Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia now offer parents a way of pausing their Silver, Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status during times of less-frequent travel, such as when planning for the baby to arrive or in its first few years.
But just how generous are the airlines when you’re expecting children but also to retain your frequent flyer status?
We pit Qantas Frequent Flyer against Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme to find out.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: who qualifies?
Above all else are the rules around who qualifies for the airlines’ parental perks, and with Qantas you’ll need to be a Silver, Gold or Platinum frequent flyer (not Platinum One), and need to be taking at least six consecutive months of leave from paid employment to spend time with your family.
You’ll also need to be expecting a child of your own in the coming three months – or to be adopting or housing a foster child during the same period – or to have had or taken in a child the last six months. Frequent flyers of both genders can apply for Qantas’ ‘status hold’.
With Velocity, Silver, Gold and Platinum members of both genders can apply for a membership pause when caring for or preparing to care for a child aged two years or under with no formal requirement to be on leave from employment.
However, you cannot apply in the one-month ‘grace period’ following your membership year which applies to those not meeting the requirements to retain their status, or if you’re a Velocity Pilot Gold member, such as via Virgin Australia’s Accelerate program or by corporate contract.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: what you need
In all cases, Qantas requires a letter from your employer confirming that you’ll be taking at least six months of consecutive leave to care for your new addition, which Qantas advised Australian Business Traveller can be paid or unpaid leave or a mixture of both, as long as the leave period totals six months or more.
Natural parents also need to provide a doctor’s letter advising of the expected due date or the birth certificate of the child if born, and adoptive parents must show an ‘adoption registration’ or a doctor’s note confirming the planned adoption date.
Foster parents are asked to show a foster registration form or certificate, or a copy of your ‘foster carer placement plan’.
Virgin Australia’s requirements are vaguer, noting only that members “may be required to provide verification to complete the application, at the discretion of (Velocity)”.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: how long?
Take out a Qantas status hold and you can keep your current tier for 18 months. Any status credits already earned this membership year will be reallocated to the next membership year, helping to retain your status as your status hold begins to wind up.
If you begin to fly more frequently during your status hold and you reach the requirements for a higher tier (such as moving from Gold to Platinum), you’ll be bumped up at that point and your status hold ended.
Velocity provides a shorter six-month pause, but after which your existing tier level is maintained for a further 12 months. If you’ve earned enough status credits and eligible sectors during the pause to reach a new tier, you’ll only be moved up at the end of the pause – not during, as with Qantas.
However, once you move up you’ll then have 12 months to retain your newly-activated membership level, so you’ll not miss out in that respect.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: existing perks
Both airlines allow you to enjoy the benefits of your frequent flyer membership during the parental pause, so Gold and Platinum frequent flyers can still stop by the lounge or use the priority boarding lanes as they usually would, and Silver members also receive their usual entitlements.
Additionally, Velocity Gold and Platinum members can continue to book an annual reward trip on Virgin Australia flights where seats aren’t otherwise available, and Velocity Platinum members can use their complimentary upgrades until the usual expiry date.
However, for Qantas frequent flyers, if your status was a gift from a high-flying partner such as a Qantas Platinum One member gifting ‘partner Platinum’, you cannot pause your membership.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: how often can I apply?
Qantas allows eligible frequent flyers to apply for a status hold twice in a five-year period – giving you plenty of time to recover from the first child before having another or the flexibility to have (or adopt/foster) a second straight away.
Virgin Australia instead accepts one membership pause application per 24-month period, and like Qantas, only one application per child.
That means you can’t apply for a membership pause before a child is born and again for the same child during his/her early life, but if you have a second child and your last application was made more than 24 months ago, you’re set.
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