venice are a welcome relief from the cookie-cutter hotels that have done so much to homogenize the travel experience.

Who said an airline loyalty program can’t have style?