While relaxing in airport lounges is certainly pleasant, arriving home or at your destination earlier than expected can prove far sweeter – and that’s exactly what Virgin Australia offers to its high-flying Velocity Gold and Platinum members travelling on Australian domestic flights.
It works like this: if you arrive at the airport for the flight you’d booked with plenty of time to spare and there’s another Virgin Australia flight headed to the same destination both open for check-in and which still has seats available, you can ‘Fly Ahead’ on that earlier service at no cost.
This is possible on most fares, but not all of them, as Australian Business Traveller reveals in this handy guide.
Virgin Australia Fly Ahead: who’s eligible?
Again, this perk is offered exclusively to Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, plus up to three companions travelling with them on the same booking.
It’s not available to equivalent Gold and Platinum cardholders of VA’s partner airlines – such as Etihad Guest Gold and Singapore Airlines PPS Club – or to paid-up Virgin Australia lounge members, unless travelling together with an eligible Velocity Gold or Platinum member.
Got your Velocity Gold or Platinum status sorted? Then check your ticket type – from December 1 2016, Fly Ahead is possible on Business, Business Saver, Business Reward, Freedom, Elevate and Economy Reward tickets.
Until that date, travellers on the least-expensive Getaway economy fares can also avail of Fly Ahead, but come December, you’ll need to be booked on an Elevate fare or higher to be eligible, or be flying on a reward booking.
Virgin Australia Fly Ahead: requesting an earlier flight
When travelling with only carry-on baggage, proceed straight to the Virgin Australia lounge and ask the staff at the service desk if an earlier flight might be available.
If you’re carting a checked bag, or in airports where Virgin Australia has no lounge, you can instead ask for an earlier flight at the priority check-in desks – but be sure to ask before your baggage has been tagged and taken away, otherwise you’ll be stuck on your original flight.
From December 1 2016, Gold and Platinum members can also move to an earlier flight at Virgin Australia general airport service desks and at check-in kiosks updated to support Fly Ahead.
Provided a seat is still available in the same cabin class as your original booking – such as a spare business class seat on business class tickets or an economy seat when flying in economy – you can be moved forward, free-of-charge.
Business class passengers can also be moved forward onto flights which only have seats remaining in economy if they so desire, but Virgin Australia offers no refund of the fare difference or in Velocity points in this case: it’s simply an option available if you really need to get somewhere fast.
Fly Ahead isn’t possible over the phone, however. You’ll need to front-up at the airport before your request can be considered. If you call, you’ll instead be asked to pay any usual flight change fees and fare differences, as these are only waived at the airport via Fly Ahead.
Virgin Australia Fly Ahead: things to note
Velocity Gold and Platinum members can typically choose their preferred seats from the moment a booking is made – but because you’re moving onto another flight where people have already done the same, the seat you originally chose, such as a Row 3 aisle, may have been snapped up.
Instead, you might need to sit further back in the cabin than usual to nab a window or an aisle seat, or – gasp – you might need to fly in a middle seat instead.
Catering also isn’t guaranteed on your new flight. In practice, this means business class passengers who have Flown Ahead will have their meal orders taken last from whatever remains available, although in economy there’s usually no difficulty in securing your complimentary snack and drink.
Also, you can only request a Fly Ahead for your next onward flight and must stick to your original flight routing: so if you’re booked to fly Sydney-Melbourne-Hobart, you can’t switch to a non-stop Sydney-Hobart service or move forward the Melbourne-Hobart leg while in Sydney.
In fact, on connecting journeys you can’t Fly Ahead at all after leaving your first airport, so while you may be able to Fly Ahead on the Sydney-Melbourne leg of the itinerary above, you’d need to remain on your original Melbourne-Hobart flight, reaching the city no sooner than planned.
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