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Virgin Australia hands out free upgrades to frequent flyers

By David Flynn     Filed under: upgrades, Virgin Australia, Velocity Frequent Flyer

Virgin Australia is handing out free business class upgrades to its top-tier frequent flyers.

The airline is this week issuing a 'Complimentary Upgrade' to all Platinum and Gold members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme.

If that's you, check your account at VelocityRewards.com.au, where you should spy the upgrade listed in the My Benefits section.

For Platinums, this comes on top of the four annual upgrades which are a perk of your shiny status.

The sole condition for this one-off freebie is that it can be used only on Virgin's Flexi Fare economy tickets, not the cheapest Saver fares.

The dollar difference between these varies between flights – there's a much wider margin between the low-cost Saver fare and standard Flexi Fare on the least-popular flights between any two destinations, while the price gap narrows during peak travel periods.

We reckon the best value of this upgrade is going to be on Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 'Coast to Coast' flights between Sydney or Melbourne and Perth – that'll give you a chance to make the most of the A330's international-grade business class on the long transcontinental trek.

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

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1 on 21/8/12 by KG

Gotta love DJ for handing out these unexpected but very welcome extra's. Whilst as a QF Plat I have never received complimentary upgrades (and with their new system of giving FF the ability to upgrade just prior to the flight it will never happen for sure) I enjoy the fact that DJ treats their Plats this way. Besides the 4 annual upgrades (plus one extra it seems) their free Hilton Honors Diamond status as well as Hertz President Circle is unrivalled. I have no experience with DJ longhaul internationally (or better no experience on VA), but domestic flying with them is overall very pleasant. I agree that the route to redeem the upgrades is on coast to coast. I sincerely hope QF will wake up and also surprise their loyal flyers with extra's like these (as opposed to giving as one of the reasons to fly is a refurbed 747 > where are the restrooms on these refurbed planes) or the self  service bar (which they are removing partly!!

2 on 21/8/12 by wdeguara

I think this news story demonstrates the difference between Qantas and Virgin at the moment.  Qantas keeps telling us "Your the reason we fly",  but Virgin are the one's who actually demonstrate that appreciation to their loyal customers.  I currently hold Gold/Platinum status with each airline respectively, but I certainly feel like more of a valued customer by Virgin ...

3 on 21/8/12 by RobL

Whilst it is a welcome addition to the perks (I have taken and used the Hilton Honors Diamond and Hertz PC to my advantage),and apart from the additional free luggage allowance, there really is no other discerible perk between Gold and Platinum where it really matters - at the airport or on the plane. For me I can choose the airline but not the accommodation so I want the benefits when with Virgin.

For example: why are Golds allowed to pre-select row 3? Qantas lock their equivalent to Platinum until check in. There is no separate area in the Lounges. Golds can use the priority boarding lane. Shuttling between Melbourne and Sydney weekly at peak hours there appears to be as many 'priority' pax as non and therefore the value of the perk is seemingly reduced.

QF have differentiated their top tier where it actually counts - DJ lift your game or abolish the top tier - forget sucking up to zelebs and allow Platinums to use the Club.

My take on the addtional complimentary UG and the half price upgrades for the rest of the year is that not enough people are paying for Business class e.g. yesterday on the 0630 Mel-Syd Business class was empty. Under these circumstances sit some of your Platinums in these seats. After all some of us actually earned Platinum through flying and those wide seats would be nice once in a while.

1 on 21/8/12 by KG

Agreed on the perks not being related to Virgin directly, but I am yet to see these benefits with QFF.

 

Also agree on seat allocation, this was done prior to DJ having a Platinum tier and will be hard to take away. On that note, aren't QF Golds able to used priority boarding as well?

The lounge for me is not an issue as overall I would rate the Virgin lounge higher than the Qantas Club and maybe slightly less than Qantas Business Lounge (but not remarkeblyy so, probably the only difference is that iot is less crowded). Qantas does not offer a business lounge at all their destinations.....

Regarding your example of an empty flight and upgrades, Qantas has the same policy and will not upgrade just like that so I see no difference (whilst it would be nice if both carriers do it, there is no competitive edge). Australia is not the States where they upgrade each and every cardholder if seats available (bear in mind service is much less in the States). Also, DJ does not stock up their catering in biz if they have a (next to) empty flight, which si fair, in this business every penny counts.

1 on 21/8/12 by RobL

Last time I flew QF (January) they weren't allowed priority boarding - previoulsy they were though.

There is nothing wrong with the Lounge and I do agree it is better than the QC. Most of the time I am travelling though is peak hours and they are busy. A separate area for Business and Plats would be welcome.

I wasn't actually suggesting an upgrade in service just seat Platinums in rows 1 and 2 and provide the economy service dependant on fare purchased - after all there is an extra crew member present. To most casual observers it will look like business is popular and may encourage more to buy business tickets.

As for upgrading I am aware they only cater for those booked on the flight (plus a spare or two) but as Business tickets are flexible this may be short sighted. How would you feel buying a business class ticket and changing flights only to be told there is insufficent catering? It would certainly put me off. There is being cost concious and letting this cost coniousness drive away the premium pax you are chasing. In my opinion a low cost model doesn't work for premium pax. They want flexibility and full service at all times.

1 on 21/8/12 by 444desiro

It's also very annoying when you are upgraded to business class and get a "business/premium" lable on your ticket - you can end up with a completely different level of service compared to a 'true' paying business class passenger sat next to you. Another flaw in the low cost model, perhaps?

1 on 21/8/12 by KG

I have never had this business / premium label put on me, agreed, shoudl not make a difference whether upgarded or paid for (esp when you upgrade on points or with a voucher).

I suspect it is so that passenger paying full business fare have first choice of meals (which can run out as stated previously).

2 on 21/8/12 by KG

I have never had this business / premium label put on me, agreed, shoudl not make a difference whether upgarded or paid for (esp when you upgrade on points or with a voucher).

I suspect it is so that passenger paying full business fare have first choice of meals (which can run out as stated previously).

2 on 21/8/12 by KG

Maybe we should suggest the seprate lounge area for Business / Plats to John B? it woudl be an improvement overall.

I am with you regarding the catering, I guess duue to the size of QF Operations they just completely stock the plane so they do not run out and they use the non-used meals on the return (whereas perhaops DJ planes fly onwards?) It is bad though, having said that, last time i was in business on SYD-MEL (took anearlier flight and indeed, no first meal choise available) the FA did anything possible to make up for not having a first choice meal, including getting cheese and crackers from the buy onboard menu 9and plating them up nicely). It would be dreadful on a coast to coast flight however (but maybe hey do takle more meals onboard on those flights).

The business seat / economy servcie is nice but can only be done once boardin / onboard in case there is a late coming biz flyer who actually has a ticket to sit upfront including servcie. Would be awkward to then have to 'kick out" a plat and not serve biz food to others. I guess the only way to avoid this is to just stock enough meals.

1 on 21/8/12 by 444desiro

From what i've read (probably mostly on here!) the coast to coast is a cut above the 'regular' business product on other routes.

If you do a points upgrade to business, keep an eye out for "business/premium" on your ticket, rather than "business". It has been noted when we've travelled before that it can impact the service you recieve - which it really shouldn't, I have still paid to be there!

I have even been singled out in the cabin by the steward before as being 'only an upgrade' when a meal choice wasn't available. Pretty embarrassing at the time, and not a good image to paint - imagine if I had been someone considering switching to Virgin and had upgraded to try the business class. I think I'd be straight back to QF after being singled out like that!!

4 on 24/8/12 by Mark

Checked my inbox and yep they are there. Still have used my 4 free ones though since going platinum

5 on 25/8/12 by BJTraveller

Virgin doing extremely well woo-ing QFF's to a least try. Qantas usually disregard or do not differentiate their Business & Platinum FF;s during domestic boarding; Qantas about to announce more changes to Platinum FF significantly reducing benefits and shifting focus to Platinum One; Alan Joyce couldnt give a FF about the qantas customer and is really driving the airline into the ground - Virgin will win the battle for the customer in the long run

6 on 21/4/13 by Reg

C'mon Aussie operators - Delta and US Airways have had these for ages. By default Silver Medallion and upwards get queued for free upgrades - no need to even ask!

1 on 21/4/13 by KG

True that in te US upgrades are handed out often but fortunatelyy (or unfortunately, depends on your personal preference) Australia is not the US.

This for instance entails that when you fly premium you are not always stuck in a full cabin, just because ppl get free upgrades and in general because premium cabins generate revenue as supposed to being full wih upgrades, the service is better (also goes for lounges, where in the US you need a membership and often lots of food and beverage is paid for whereas in Australia it is free and the airlines actually invest in making it a nice relxing place). Just my opinion of course ;)

 

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