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.
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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!