This article has been updated to take into account the recent relaunch of Velocity Rewards.
As part of our series comparing the Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Velocity Rewards programs in detail we've already examined what you need to do to earn silver, gold or platinum status with Qantas and Virgin.
Silver is the first step up the status ladder in Qantas and Virgin's frequent flyer programs, from the entry-level Qantas Frequent Flyer Bronze and Velocity Red.
50% points bonus
Silver status lets you earn more points than those base levels for the same amount of flying -- 50% more for both Qantas and Virgin.
With Velocity Rewards, you only earn the 50% bonus on Virgin Australia flight numbers (which means if your flight is with another airline but sold by Virgin Australia, you'll earn the bonus, but if you book directly with Singapore Airlines, for example, you'll get no bonus.) The one exception is flights booked with Etihad, in which case you'll earn a 25% bonus.
They're both very competitive, especially now that Virgin has raised its points-earning bonus for Silver members to the same 50% Qantas offers. However, because of how Qantas calculates its bonus on mileage only, rather than dollars, for an average, $158 Sydney-Melbourne flight, this means a Virgin member earns 1,185 points, where a Qantas passenger would only earn 1,000 points.
This makes Virgin's Silver level a little better if you're doing a lot of short-hop flights.
Virgin also rewards business class travel much more generously, again, because the points earned are tied to dollars spent rather than miles travelled. For example, a silver frequent flyer going from Sydney to Perth would earn 4,083 points with Qantas, or 10,492 points on a $1,399 Virgin ticket.
For longer economy class domestic flights, Qantas is better. For example, a Sydney-Perth economy flight earns 3,062 points with Qantas, but on a typical $158 ticket with Virgin, would only earn 1,185 Velocity points.
Both airlines are neck-and-neck on points earning bonuses for international flights, given they both calculate based on mileage. However, Virgin's 50% bonus only applies on flights sold with Virgin Australia flight numbers.
Silver also gives you a higher baggage allowance with both airlines -- another 9kg for economy domestic flights with Qantas, a second 32kg bag for Qantas business class flights, or a free 23kg bag for every flight with Virgin.
There are also extra baggage allowances for international flights -- see the comparison table below.
Velocity Silver members can also jump the queue at domestic and international check-in, with priority check-in lanes for silver and above members. Qantas used to allow this but recently "enhanced" its frequent flyer program to remove this benefit for domestic flights.
Instead, Qantas silver and above members get one of Qantas' new chip-embedded plastic cards that allows check-in with a single tap on a wireless card reader. They also get the electronic bag tags that wirelessly talk to the luggage chute and allow bag drop without having to stand in a queue.
Qantas silver members still get priority check-in for international flights, though, where real people are still required to check passports.
Both Virgin and Qantas give silver members one free lounge pass each year to get their first taste of the luxury of the airline lounge. However, Virgin issues additional lounge passes for each 100 status credits a member accrues, which is a nice touch.
However, Virgin also discounts annual lounge membership for silver members, which is a nice recognition of the fact that to get to silver you do have to still have to spend a fair bit of money with the airline.
Virgin Lounge membership is discounted from $700 in the first year/$420 in subsequent years to a $300 flat annual fee for silver members. Qantas does not give any discount to silver members wanting to join Qantas Club.
Qantas Silver vs Velocity Silver side-by-side
|Qantas Silver||Virgin Silver|
|Status credits to achieve||300||250 (200 until end of 2011)|
|Status credits to retain||250||200|
|Status credits lifetime membership||7,000||No|
|Other airline status recognition||oneworld ruby||yes, with Virgin Australia international partner airlines|
|How points are earned with flights||1.5 points per mile flown under a Qantas flight number (domestic or international), with a minimum 1000 points per flight.
Earning rates vary on partner airlines. See full explanation
|7.5 points per dollar spent on domestic flights.
1.0 - 1.5 points per mile flown on V Australia economy.
Earning varies with partner airlines. See full explanation.
|BOOKING, UPGRADES AND SEATING|
|Priority phone assistance||Yes||Yes|
|Free seat selection on international flights||Yes||(Virgin does not charge for seat selection.)|
|Advance booking of the best seats||Yes||Yes|
|Access to best seats 24 hrs before flight||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum access to award flights||Yes||(Virgin does not limit availability of seats for award tickets.)|
|Priority waitlisting for flights||Yes||No|
|Pre-departure upgrade request||Yes||Yes (domestic and international but only on Virgin Australia group airlines)|
|Free single-use lounge entry pass||Yes - one per year.||Yes - one for every 100 status credits accrued.|
|Discounted lounge membership||No||Yes - $300, no joining fee|
|Bonus on points earned on flights||50% (included in calculations above)||50% (included in calculations above)|
|Loyalty points bonuses||5000 bonus points every 450 status credits until 30 November 2011, then 8000 points every 500 status credits, up to four times a year.||No|
|Ability to "pause" airline status for parental leave||No||Yes|
|Ability to pool points and status credits for family use||No||Yes|
|Baggage tags||Yes, two electronic wireless tags.||Yes, two standard luggage tags.|
|Domestic baggage bonus (economy)||Extra 9kg (but no extra bag)||Free 23kg bag|
|Domestic baggage bonus (business)||One extra 32kg bag||No|
|Domestic priority baggage handling||Yes (though it often makes no difference.)||No|
|International baggage bonus (economy)||Extra 23kg bag to USA. Extra 9kg to other destinations.||One extra bag with V Australia to the USA, 10kg extra to other destinations.|
|International baggage bonus (business)||Extra 32kg bag to USA. Extra 32kg to other destinations.||One extra bag with V Australia to the USA, 10kg extra to other destinations.|
|CHECK IN AND BOARDING|
|Domestic priority check-in||No||Yes|
|International priority check-in||Yes, Qantas Club/Premium Economy counters||Yes (but Virgin Atlantic only and Air New Zealand when flying trans-Tasman.)|
|One-touch check-in, plastic card as boarding pass||Yes||No|
So which is better? Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver or Velocity Silver?
If lounge access is important to you and you mainly fly domestically, Virgin's discounted lounge membership is very attractive. (Remember this won't get you into many international airport lounges, though.)
Virgin is also much more generous in terms of points earned for people flying in business class than Qantas.
Bear in mind if you are an employee of a larger company, you might have a company Qantas Club scheme available with very cheap annual fees (check our Qantas Club vs Virgin Lounge memberships comparison.)
On all the other points of comparison, the two silver levels are largely neck-and-neck, though Virgin's introduction of family-friendly benefits are a big competitive advantage over Qantas.
Verdict: Velocity Rewards is a clear winner for silver Frequent Flyers.
Qantas Frequent Flyer vs Velocity: the in-depth analysis
- Which program gives more points for domestic flights?
- Which program earns the most points for international flights?
- Which program gets you to silver/gold the fastest?
- Ease of getting upgrades
- How paid lounge membership compares
- How silver perks compare [you are here]
- How gold and platinum perks compare
Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.