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Virgin Australia tweaks Velocity Frequent Flyer points scheme

By Chris Chamberlin     Filed under: Virgin Australia, Velocity Frequent Flyer

Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer members will soon need more frequent flyer points to travel to many destinations with the airline and its web of partners including Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines in changes that apply from June 1 2016.

However, from the same date, many flights will also require fewer Velocity points for travel – particularly on longer routes served by partner airlines – while the expiry rules surrounding Velocity points will also be tweaked.

“These are the first changes that have been made to the Points expiry period or the Reward Seats Points Tables since they were introduced to the program more than five years ago,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson shared with Australian Business Traveller.

The changes also reflect that “during this time, Virgin Australia has undergone significant changes to become a full service airline, providing all guests with a complimentary checked baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment, food and beverages,” the spokesperson added.

Whether your travel is mainly domestic, international or a mix of both, here’s what’s changing from June and how it affects you.

Velocity Frequent Flyer rewards tables

The crux of these changes falls to the two rewards tables used by Velocity Frequent Flyer to determine how many points are needed for a flight: simply dubbed as Table 1 and Table 2.

Each table applies to different airlines and routes, with these changes both moving airlines between them and also adjusting the number of points needed to book flights of various lengths.

More points needed for premium economy, business class

All premium economy and business class flights with Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand (trans-Tasman), Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and Virgin Samoa (Table 1) will require marginally more Velocity points to book than needed today.

For example, flying Sydney-Los Angeles in Virgin Australia or Delta business class will need 95,500 Velocity points in each direction – up from 94,000 – while Los Angeles-New York in ‘Delta One’ business class or Virgin America ‘first class’ rises from 47,800 to 49,500 Velocity points.

Other airlines: mixed bag at the pointy end

For other airlines drawing on the less-favourable Table 2 including Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand (NZ domestic and long-haul), Airberlin, SilkAir, Hawaiian Airlines and South African Airways, business and first class flights will, for the most part, need fewer points than they do today.

Sydney-Singapore with Singapore Airlines is a great example of that, reducing from 80,000 to 65,000 Velocity points each way in business class, while Perth-Johannesburg with South African Airways similarly drops from 95,000 to 78,000 Velocity points each way in business class.

Award bookings in Singapore Airlines first class and Suites Class remain unavailable on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, although Velocity members can continue to convert their points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to book these flights via KrisFlyer.

Etihad moves from Table 1 to Table 2

Following changes to its own Etihad Guest loyalty program, Etihad Airways moves from Table 1 to Table 2 from June: increasing the number of Velocity points needed to fly to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

In short, a Sydney-Abu Dhabi trek would need 152,000 Velocity points in first class (currently 141,000 points); 104,000 Velocity points in business class (up from 94,000 points) and 56,000 points in economy (rising from 47,000 points) in each direction.

Extend that journey to London via Abu Dhabi and you’re looking at 203,000 Velocity points in Etihad first class (now 187,500 points); 139,000 Velocity points in business class (presently 125,000 points) and 75,000 Velocity points in economy (now 62,500 points), one way.

Economy bookings: more, fewer or the same points

With 20 different economy award prices spread across 10 different zones on each of the two tables, some flights will rise in points cost, others will fall and many will stay the same.

Increasing are shorter flights, particularly on Virgin Australia’s key domestic routes including Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane where 7,800 Velocity points will be needed for a one-way economy flight (up from 6,900), with Melbourne-Brisbane rising from 10,900 to 11,800 points each way.

Longer flights as a rule will need either the same number of points as today or even less, with Sydney-Los Angeles paring back slightly from 47,000 points to 44,800 Velocity points in economy, and Sydney-Singapore-London with Singapore Airlines remaining unchanged.

Book when it suits you best

With some routes and airlines needing more points to book after June 1 and others fewer points, members are now in a position to plan their reward travel both when it suits them and at the lowest cost.

For example, if the current reward cost is more advantageous than the post-June figures – such as for Etihad first class – there’s nothing stopping you from making your bookings by May 31 at the current rates, even for travel after June 1.

In the same token, if your chosen reward flight is decreasing in points such as from Perth to Johannesburg and your journey isn’t until later in the year, you could hold off on making that booking until June 1 when the new rates kick in.

Just bear in mind that the availability of reward seats on each particular flight can change from day to day, so even if you can make a reward booking today on your desired route, airline and preferred travel date, that same option may be snapped up by somebody else until you lock it in.

Browse the new reward tables

Come June 1 2016, here's how many points you'll need to book a flight with Virgin Australia, Air NZ (trans-Tasman), Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and Virgin Samoa, arranged by distance – for example, 1-600 miles flown, 601-1,200 miles flown and so forth – and how that differs to the current cost.

Similarly, here's how many points you'll need to travel with Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand (NZ domestic and long-haul), Airberlin, SilkAir, Hawaiian Airlines and South African Airways compared to today's Table 2 pricing.

Points expiry moves from 36 to 24 months

Presently, Velocity Frequent Flyer members need to earn or redeem points at least once every 36 months to keep their balance active.

Come June, that’s reduced to 24 months, but when something as simple as buying a bottle of water from BP can earn you a few points and reset that counter, for most members this change is moot.

Changes to ‘eligible activity’

That 24-month expiry will have more relevance to members taking advantage of family pooling or family points transfers – either into their own account or when gifting them to others – as these actions will no longer be deemed ‘eligible activity’ for the purpose of keeping an account alive.

Instead, points will need to be directly earned or directly redeemed by a member in their own account at least once every 24 months for a balance to remain active, but again, even one small transaction such as shopping via the Velocity eStore would suffice.

For more information on these changes, head to the Virgin Australia website.

Also read: February's hottest Virgin Australia Velocity credit card sign-up deals

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About Chris Chamberlin

Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, an opera ticket and a glass of wine!

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 29/2/16 by jianga

Hmmmm...this is 'interesting'. I was going to book reward tickets for 2 pax from Bangkok to Melbourne (via Sin) in Business travelling in mid Sep. At the moment it will cost 80k points but looking at the new table, it would cost 65k points. I'm tempted to wait till June (as it would save me 30k points), but like Chris said, reward seats availability can change quite a bit and I have specific travel date. Hmmm.....

1 on 29/2/16 by Chris

You could also look at how many KrisFlyer miles would be needed to make the same booking and thus how many Velocity points you'd need to convert across to get those miles, as the figure could actually be less than to book directly via Velocity.

1 on 29/2/16 by davidsilver78

There is also the 15% discount when booking rewards seats directly with SQ, but the fines & taxes are usually a lot more

2 on 1/3/16 by travelislife

Or you could use 63113 VA miles today transferred to KF and booked online for 46,750 KF miles.

1 on 1/3/16 by jianga

I just checked that out and you're correct with the KrisFlyer option. However, the taxs and surchages are almost AUD$300 per person whereas VA only charges $54. This means for extra 16887 points I'll save $246 which make each point worth AUD $0.0146. Is this a good conversion rate for VA points?

1 on 1/3/16 by travelislife

Yeah it's not exactly great that you are buying points at effectively 1.4 cents per point. But to me the points are more valuable in a Business Class redemption. Also there is the opportunity cost of losing those points and not being able to use them later on down the track.

I am in a bit of a pickle on this route too MEL-SIN-BKK around Christmas. Unfortunately all the SQ flights are waitlist and deciding wether to cough up for Thai at 55,000KF (74250 Velocity) but with the high surcharges!

2 on 29/2/16 by Danp

Any impacts on transferring points to SQ?

1 on 29/2/16 by Chris

Nope.

3 on 29/2/16 by Chris Ricks

No changes are visible on the UpgradeMe Points pages at this time, although it would be reasonable to expect that changes will happen in that area as well.

1 on 29/2/16 by Chris

Hi Chris, just as an FYI we asked this question and were advised that points upgrades aren't affected by today's announcement.

1 on 29/2/16 by Chris Ricks

Great to hear - love your work.

4 on 29/2/16 by henry20

If my wife's points are in danger of expiring, can she transfer them to my account, which is used more frequently, where they will be in no danger of expiring?  Or do those points maintain their expiry date after they are transferred.

1 on 29/2/16 by Chris

The expiry date is linked to the account, not the points themselves – so if your account is 'active' and not in danger of expiry, those points would remain safe in your account for so long as this is true.

5 on 1/3/16 by Jack

Hi Chris,

Just did a quick calc using Velocity website, Syd - Sin (3912 miles). Shouldn't it be using the Zone 5 calculation? 35,000 economy and 65,000 business?

Is it different when you trying to book?

Thanks,Jack 

1 on 1/3/16 by Chris

Well spotted Jack, we've tweaked that figure above.

1 on 1/3/16 by Jack

Thanks for confirming =)

6 on 15/3/16 by willygee

Probably a silly question, but I've been looking into Business Reward Seats from MEL to EDI via AUH at the end of August  through Virgin's website, every time it's quoting me 906000 points, or even over 1 million points, for a one way Etihad fare.

Is there something i'm missing or doing wrong?

 

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