Virgin Australia has confirmed major changes under likely new owner Bain Capital, including 3000 staff losing their jobs, the end of Tigerair Australia and a shift to an all-Boeing-737 fleet on its major routes.
But what’s happening with Velocity, its frequent flyer program?
With more than 10 million members, there’s a lot at stake for Australia’s second-biggest airline loyalty scheme (Qantas has over 13 million members).
Bain Capital has confirmed that it intends to maintain Velocity, and that everyone will keep their existing points balance.
However, there are still lots of open questions about how the scheme will operate.
In particular, how much points are actually worth won’t be clear for a while.
RELATED: Virgin Australia cuts 3000 jobs and axes Tigerair airline
RELATED: Tigerair Australia to be killed off
There are questions around how the changes at Virgin Australia will impact the Velocity Frequent Flyer program. Picture: Tertius Pickard/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia
Historically, the best-value way to spend Velocity Points has been on business class or first class seats, either by getting an upgrade or by booking a reward seat.
International flights have also offered better value than domestic routes.
When it went into administration, Virgin suspended all Velocity redemptions.
It has since opened them up so you can redeem points for domestic flights, hotels or car rentals.
However, international flights still aren’t an option.
Virgin has flagged that it won’t be reintroducing flights to Los Angeles or Tokyo, its major long-haul routes, until “sufficient demand returns”.
Concerns over coronavirus means that could be years away.
Any long-haul international points bookings would thus need to be through Virgin partners such as Etihad and Singapore, but the airline’s deals there will need to be renegotiated.
That means the most available good value use of Velocity Points for many Australians is likely to be on business class flights to New Zealand, the Pacific or more remote destinations in Australia such as Cairns, Broome and Perth.
Historically, the best-value way to spend Velocity Points has been on business class or first class seats. Picture: Nigel HallettSource:News Corp Australia
It’s also possible we’ll see the number of points needed for some flights increased.
Virgin didn’t change its redemption rates when it reintroduced the ability to redeem for flights, but new owner Bain might decide the current levels are too generous.
A final kicker? A business class seat also includes the perk of lounge access.
Virgin intends to maintain its lounge network, but right now lounges aren’t open as (again) demand isn’t high enough.
Collectively, all that means is it isn’t going to make sense to spend points on flights until it’s clearer that booking a higher-value seat is an option.
Virgin says details on how Velocity will evolve will be revealed over the coming months, assuming Bain Capital’s buyout gets approved at a planned creditors’ meeting.
To ensure your points don’t expire, make sure you’re earning Velocity Frequent flyer points in other ways. Picture: Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia
To ensure your points don’t expire in the meantime, make sure you’re earning Velocity Points in other ways.
A straightforward tactic is to use a credit card that earns Velocity Points for everyday spending.
Another good option is to convert your flybuys points into Velocity Points.
Either will ensure you don’t fall foul of Virgin’s rules, where points expire if you don’t have any activity for 24 months.
Angus Kidman is the editor-in-chief and travel guru for Finder.
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