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).