Towards a better VA experience.

This is my first collection of thoughts around improving the VA experience.
I will initially focus around issues of rank and progression.

Though eventually I’ll move on to other topics such as improving codeshares, creating dynamic networks between VAs and other advanced thinking around how to run a better airline.

Today most airlines offer ranks based around real world aviation.

This comes with a variety of problems.

First, most airlines would start their ranks at an unrealistically low entry point, one at which most major airlines would not hire a pilot.

Some airlines have gotten around this by either introducing a training segment using GA aircraft for their very first rank or restricting pilots to fly on their regional variants.

Second, real world aviation has very few true ranks, typically Second Officer, First officer, Captain and Training Captain.

To satisfy the need for a longer progression some airlines have added somewhat realistic ranks, like Senior First officer or Senior Captain. Others have borrowed from the military and created ranks such as commander or fleet admiral.

What’s more interesting is this ranks are tied to the ability to control increasingly large aircraft, or paradoxically, increasingly more desirable aircraft.

This created the conundrum of most airlines placing the 788 or 789 (and likely the upcoming A350) at the very top of their ranking structure together with A380s or 747s.

While their is some logic to the idea an airline would assign more senior pilots to larger 4 engine aircraft, there is little real world logic that can be applied to placing the 788 in such category, with some ranking or above the 777, a much larger aircraft.

I understand the drive to do this, it’s the proverbial carrot in the stick that would lure Pilots to reach those higher hours flying your airline colors.

But this brings us back to 2 issues, realism and end game.

End game is something I have been thinking a lot about as a VA.

What carrot can I possibly offer a pilot that has already unlocked every aircraft in my airline?
We know we must offer carrots, otherwise we would t bother with a ranking structure at all.

Some airlines have introduced meaningless ranks, like the fore mentioned fleet admirals or supreme galactic commander. But not only can this get rather silly, but in most cases people achieving said rank do so simply because they love flying for the airline and found a sense of community therein, not because of any meaningful reward rendered by such a badge.

I think the VA paradigm is way overdue for an overhaul in introducing new concepts to keep pilots hungry for progress.

Implementing things like that is always hard or even impossible as an existing airline, but new ones can experiment with different progression systems and rewards.

I can develop a multitude of ideas that would create a more advanced progression system. The main problem is to overcome the issue of the reward pool being limited to unlocking aircraft from a very limited pool of aircraft in that airlines roster.

While some airlines have introduced codeshares as a way to plug some gaps in their roster, there is still a small number of desirable aircraft we can reward pilots with.

Moreover if we heavily gate and granulate the rewards (IE making someone slowly progress though the entire CRJ catalogue, then move on to Embraer before their are even allowed to touch a narrow body Boeing or Airbus, let alone a much more desirable 787, one risks alienating pilots that don’t like flying such small planes and face long hours of flying then before they can unlock desirable aircraft they would be happy to fly.

Some CCs have experimented with introducing the concept of money. But realistically what could a pilot buy with that money?

I shiver at the thought of making them buy their own planes or pay for their own fuel. The unrealism would be tremendous, and again, this would feel more like a hindrance than a true reward.

One could envision a reward mechanism like “create your own custom route” as in, let pilots fly a seasonal or experimental flight your airline doesn’t currently have in the real world.

Again that abandons realism and can quickly get out of hand (I can imagine a lot of really weird Ultra Long Haul or trolly Pyongyang routes popping up).

I’d like to hear any ideas from pilots, especially those who have been part of multiple VAs.
What kind of rewards work for you in VAs you have been in?
What would you like to be rewarded with that you never have?
What keeps you flying for an airline?


Hello Takahashi,

Thank you for sharing your opinion with us. It is always good when users think about something. You don’t make any demands in your thread, but bring in ideas. That’s good.

Here’s how I see it:

Anyone who founds a Virtual Airline does so at their own discretion, within the scope permitted by the IFVARB. There are airlines that are very concerned about realism, and others that focus on fun. So there is something for everyone. Personally, I like both concepts, both the realism related and the more “relaxed” airlines.

Of course, one must always remember that it is impossible to realistically represent all real-life-correlations in a mobile simulator. The vast majority of VAs do this very well, which is also reflected in the number of pilots. In addition, IFVARB reviews each individual Virtual Airline so that all meet the high demands of the community and Infinite Flight.

Why don’t you create your own virtual airline or virtual organization, just the way you want it with your approaches? It sounds to me like you have a lot of ideas. Why don’t you try it!

All the best!


This is a really good idea! For me this would be really interesting as a pilot because in the past I have reached the top rank and then found it boring to go ahead although many VAs have career mode and other reward functions I’d like to see how variant by variant promotion would work.

Quite an essay you’ve got there, but I agree with every single word. It seems like every VA is just another VA with the same operations but different logo, crew center, ranks and fleet. I’d be more than happy to answer your questions.

I’m Staff at VGVA and Vice President at an upcoming VO so I’m a bit bias but I’ll say what each does, as they’re quite different.
VGVA had a conventional(ish) rank structure where pilots would be restricted to aircraft based on rank. It was a bit different though, each rank had one long haul and one short haul aircraft, denying the bigger = better and therefore at a higher rank stereotype. Then, after a majority vote we abolished that and said pilots may fly any aircraft they wish. However, we’ve since received feedback from pilots saying that although they voted to remove it at the time, they’re less motivated to fly for us. Even our most experienced and highest logging pilots were saying this.

The upcoming VO (which must remain nameless due to VARB legislation) is similar but different. We have 5 flying divisions - Commercial, Corporate, GA, Military and Medical. When a pilot applies they opt to join one of these. Each has their own fleet separate from the other divisions and none of them except Military have a rank structure. We’re not really sure how this is going to work as we don’t have any pilots yet, so thinking of the worst but hoping for the best!

Some VAs are doing this, but awards. Just little medallion type things you can add to your Slack profile or something that shows your experience.

The group flights and events. It’s one thing to fly on your own, but even though it’s unrealistic there’s nothing like seeing 10 Virgin Atlantic A340s lined up at LHR, all heading to JFK.


One reason as to why i have stayed away from VA’s is due to how similar they all are like you said. I’d rather join a VO instead which, most of the time, are unique.

Could you clarify what VOs do which is different from VAs that you enjoy?

I cant really say which as i dont want to be biased. But majority of the time, VO’s are more flexible and casual compared to VA’s.

edit: sorry i misinterpreted the question. Marc has a great explanation below.

A Virtual Airline is based on a real or fictional airline. They have a fleet, hubs, routes, ranks, etc. They try to be as realistic as possible when it comes to flying operations. Those who’re based on a real airline use realistic fleets, hubs, routes, ranks etc.

A Virtual Organization isn’t based on an airline. They are more like a club of people who like to fly together. They may have a fleet or a preferable region as well. Some VOs use a “career mode” where they try to be as realistic as possible too. But overall, they’re more flexible in how they organized and in what they do.

I’d say that if you want to be as real-life-realistic as possible, a VA is the place to go. Of course, VOs can be realistic too. IFAE has an ultra-realistic career mode for example. But of course, they don’t exist in real life.

Here’s an example of a realistic VA. NSV is based on Lufthansa.

An example of a VO is IFAE.


You raise some valid points for sure ! And it would be great to implement at least a few of those ideas …

Trouble is everyone wants to be able to fly anything and everything and the whole rank thing doesn’t even appeal to a large number of pilots .

So while on the one hand you could offer a unique and different experience trying to recruit pilots who are interested in such progression terms could be difficult .

Your bigger virtual airlines with large member base already could probably successfully implement. The smaller organisations / airlines may struggle.

I dunno my 2c🤷‍♂️

This is actually where I’m riding the fence.

On the one hand, I understand pilot desire to fly different planes and routes every day, and us (a VA) artificially placing a restriction that they are not allowed to fly the aircraft of their choice until a set of arbitrary requirements are met may make them go “meh” and find the next airline that allows them to fly what they want easier.

I actually don’t think people always think that way. It’s the reason the developers of games like dark souls (an extremely hard to master game) did so well.

People sometimes like to be challenged. And let’s face it, nearly all VAs have some sort of ranking system that gates bigger aircraft from new recruits. If that was such an unpopular concept there would be a super popular va that offered no ranking progression, fly whatever you like type experience.

1 Like

Just touch on my thought for a second:

So, I was a pilot for one of the VA’s here and left because of this issue. (I am now applying to virtualBlue, who is already awesome) I had to work up about 50+ hours before I would even get to flying anything larger than an A319, with a real livery. I don’t know why, but I just despise flying real airline routes with the real plane but no livery.

What is airlines with larger fleets had “Slot Openings” for incoming pilots? Or, more realistically, the pilot could be assigned a plane. Real world example:
My uncle just got hired by Hawaiian Airlines as an A321neo FO. He had absolutely no say on what he was assigned to fly. After he works up more and more hours, he will gain more seniority. This is when he may be able to request an aircraft change.

Just a thought. I might be an interesting idea for a VA to try.

Airline bidding is done by seniority-hours don’t matter at all. Should there be an open job, your uncle can bid on it if he has the seniority to bid it.

As for the VA stuff:

In addition to the hours limit prior to “unlocking” aircraft, at virtualBlue we’ve developed a checkride system so that each pilot can get an advanced one on one flight with a senior pilot or “check airman” where they will progress to the next rank. Don’t pass a checkride? Study up and take it again-people will throw in to help you with any subject matter you need help with. Our checkrides come at 10, 25, 75, and 150 hours respectively. It promotes learning about real world aviation and how to properly operate the aircraft the VA flies.


Yeah, sorry. Again, he just got the job about a month ago.

Don’t be sorry-now you’ve learned something about RW aviation today!

1 Like

Personally I’ve despised the whole Rank locking fleet thing. I’ve been deterred from joining VA’s in the past because with my personal life I can only fly long haul flights meaning Widebody A/C, but most VA’s make me wait 100hrs. People don’t join VA’s because they wanna grind, everyone hates grinding pointlessly they join because they wanna be apart of a group and make friends and fly events. People don’t need VA’s to fly an Airplane that’s already available to them and that they paid for with their subscription, also its not like the aircraft in the game fly that immensely different to fly in game. If you can fly a 737 you can probably fly the 777 all the same.

Just My thoughts.

1 Like

Your point here is fair, but for example at BAVA, we have to see, we are looking to focus based on BA only, the majority of BA pilots IRL start small on Airbus A320 family, and theme eventually work up to the long haul, which is reflected in our ranking structure.

Therefore when you reach the bigger aircrafts there is a sense of achievement. And then we have awards for reaching set houred criteria, to recognised dedication to the VA.

But I agree you raise some good points in your post

A sense of achievement is what I have been trying to get at.

The problem is with basing progression solely on Hours flown and basing rewards on unlocking increasingly large aircraft.

We understand this leads to some issues, for example, choosing routes strictly based on length in order to maximize reward. This leaves many otherwise good short haul routes seen as less valuable.

In the end of the progression tree also, there’s little left to do once you have all the aircraft unlocked.

We have to recognize the issue that is not possible to simultaneously admit that we need a progression system due to needing to have pilots feel a sense of achievement, yet not worry that there is nothing left to reward a pilot with once he reaches “end game”.

I think we need to look further into how to challenge pilots, and what measures we use for that.

1 Like

My way of combating that carrot on a stick experience that many VAs have is pretty unique for IF at least.
I don’t fly a certain number of hours on a type, I spend a set amount of time on it.
When I transferred into DLVA (who doesn’t restrict by type, they restrict by route length)
I started out of NYC on the CRJ. My plan was to stay on the CRJ until November 1st. After the 11/1, I literally put the 4 narrowbody fleets (717 320 737 7ER) in a hat and picked one.
I drew the 7ER (752/763) and I would be LA based. The current plan is to stay on this type until the 350 comes out where then I will move to the DTW base, and probably spend a good 2-6 months flying the 350 to Asia for the most part.
For me, this system of holding a type and base for months, has been revolutionary, I get to learn a plane and learn the network, even if it’s a type I don’t like. Relatively superficial things like quality of trips, and base size, have largely be ignored, and I no longer feel like it’s a rat race to gain hours.
Although this is a little extreme, this has completely changed my view on flying, and I enjoy the little things more.
I think it would be interesting to atleast see a VA trial a system of bidding for specific bases and types based on your seniority within the airline, with a longer period between bids, simulating more of an authentic airline experience.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.