Flying trans-Tasman with Virgin, AirNZ: what happens now?

Flying trans-Tasman with Virgin, AirNZ: what happens now?

Travelling trans-Tasman with Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand over the coming year, and wondering what’ll happen to your booking and flight experience now that the two airlines are breaking up?

You’re not alone – and while the airlines’ entire game plan isn’t on the table just yet, here’s what we know so far.

Flying between now and October 27, 2018

The partnership between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand is set to end on October 28 2018, so if you’re flying before then, up to and including travel on October 27, you’ll have the same options and experience as you do today.

That means you can continue earning and redeeming Velocity points on Air New Zealand trans-Tasman flights, along with journeys on New Zealand domestic routes, whether booked to fly on a Virgin Australia (VA) codeshare or an Air New Zealand NZ flight number.

Similarly, Air New Zealand Airpoints members can continue earning points aboard Virgin Australia domestic and trans-Tasman flights when travelling on a VA or NZ flight number, and can spend Airpoints Dollars on the same.

Until October 27, Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders can also continue enjoying reciprocal airport lounge access when flying on either airline on the same routes, as can paid-up Virgin Australia Lounge and AirNZ Koru members.

Flying on or after October 28, 2018

Once the trans-Tasman alliance winds up, your travel experience could become very different.

That’s because the partnership is what enables many of those key perks – including airport lounge access for Velocity, Virgin Lounge, Airpoints and Koru members – along with other niceties such as priority check-in and boarding, boosted baggage allowances and more for tiered members.

The tie-up also extends beyond international flights: the airlines’ domestic networks are connected as well, which is currently very beneficial for Virgin Australia frequent flyers making multiple stops in New Zealand before returning home.

For example, a Velocity Gold member can currently fly with Air New Zealand from Sydney to Auckland, jet onward to Wellington for a batch of extra meetings in the nation’s capital, continue their mission in Christchurch and then zip down to Queenstown for a little R&R, before flying home straight to Sydney: all while enjoying access to Air New Zealand lounges before every flight.

That perk extends far beyond the ‘Big Three’ cities, too, with AirNZ’s regional lounges currently welcoming Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders – plus paid Virgin Australia Lounge members – further afield in places like Dunedin, Hamilton, Invercargill and Palmerston North, among others.

AirNZ's new Palmerston North lounge: one of the many lounges currently open to Velocity members

When departing internationally from Auckland, Velocity Gold and Platinum members also receive access to Air New Zealand’s dedicated express channel at security and immigration, separate to the main public checkpoints, which can be a real time-saver.

On the other side of the coin, Air New Zealand currently sends its own international passengers to Virgin Australia’s Gold Coast and Cairns lounges, with Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders able to visit Virgin Australia’s other lounges too, prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights.

Both airlines also offer Gold and Platinum-grade members of the other airline access to priority check-in and boarding lanes, priority baggage delivery, and an increased baggage allowance on most flights (excluding some carry-on only fares).

However, come October 28, many of those benefits may be affected – as may the airport lounges Virgin Australia uses before its own trans-Tasman flights – which the airlines are yet to comment on.

Passengers booked on a Virgin Australia codeshare flight operated by Air New Zealand (or vice versa) from this date will be contacted by the airline they booked with to make alternative arrangements, which may include moving onto a flight operated by the airline that accepted your booking.

For instance, if you booked an Air New Zealand flight for travel over Christmas through the Virgin Australia website, and that flight was booked on a VA flight number, expect a call from Virgin Australia over the coming days.

Australian Business Traveller will keep you posted when these airlines provide further information for affected passengers travelling across their soon-to-be-defunct alliance, and how these changes will impact your journey.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

28 comments

  • kiwiwings

    kiwiwings

    5 Apr, 2018 02:16 am

    As an aside there is no real 'express lane' at Auckland airport anymore. You can take the elevator up from Air NZ but you end up walking the same path as everyone else. The express lane sign to manual processing is the same number of steps to use smartgate which is generally faster.

    Really hating this break up news. Trying to wrap my head around options but I can't even make any real decisions because I don't know what the airlines are going to come up with!
    No member give thanks

  • xtfer

    xtfer

    5 Apr, 2018 11:54 am

    Has this changed since November? There was definitely an express lane then, and it saved me about 20 minutes.
    No member give thanks

  • AwaywithMike

    AwaywithMike

    5 Apr, 2018 07:05 am

    As a kiwi living and based at home in NZ, running an Australian based business, I opted last year to go the VA/NZ partnership (over NZ or QF) was the way forward.

    Now that I've just achieved Gold with VA and have zero with NZ FF, I'm hoping for 2 things;
    1. A status match offer
    2. More competitive pricing as a result of 3 main operators (WLG-Aus (SYD, MEL & BNE for me).
    ..or exciting news on a roll out of VA International lounges and finally the option of getting a J product from SYD-WLG.

    #justsayin
    Member who gave thanks

    puppy79

  • StuParr

    StuParr

    5 Apr, 2018 09:13 am

    I did that when NZ /VA stopped allowing FF accruing on Trans pacific routes. NZ saw my flying and saw I am VA Platinum and gave me a 12month Gold membership, so I mix and match to suit both. I’d contact Air NZ. I had an advantage as I use NZ Reservations to make bookings for our travel so our res agent also spoke to the Airpoints team.


    As an aside, I’m hoping that VA go Sky Team as I have a lot of flying to Mexico and use Aero Mexico. Sky team (VA) and Star A (NZ, SQ -PPS) is perfect for my requirements. Maybe one day.....
    No member give thanks

  • silvyvc

    silvyvc

    5 Apr, 2018 10:41 am

    There's 2 of us wishing that... if VA joins Sky Team, I'd give VA a go to fly to US and then connect to Mexico with Aeromexico. Although Sky team is far from what OW offers.
    No member give thanks

  • silvyvc

    silvyvc

    5 Apr, 2018 10:46 am

    The J offering trans tasman is becoming interesting. So many options with different alliances but with marked differences (getting a reclining vs a flat bed... which may not be needed for a 3-4hr flight, but it's a nice touch). I wonder what will VA do about their J offering and lounges. Watch this space!
    I think it will require some creative thinking or that new J 737 sitting that Borghetti has been promising.

    Whatever it looks like, hoping this continues to be a win for the customers with an enhanced experience regardless of the airline.
    No member give thanks

  • Ross  Anderson

    serfty

    13 Apr, 2018 03:06 pm

    Careful what you wish for ... Skyteam membership for VA would likely preclude VA elites from Skyclub access except with same day intnerational travel.

    No member give thanks

  • puppy79

    puppy79

    5 Apr, 2018 08:03 am

    EX WLG to MEL soon becomes four operators with SQ on there if I am correct.
    Member who gave thanks

    sgb

  • sgb

    sgb

    5 Apr, 2018 08:16 am

    Hooray for that, wide body, but a bone shaker I'm told.
    Member who gave thanks

    puppy79

  • xtfer

    xtfer

    5 Apr, 2018 11:57 am

    The old 777-200 they will operate on that route is not all that comfortable, but no worse than an old A320 on Air NZ. Expect a new 787 or A350 in the not too distant future though.
    No member give thanks

  • Peterb1960

    Peterb1960

    5 Apr, 2018 09:03 am

    It is interesting to me that the split occurred so soon after Emirates effectively stopped flying the route anymore. Looks like that threat was removed and the carriers have decided to go their own way. The Air NZ perks were great but the loss of them further across the Pacific made the Mel to North America trip less favourable. Maybe its time to reactivate the airpoints card and use it on Virgin to build up some status before the deal ends.

    Member who gave thanks

    deegee93

  • David Flynn

    David

    5 Apr, 2018 09:19 am

    A note to everybody: we’re now moderating comments on this article and we will hold or remove comments which are off-topic, do not add value to the subject (for the benefit of fellow AusBT readers) and/or contain personal attacks. If you want to sound off about the Virgin Australia / Air New Zealand split per se, yesterday’s article provided that opportunity, so let’s not repeat the same here. Today’s another day and this is another article with a different focus.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    5 Apr, 2018 10:45 am

    Just got my email from Air NZ about the break up. At this stage its about Trans Tasman services only.

    Air NZ is still in discussions with VA about domestic travel within NZ and Australia. According to my email, Air NZ passengers traveling domestically in Australia on VA still can make reservations via Air NZ reservation system after 27 Oct 18 and Airpoints Gold Elite, Airpoints Gold and Koru Members still have access to VA domestic lounges. The same applies for VA Velocity members flying domestically in NZ.

    I would suspect that both Air NZ and VA will keep the existing interline agreements for domestic travel within NZ and Australia, as it makes sense operationally for both carriers to do so.

    I think the breakup is due to Air NZ receiving first of the new A320/A321neo's and the delivery of the12th B789 being delivered later this year.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    5 Apr, 2018 12:01 pm

    Hi krisdude, the information currently published by AirNZ reads as below. Does your email suggest otherwise?

    --

    Will I still receive lounge access and other premium customer benefits if I am booked onto a flight operated by Virgin Australia?

    Customers travelling on or before 27 October 2018 will be unaffected, and will still receive their lounge access and other premium customer benefits.

    Air New Zealand will be re-accommodating Air New Zealand ticketed customers booked to travel on Virgin Australia on the Tasman after 27 October 2018. We will contact those affected customers in the next few weeks about any changes to their booking.

    --

    (This doesn't say that AirNZ and Virgin Australia will continue their reciprocal lounge agreements, just that passengers booked on NZ codeshare flights will be moved to AirNZ metal, on which lounge access would be offered as normal.)

    No member give thanks

  • Say Mee

    mspcooper

    5 Apr, 2018 11:00 am

    This is a shame. As a VA Platinum, i flew with AirNZ few times to North America, but no more. However, this will now come to a full stop. Crazy really. Personally i would stick with VA (i like their partners and what their alliance does to my work personally) or use SQ to gain *A status rather than AirNZ.
    Would this mean VA domestic lounges will be less busy?
    No member give thanks

  • Medon Loupis

    Sibelius

    5 Apr, 2018 03:23 pm

    The common denominator between the two airlines remains Singapore Airlines, which has alliances with both Virgin and ANZ. I wouldn't expect this to change in the short-to-medium term. Does SQ codeshare with VA and NZ for trans-Tasman and NZ domestic flights? I assume SQ flyers have access to both the VA and NZ lounges? I can see the benefit of booking via SQ -- for one thing, KrisFlyer points can be used for both airlines.
    No member give thanks

  • SaltyJ

    SaltyJ

    5 Apr, 2018 06:50 pm

    I don't think this is always the case. I just travelled Cbr-wlg-Cbr and could access virgin lounge in cbr but on the return flight from WLG I and a couple of other Gold Velocity were refused entry at the International AirzNZ lounge
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Apr, 2018 09:25 am

    SaltyJ: The rule for Velocity member lounge access when flying Singapore Airlines is that it only works in ports where Singapore Airlines runs its own lounge (so that's great if you're flying out of London where SQ has a nice new lounge, but not so great when flying out of Paris where SQ uses the Star Alliance Lounge).

    The only exception is in Canberra where Velocity Gold/Platinum members can access the Virgin Australia domestic lounge prior to an SQ flight, because SQ has signed a special agreement there and uses it for its own passengers.
    No member give thanks

  • henrus

    henrus

    5 Apr, 2018 09:08 pm

    Yes however SQ Gold/PPS status holders don't get access to any lounge when traveling Virgin Internationally.

    So when the VA/NZ tie up ends the only way to get lounge access on both VA and NZ trans tasman flights is to hold status as both a Star Gold and Velcoity Gold/Platinum.
    No member give thanks

  • Adam T

    AT

    5 Apr, 2018 04:55 pm

    Best way to approach this is start thinking about how your preferred program fits into your travel schedule and on which airline. Effectively from October you need to think about no access to each others facilities oeriod and that's that. And stop dreaming about VA building lounges at international terminals in 2018, and as for VA joining an alliance....good luck with that!
    No member give thanks

  • puppy79

    puppy79

    6 Apr, 2018 05:28 am

    VA doesn't need an Alliance but if it had to join one Skyteam would be ideal.it would serve a lot of places it doesn't or won't.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    6 Apr, 2018 10:00 am

    Hi Chris - This is the information that was available yesterday from Air NZ - 'After 27 October 2018 customers who wish to travel on Virgin Australia services within Australia can do so via Air New Zealand’s interline agreement with Virgin Australia."

    I checked with Koru Club membership services today and they are saying lounge access in VA domestic lounges has been 'suspended' for Airpoints Gold, Gold Elite and Koru members after 28 Oct 18 until a final agreement has been reached by VA and Air NZ is regards to Airpoints Gold, Gold Elite and Koru and Velocity members in the Australian and NZ domestic markets.

    When Air NZ says 'suspended' it can means many things.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Apr, 2018 10:15 am

    Ah, interlining has nothing to do with lounge access: it really just enables through-checking of baggage and printing of onward boarding passes. Lounge access is a separate agreement, which as you note, is not guaranteed after October 27.

    Fingers crossed for some ongoing reciprocity, of course.
    No member give thanks

  • puppy79

    puppy79

    7 Apr, 2018 07:49 am

    it's sad the alliance is ending but getting through checked across the tasman is a great thing.it would not bother me if i have to pay $65 for a one off lounge visit assuming the staff at the adelaide lounge let me in if i have booked it under a NZ ticket.
    No member give thanks

  • dm12

    dm12

    6 Apr, 2018 11:30 am

    Its an interesting move. Personally i was beginning to think about moving from QFF across to Velocity, their wider range of airlines and destinations was attractive. SIA and ANZ were particularly attractive for international travel, good quality airlines and reasonable fares. And i was beginning to get over QFF's hard to find and expensive rewards, and high fares. But i guess this answers the question and i'll stay with QFF for now.
    No member give thanks

  • AgentGerko

    AgentGerko

    6 Apr, 2018 04:41 pm

    With the split, VA's B737s on SYD/AKL are not going to be very enticing to J passengers when compared with QF's A330's, NZ's 787s and 777s and even LAN's 787s. I know its only 3hrs but if I can get a better J for the same price then I won't be sitting in whats just a domestic product. I booked VA to AKL specifically so I could use their NZ codeshare and try the NZ 787. Luckily that's in Sept so I won't be affected.
    No member give thanks

  • Hugh McGarry

    Journeyman

    13 Apr, 2018 04:44 pm

    Much speculation. Lets see what happens. What I'd really like to have a gripe about is the awful VA lounge facilities out of Brisbane International. The Plaza lounge is awful; over-sold and therefore overcrowded. I fly Pacific routes quite a bit out of BRI and as Platinum get the lounge but frankly I'd rather buy my own and at least get a seat in the public areas.

    No member give thanks

  • John Ruming

    jcr737

    13 Apr, 2018 06:20 pm

    "What happens now"? ANZ has emailed me twice this week, firstly to inform me of the ending of the alliance, secondly (Thursday) to inform me of new services across the Tasman. I am low on the ANZ FF totem pole but Gold with Velocity FF. So what have I heard from VA?...Nothing, zilch, zero! The silence is deafening. They have lost all the so-called perks in NZ, it will take time to find lounges etc in any NZ airport. VA appear to scramble from one debacle to another, they sort out lounge access at LAX, only to start all over again at HKG. And now all of NZ. My two bobs worth.

    No member give thanks

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18 Jan, 2019 11:17 pm

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