Are there too many shortcuts to Velocity Gold status?

Are there too many shortcuts to Velocity Gold status?

TALKING POINT | There’s no denying that perks like priority check-in, airport lounge access and priority boarding make business travel more enjoyable for regular flyers, but are those privileges now too easy to obtain, given the many shortcuts now available for earning Velocity Gold frequent flyer status?

For instance, Velocity Gold takes 500 status credits to reach for the first time, and 400 status credits to retain for a further year – and traditionally, status credits were only earned from flying, with Velocity Gold status being a reward for those who travel more than most.

However, Velocity members can now pocket up to 120 bonus status credits each year simply by purchasing groceries and alcohol from Coles, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor, via the Coles Flybuys scheme.

Separately, American Express Velocity Platinum cardholders can net 100 bonus status credits each year when spending $50,000 or more on their card on anything at all – equal to a spend of just $481 per person per week when sharing the AMEX account with a partner or spouse.

Many Flybuys members and Coles Rewards Mastercard holders have also been offered ‘Explore Gold’ status over the past year: that’s three months of Velocity Gold perks, with only 80 status credits and one eligible Virgin Australia flight needed to stay at Gold for a further 12 months.

Added to that, American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders can be boosted straight to Velocity Gold for a year simply by converting their Membership Rewards points into Velocity points this month – or even Velocity Platinum for a year followed by a further 12 months of Velocity Gold for converting a higher number of points.

(While these same AMEX cardholders already enjoy unlimited Virgin Australia lounge access regardless of status as a benefit of their card, being Gold or Platinum does provide more flexibility when bringing guests into lounges, along with a host of other ‘priority’ perks.)

And, if not covered by any of that, Velocity’s generous ‘family pooling’ feature allows members to earn Velocity status credits when other people fly: up to one adult family member and up to four under-18 children at any one time, in fact, not to mention any bonus status credit promotions that pop up from time to time.

With so many paths and shortcuts now available to Velocity Gold, we’ve observed over the past year that Virgin Australia’s capital city lounges have become significantly busier at the times we’ve flown through, and that the airport ‘priority’ queues can sometimes now be as long as the general economy lines.

On the one hand, making Velocity Gold such an easy target does mean more people get to enjoy the benefits of status – but on the other, those who earn their wings by actually flying might question why buying groceries or using the right credit card should provide an easier path to their hard-earned benefits.

So we’re asking readers to have their say: should Virgin Australia make Velocity Gold status harder to achieve, or would you like to see the many 'status shortcuts' continue, even if fuller lounges and longer lines are the result? Share your opinion in the comment box below!

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin 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!
 

17 Comments

  • mcglynp

    mcglynp

    14 Nov, 2017 08:00 am

    I dont actually have too much of an issue with the gold shortcuts. For Velocity and by extension VA to be competitive you need to make flying with them attractive and this is one way to do it. Yes this makes the lounges busy, but that is the trade off to get people flying. One area I would prefer they look at however is platinum, as this is where the real frequent flyers are, and at the moment there is little to no incentive to attain that status.
    Members who gave thanks

    Sibelius, Han, Gary1

  • Steven Beale

    melbtraveler

    15 Nov, 2017 04:38 am

    Completely agree regarding little to no incentive to retaining Platinum. I kept it for 3 years and let drop to Gold and will sit there till there is some real difference in the future. My platinum status dollars are with the other airline for the moment.
    Members who gave thanks

    bwright, Gary1

  • Jay G

    jginpil

    14 Nov, 2017 08:25 am

    i agree the lounges and the lines for check in are busier but that has the advantage that premium services can be more easily justified. these pathways just mean that true flyers become platinum rather than golds and the perks are decent at the top particularly with OS partners
    No member give thanks

  • turbojezz

    turbojezz

    14 Nov, 2017 09:00 am

    Its very appropriate for Virgin to do what they do and its also appropriate for Qantas to do what they do. ah I love T3 at SYD... :)
    No member give thanks

  • markathome

    markathome

    14 Nov, 2017 09:57 am

    Like mcglynp I'm not too fussed. I'm curious when people are experiencing this problems - I suspect it might be more of a where than a when.

    Perth and Melbourne lounges always seem to have reasonable space (and I've travelled on Christmas Eve). Sydney does have limitations but it seems more to do with the lounge than the number of frequent flyers.

    I have noticed crowding in the Melbourne Qantas Domestic lounge and with the pending restrictions then loss of windows for Melbourne frequent flyers. It's hard for Melbourne residents to get excited about Qantas Gold.
    No member give thanks

  • Erin Beck

    ErinB

    14 Nov, 2017 12:18 pm

    if they're not flying that often and getting status through other schemes then they're not going to be in the airport to cause issues that often either.
    Members who gave thanks

    Russjking, Carrots, deegee93

  • JPeuty

    JPeuty
    Banned

    14 Nov, 2017 01:05 pm

    Spending $50,000 a year on American Express is nothing to sneeze at. The average household disposable income in Australia was $1,009 in 2015-16, so when you say that's equal to "equal to a spend of just $481 per person per week", that's a little too out of touch for my tastes.
    Member who gave thanks

    jDL

  • chris_melbourne

    chris_melbourne

    14 Nov, 2017 05:19 pm

    You can use American Express at Coles, Woolies, Target, Bunnings etc as well as to pay for petrol, insurance, utilities, phone bills etc. It's not just discretionary spending. I agree that's still out of reach of many households, but the article is just saying that it opens the opportunity to hit gold to more people than just frequent flyers
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 Nov, 2017 05:57 pm

    Hi JPeuty, while we generally write from a 'mainstream' news perspective, 93% of our readers have a household income of $50,000/year or more (and for 73% of readers, the figure is $100,000 or more), so in that context and particularly when using the AMEX for almost all spend (particularly biggies like rent, groceries, travel and utilities), a $50k/year spend target isn't out of reach for the vast majority of our readers (especially those belonging to households with two working partners), and in that context, we're simply writing for our audience, but also respecting that not all households will be in the same situation.
    No member give thanks

  • Damien  Greene

    Fatherdamo

    14 Nov, 2017 10:58 pm

    I think the main issue is the overcrowding of lounges and hence not only the frustration of Gold frequent flyers also the frustration of platinum flyers who enjoy no differentiation in the their lounge access
    Members who gave thanks

    bwright, oceaneer

  • Grant McHerron

    McHerron

    15 Nov, 2017 08:11 am

    Time for VA to introduce Platinum+ and lifetime status otherwise why am I using the next 4 months of my annual cycle to continue accruing Status Credits now that I've retained Platinum?
    Member who gave thanks

    Whale Watcher

  • gibosity

    gibosity

    15 Nov, 2017 03:27 pm

    I'll second that. I have been Platinum for 3 years, and while I WILL say there have been tangible benefits (greatly flexibility with flight change options, and upgrades on int'l flights), I am always looking at if it is worth changing to a *A or OW alliance partner. Lifetime status with Virgin would go along way to keeping me on board, particularly when so many other airlines offer it.
    Lounge access hasn't been too bad, although I am definitely noticing that lounges are getting busier!
    No member give thanks

  • paul

    Paully

    15 Nov, 2017 05:16 pm

    Completely agree . We are in the same situation . My wife does the Perth-Sydney-Canberra gig twice a week for 2.5 years . We are two months into our new year and already reached the 800 status credits needed. Already gifted me platinum last year and reached it for next year ! I asked them to make her VIP but said she needed to be invited by John Borghetti himself. What a shame . no more incentive to fly Virgin for the remaining 9 months .
    No member give thanks

  • Hugh McGarry

    Journeyman

    15 Nov, 2017 03:15 pm

    Definitely. The lounges are full at any time of day with ankle-biters and relatives and there are frequently as many people lining up for priority boarding as there are for economy!
    No member give thanks

  • Michael Humphries

    Whale Watcher

    15 Nov, 2017 03:17 pm

    McHeron, you've hit the nail on the head

    I've also just clicked platinum renewal and have four months to go. Lifetime benefits would be a real, tangible benefit
    No member give thanks

  • John Harley

    jch

    15 Nov, 2017 06:50 pm

    Can also early good points by travelling with Virgin's Chinese partners such as (i.e Hainan & Capital) who are offering business class flights to the mainland for around A$2,000 return.
    No member give thanks

  • Calligraham

    Calligraham

    15 Nov, 2017 07:02 pm

    I’ve been Gold since 2011 and I really don’t feel like these shortcuts impact me at all. I have no issue booking seats at the front of the plane, checking in quickly or boarding first. As mentioned above the people not actually flying to accrue status credits won’t be clogging up the lounges anyway..! Good on Virgin, they are smart, securing more loyal flyers by offering easier membership access. I’ve only flown other airlines 3x in the last five be years due to no last minute flight being available through Virgin.
    Member who gave thanks

    deegee93

  • Grant McHerron

    McHerron

    15 Nov, 2017 07:57 pm

    Does anyone from Virgin and/or Velocity monitor this site? Would be nice to know that they're noticing feedback from some of their pax in the top 5% indicating that they may as well switch to QF for the rest of the year...
    Member who gave thanks

    garhug

  • Dean Gossip

    deegee93

    16 Nov, 2017 02:36 pm

    As a "regional" flyer I don't notice it too much sometimes I think I'm the only person who uses the priority check in. However when I'm Brisbane and Melbourne I've only noticed a busy lounge once in Melbourne on a Sunday afternoon/night.
    No member give thanks

  • Jazzop

    Jazzop

    16 Nov, 2017 03:15 pm

    I am completely surprised at how many ppl think it isn't a problem.

    I fly, and have flown VA 2 out of 3 weeks for the past 4 years and I have definitely noticed a significant uptick in the amount of people in the lounges and in the priority queue.
    I'm not going to begrudge VA for trying to get more ppl into Gold as they know if they have Gold, they'll choose VA's product over QF. But, for me, my Platinum membership is devalued. I can't get a chair in most lounges at peak times, . and priority boarding isn't as good when half the plane are in that queue with you. But I do like the 4 x upgrades per year and fly early benefit.

    But, I maintain QF Gold as well as VA Platinum and am now working to reverse that. I've worked out I can get to QF Platinum and maybe even Platinum one, while maintaining VA Gold. Especially as the QF domestic product is better (they have actual meals) and the international options out of BNE are getting better. And the QF planes are cleaner. The VA 738s are getting grotty.

    So yes, Velocity/VA need to start toning it back or find a way to reward their real Frequent Flyers. The ones who fly on unrestricted airfares and regularly.

    FYI - I'm currently in the VA SYD domestic lounge, have been here since 2.30pm. It's packed and they just opened up upstairs.
    Member who gave thanks

    garhug

  • bert

    bert

    16 Nov, 2017 05:47 pm

    Totally agree with Jazzop.
    Virgin are trading off losing the most regular frequently flyers who have devalued benefits with increased number of infrequent flyers. Reduced number of flyers who buy more expensive fares but increased number of flyers who buy the cheap fares. Maybe it is best business decision as there is just no comparison to the qantas product
    No member give thanks

  • careyw

    careyw

    18 Nov, 2017 04:59 pm

    Agree mostly. Sydney lounge is generally overcrowded on most weekday evenings. Priority boarding has become a bit of a joke anyway, with either big numbers, or by gate staff boarding a few priorities and then starting general boarding. This means if you are at the back of the priority crowd, you end up at your seat along with everyone else (also meaning the overhead locker is full). This could be easily solved by boarding business first (surely that is appropriate anyway), then Platinum, then the rest. The EconomyX setup is also a bit of a joke, when you arrive at your special X seat and find VA staff there and the overheads full of their luggage. Nice touch VA!
    No member give thanks

Guest

20 Nov, 2017 01:19 pm

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