It's not uncommon for companies to give special offers to encourage new customers or indeed to win back former customers but there is a major issue with the way Virgin Trains East Coast handles this. The only appear to care about attracting new customers (even if they're just occasional customers on very cheap fares) and neglecting those who travel regularly even if they're spending a lot.

This is a complete contrast to every other operator we've had operating this franchise previously. East Coast Rewards was a scheme that rewarded customers on all levels but prior to that both GNER and National Express East Coast made sure that the highest spenders were rewarded.

Yesterday someone asked me what I thought of the latest VTEC 50% sale. Confused, I mentioned I wasn't aware of such a sale. There was nothing in my inbox. I then checked a rarely used email account and there was a notice about the sale sent to an account I created with VTEC last year for testing purposes but had never purchased any tickets with it before. It turns out this sale is only available to those who its targeted with this email there's no promo codes or special links the offer is available only if you're logged in as that user.

Checking on Twitter it seems the majority of people who received this offer are those who have stopped booking their tickets direct (so VTEC doesn't know whether or not they still use their services) or who have created another account that they don't use.

This isn't just a one off, there's many examples of VTEC ignoring their highest spenders while rewarding those who spend very little.

Here's a personal example: in 2016 I travelled more on Virgin Trains East Coast than I had on any East Coast operator for a long time, this was a combination of (mostly first class) business travel and a lot of discretionary leisure spend (also mostly first class). Throughout the whole of 2016 I received nothing from VTEC in the way of rewards whereas on Twitter I heard about people who travelled less frequently been rewarded with things like lounge passes and upgrade offers (although I was mostly travelling first class I'd have appreciated these when I was travelling standard), the on-board surprise and delight also seems more geared up to rewarding the occasional traveller than those travelling frequently.

So with VTEC in 2016 I got nothing except for some Flying Club miles (which will be great when I get enough to get business class to New York, but not much use for on train benefits which is what you want from a train loyalty scheme), I spent at least £6k that year on business travel and who knows how much on leisure. With East Coast Rewards I would have got enough points for a bunch more free leisure trips, lounge passes and if I got sick of travelling I could spend the points on beer, wine and loads of other things (not that I ever did, I love travelling so used the points for that). With National Express and GNER I would have hit their qualifying spend and would have got benefits like a years free lounge access, some free tickets and other benefits.

So 2017 my spend dropped dramatically. This was for a few reasons, one was less business travel and the new policy was that the company booked it rather than how I did it in 2016 which was book it myself, this meant this travel wasn't showing up. Leisure travel dropped significantly due to the decline in catering standards through the most part of the year and also the new website launch meant I booked elsewhere if I needed to reserve a bike space. So booking direct on VTEC I probably spent less than £1k in 2017. I was rewarded by VTEC for this disloyalty with a three month lounge pass while those who continued spending a fortune on travel received nothing.

British Airways has Executive Club, its frequent flyer scheme. The benefits are clearly defined, you can easily work out how much travel you need to do to get things like lounge access. With VTEC and their random rewards they give out then you don't know what you need to do to get a particular benefit but it does seem that the more you spend the less likely you are to get anything.

What to do...

If you have to travel with VTEC it's probably a good idea to game the system. Have three online accounts with VTEC, one of them you never use and have signed up to see if there's any new offers. The other two accounts you can alternate between. Put all your spend through one for a few months, then switch to the other until you receive an offer on the other account. Once their systems see that their sales are dropping off on that account you might get something to tempt you back.