A hidden gem of the Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme is being able to book flights with Virgin Australia's sister airline, Virgin Atlantic, especially on journeys between Hong Kong and London.
That's because unlike many of Velocity's other airline partners including Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines, the number of points needed to book with Virgin Atlantic is on the lower side – and in fact, is no more than you'd need to book a Virgin Australia flight of the same length.
While Virgin Atlantic doesn't fly Down Under, Velocity members could fly from Melbourne to Hong Kong with Virgin Australia (and soon, from Sydney to Hong Kong), before jumping on a Virgin Atlantic flight to the UK.
Better yet, booking a ticket in Upper Class – 'Virgin Atlantic' parlance for business class – also includes access to the airline's inflight bars (such as on Boeing 787 flights), and the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge at Heathrow after your flight for a shower, a spot of breakfast and perhaps even a spa treatment.
Here's what you need to know to find and book your Virgin Atlantic reward flight.
Booking Virgin Atlantic flights with Velocity points: key routes
Along with Hong Kong, Virgin Atlantic serves London from Shanghai, Delhi and Dubai in Asia and the Middle East – so if you're heading to one of these cities on business, you may be able to squeeze in a side trip for some personal time, or dart to London to pursue your next venture.
Visiting the United States instead? Virgin Atlantic offers flights to London Heathrow from Los Angeles – a city also served by Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – along with San Francisco, Seattle, New York (JFK and Newark), Boston, Washington, Atlanta (hub of Delta Air Lines, another Velocity partner) and Miami.
Finally, Virgin Atlantic flies between London's Gatwick Airport and both Las Vegas and Orlando, among other routes.
Booking Virgin Atlantic flights with Velocity points: how many points you'll need
Wherever you're beginning your Virgin Atlantic journey, here's how many Velocity points you'd need to fly to London – for return bookings, double these figures:
|To/from London (one-way)||Upper Class
||83,500 Velocity points||62,700 Velocity points||39,800 Velocity points|
|71,500 Velocity points||53,700 Velocity points||34,800 Velocity points|
|59,500 Velocity points||44,700 Velocity points||27,800 Velocity points|
|New York (Newark & JFK)
|49,500 Velocity points||36,700 Velocity points||22,300 Velocity points|
Because Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic are both on the same Velocity 'reward table', you can also book a journey from Sydney to London or from Melbourne to London for a total of 127,500 Velocity points in business class, 95,700 Velocity points in premium economy or 59,800 Velocity points in economy, one way.
Booking Virgin Atlantic flights with Velocity points: making that reservation
To secure a Virgin Atlantic reward flight, you'll need to call Velocity Frequent Flyer on 13 18 75 between 7:30am and 10:30pm Sydney time, seven days a week – or +61 2 8667 5924 during the same hours if dialling from overseas.
This means you won't be able to check whether a particular Virgin Atlantic flight is open for points bookings by researching on the Velocity website.
Further, calling Velocity to book Virgin Atlantic flights can be quite time-consuming, because the telephone agent can't simply bring up a list of available Virgin Atlantic travel options – they have to create a 'pretend' booking on your behalf including full passenger names, contact details and flight numbers, which is sent across to Virgin Atlantic and returning a 'yes' or a 'no' to the operator.
If it's a 'yes', you're in luck! The agent will confirm how many points you need and how much you'll have to pay on the side to cover any taxes, fees and surcharges, so have your credit card handy to complete your booking.
Otherwise, if it's a 'no', you can try requesting another flight, or may need to consider a different airline.
If you're travelling from Australia to London by combining a Virgin Australia flight with a Virgin Atlantic flight, you may also need to remind the operator that such bookings are permitted by the Velocity T&Cs, and that you should only be charged for a single "Table 1, Zone 10" reward fare, not the points cost for two separate flights.
Booking Virgin Atlantic flights with Velocity points: finding availability
Let's be honest: you probably don't want to waste time calling up, waiting on hold and working through the details of your preferred flight, only to find that it can't be booked using Velocity points – so take note of these two time-saving tricks.
If you have an ExpertFlyer subscription, this gets much easier. Simply login to your ExpertFlyer account, venture to the 'Awards & Upgrades' tab, select "Virgin Atlantic Airways - VS" from the list of available airlines, and plug in your ideal trip.
I'm going to search for a one-way flight from Hong Kong to London for one passenger, in Upper Class, premium economy and economy. I'll also change 'exact date' to '+/- 3 Days' to see my options across an entire week:
On the next screen, I'm looking for the word "yes", which indicates that a reward booking would be possible as entered. For example, on November 15 2018, I can see that reward seats are available in both premium economy and economy, but not in Upper Class:
The results page also shows me the flight number (VS207) and the aircraft type – in this case, '789', which is shorthand for the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – on the same screen.
But let's assume I want an Upper Class seat, to take advantage of the full Virgin Atlantic experience including the inflight bar and the Revivals Lounge in London for the complimentary post-flight massage.
If I were willing to take the same flight one day later, on November 16, this would become possible, as "yes" appears next to "Upper Class - Award":
If you don't have an ExpertFlyer subscription, you could instead try searching for flights through the Virgin Atlantic website (not the Velocity website) to get an idea of what's available, before calling Velocity to secure your seat.
The process is similar – key in the same details as you would for ExpertFlyer, but on the Payment line, be sure to tick "pay with miles", rather than "pay with card" or "pay with miles plus money":
The next screen shows a calendar of what's available, which matches what we saw in ExpertFlyer earlier: that an Upper Class reward flight isn't available on November 15, but that November 16 is fine.
Importantly, ignore the number of miles you see above, and the payment amount. These rates apply to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members booking flights with their Flying Club miles, and are irrelevant for Velocity members booking flights using Velocity points.
Once you've confirmed that a suitable flight is available for booking, you'll be able to call Velocity Frequent Flyer with confidence, spending minimal time on the phone to secure your seat to London.
One final tip: If you normally earn Velocity points through your credit card by converting them across from AMEX Membership Rewards, such as from the American Express Platinum Charge Card, you might consider sending them to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club instead of Velocity.
As hinted above, that's because Flying Club requires fewer points than Velocity to book these flights, yet the conversion rate from Membership Rewards to both Velocity and Flying Club is the same (except for Membership Rewards Gateway cards, like AMEX Explorer, where Flying Club isn't an option).
Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyers will enjoy have access to Qantas Clubs around Australia under the newly-forged alliance between the two airlines.
As of October 28, 2018, Airpoints Elite and Gold members booked on a codeshare flight with Qantas will find the doors swing open for them at the two dozen Qantas Club lounges in Australia's capital cities and regional centres. They'll also be permitted to bring in one guest.
But it won't be as easy as flashing your shiny Airpoints card, as the following conditions apply:
- you have to be travelling on a domestic Qantas flight
- it has to be booked under the Air New Zealand codeshare (those flight numbers will be in the NZ7xxx range)
- and this must be booked as part of a trans-Tasman booking
This arrangement replaces Airpoints access to Virgin Australia lounges following the dramatic bust-up between the two former allies.
However, there appears to be no Qantas Club lounge access for Koru Club members, nor can AirNZ frequent flyers cool their heels in the more upmarket Qantas Business lounges.
The Qantas / Air New Zealand alliance covers selected flights on the domestic network of each airline, however trans-Tasman and other international flights are excluded from the arrangement.
Cathay Pacific will roll out its new 'business class dining concept' this month, with the meal service taking a step closer to a first class experience.
Meals will be individually plated and delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, as the airline adopts more personalised and upmarket approach.
Cathay also expects this will result in a "quieter and calmer cabin environment", especially on late night flights.
Passengers will have a choice between three appetisers and "up to six main course choices" on flights over ten hours in the initial launch of the service to the likes of Chicago (on July 30), London/Gatwick (in August) followed by Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington DC (September); Amsterdam, Paris and Johannesburg (October), Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona (November) and London/Heathrow (December).
And, being very much on trend, light and healthy 'wellbeing options' feature in every main course.
On flights from Hong Kong the menu will be changed every month, with a quarterly menu refresh for flights to Hong Kong.
Fights from Hong Kong (but not, for now, the return leg) will also see a new range of Hong Kong Favourites inspired by local dishes, such as
- Hong Kong char siu pork with egg noodles, seasoned soy sauce, spring onion and ginger (shown below)
- Wok fried seafood in lobster soup with ginger, spring onion, crispy and steamed rice
- Beef brisket with flat rice noodle soup
- Mango with pomelo and sago
But before all that eatings starts, business class passengers will notice the new-look menus.
Printed as eight pages on quality paper, they not only detail the meals and drinks available on that flight but include foodie-friendly articles such as 'Anatomy of a Laksa' and feature a local chef revealing their favourite eateries both in Hong Kong and around thr world.
There will also be a breakfast menu card which passengers will complete before hitting the hay, so that they can wake to what the airline described as a "hotel room-service" experience.
However, these are set menus rather than allowing travellers to pick-and-mix from a wide selection of items.
In addition to what's described as 'traditional' Chinese and Western breakfasts, there's also a lighter Continental breakfast plus a minimalist Express breakfast of a piece of pastry and a drink, which can be served 60 minutes before landing for passengers who wish to maximise their sleep.
Refreshments will be revamped as a selection of 'most loved dishes' available throughout the flight as a snack between meals on services to North America and Europe, including the airline's signature burger and popular soup noodles. These will also appear on the main meal menu.
Next year will see Cathay's 'new business class dining concept' extend to medium-distance routes, with plans to include Sydney and Auckland in February 2019 and Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth in May 2019.
Very few watches can claim true originality, and the Cartier Santos is among those few.
The Santos made its debut way back in 1904 as a personal timepiece for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, making it both the first pilot’s watch and one of the earliest known men’s wristwatches.
As we've previously detailed, the Santos was borne from a request by Brazilian flyer Santos-Dumont, who told his friend Louis Cartier – then a Parisian watchmaker – of the challenge of timing flights using the then-conventional pocket watch, as pilots needed to keep both hands on the aircraft controls.
In response, Cartier designed a large square-faced watch and fitted it to a strap so it could be worn on the wrist – quite a revolutionary concept at the time.
The first commercial Cartier Santos watches went on sale to the public in 1911 with solid gold cases and ultra-thin mechanical movements designed by French clockmaker Edmond Jaeger.
(In order to produce this movement for Cartier, Jaeger worked with Swiss movement manufacturer Jacques-David LeCoultre, a partnership that would lead to the birth of storied brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.)
The enduring design of the Cartier Santos was reimagined in the late 1970s as a luxury steel sports watch, later adding two-tone steel and gold and the now-iconic screwed bezel with exposed gold screws along the bracelet for a modern, industrial aesthetic.
For 2018, Cartier has once again re-invented the Santos.
The distinctive screw-set bezel now tapers at both ends towards the bracelet to create an organic, integrated look.
The satin-brushed case features a wide mirror-polished bevel along its length, extending all the way to the gracefully curved crown guards at 3 o’clock. A square watch the Santos may be, but there’s hardly a sharp edge or straight line to be found.
The case has been slimmed dramatically from previous incarnations of the Santos, allowing this watch to disappear easily under a shirt cuff when needed.
The bracelet is fitted with a new 'QuickSwitch' system allowing for easy swapping with the included tan calfskin strap or Cartier’s alternative crocodile straps, providing some style versatility.
Adding or removing bracelet links has also been made easier with a new 'SmartLink' design which allows the wearer to expand the bracelet during a hot summer’s day without requiring a tool.
While the bezel, case and bracelet have all been modernised, the dial remains classic Cartier. With Roman numerals, a railroad minute-track and heat-blued hands, it’s hard to imagine a more traditional look.
The 2018 Cartier Santos can serve dress-watch and sports-watch duties equally well, and boasts a history that few timepieces can match.
• In-house mechanical movement with automatic winding
• Seven-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel
• Silvered opaline dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands, sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 10 bar (approximately 100 metres)
• Medium version case width: 35.1 mm, thickness: 8.83 mm
• Large version case width: 39.8 mm, thickness: 9.08 mm
• Pricing from A$8,750 for the Cartier Santos Medium in steel, to A$52,500 for the Cartier Santos Large in solid pink gold with matching pink gold bracelet. For stockists, visit www.au.cartier.com.
Finnair will launch inflight Internet on its European flights this week, with travellers able to enjoy the high-speed satellite service free of charge during a two-month trial period running through to the end of September.
The Oneworld airline has already outfitted six of its single-aisle Airbus jets with technology provided through partner Viasat, which also provided the backbone for Qantas' Australia-wide WiFi system.
By the end of northern summer some 20 aircraft will be upgraded, with Finnair's entire single-aisle Airbus fleet slated for WiFi by mid-2019.
The system will be available on a gate-to-gate basis, so passengers won't even need to wait for their jet to reach level flight – which will maximise time online for many of Finnair's relatively short European hops.
However, parts of some European routes will present black spots to the satellite network, including above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, while some restrictions also apply over Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Belarus and Russia.
Over the two-month testing period Finnair intends to "gather information on system functionality and feedback on the overall customer experience."
"In entering the passenger testing phase, we’ll be gaining the critical insights needed to further optimise our service to ensure Finnair customers get a unique experience built around their needs, interests and usage behaviours," explains Viasat vice-president Don Buchman.
The airline has yet to reveal what pricing it will charge for its sky-high WiFi once the trial period ends, although frequent flyers will no doubt hope that some sort of monthly pass is available as an alternative to paying on a per-flight basis.
Finnair already offers WiFi on its long-range 'intercontinental' jets, with the first hour free for business class and Finnair Plus Gold members, then €3 (A$4.70) for three hours or €20 (A$31) for the entire flight. Finnair Plus Platinum frequent flyers are provided with free Internet access for the whole flight.