Velocity vs Etihad Guest for Australian travellers

If you’re travelling regularly on Virgin Australia and Etihad services, you may be wondering whether it is better to credit your flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer or Etihad Guest.

Advertisements

Introduction

If you’re travelling regularly on Virgin Australia and Etihad services, you may be wondering whether it is better to credit your flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer or Etihad Guest. Well, in this analysis we break down the key differences between the two programs looking at how to acquire status in each program, how to earn points/miles and a summary of any other benefits to consider when making a decision.

Achieving Gold status

As codeshare partners, flights taken with Virgin Australia and Etihad can earn status and points with either Velocity Frequent Flyer or Etihad Guest. The way in which status is achieved differs between each program. Status in Velocity Frequent Flyer is obtained by earning Status Credits. Status Credits are awarded based on the fare purchased and a distance category (there are 8 distance categories). Status in Etihad Guest is based on Tier Miles which is calculated as the actual number of miles flown, with bonuses applied for Business and First Class fares. This subtle difference actually makes a material difference to the amount of flying it takes to achieve status in each program.

Number of flights required to reach Velocity or Etihad Gold

Velocity Gold takes 500 Status Credits to initially qualify in a 12 month period and can be retained with only 400 Status Credits in subsequent years. Etihad Gold takes 50,000 Tier Miles to initially quality in a 12 month period and can be retained by earning 40,000 Tier Miles in subsequent years.

The following table lists the number of return flights from Brisbane to four sample destinations to reach Velocity or Etihad Gold, depending on which program you are crediting to. For example, it takes 50 discount return economy flights on Virgin Australia from Brisbane to Sydney to reach Velocity Gold, but, if crediting flights to Etihad Guest, it would take 54 discount return economy flights.

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;border-color:#ccc;width:100%;}
.tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#fff;}
.tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#f0f0f0;}
.tg .tg-baqh{text-align:center;vertical-align:top}
.tg .tg-34fq{font-weight:bold;text-align:right}
.tg .tg-hgcj{font-weight:bold;text-align:center}
.tg .tg-l2oz{font-weight:bold;text-align:right;vertical-align:top}

Departing
Brisbane to
Return Economy
Flights for
Velocity Gold
Return Economy
Flights for
Etihad Gold
Return Business
Flights for
Velocity Gold
Return Business
Flights for
Etihad Gold
Sydney 50 53.8 6.3 35.8
Melbourne 25 28.6 4.2 19.1
Abu Dhabi 6.3 3.3 1.6 2.2
London 2.9 2.3 0.9 1.5

The table shows that for travellers predominately taking domestic Economy flights, Velocity Gold can be achieved with less flying than with Etihad Guest. The difference is even more pronounced for those travelling frequently in domestic Business Class, with 4 return Brisbane to Melbourne Business Class trips required to reach Velocity Gold compared with 19 of the same trips to reach Etihad Guest Gold. For those travelling in long haul Economy, it is actually easier to reach Etihad Guest Gold than with Velocity. For example, it would take over 6 return Economy flights from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi to reach Velocity Gold but the same flights credited to Etihad Guest would see Gold status in just over 3 return trips. In long haul Business Class, the numbers are similar but Velocity offers a quicker path to status with a single return Business Class flight from Brisbane to London giving Velocity Gold status.

If your primary goal is achieving status, it’s worth reviewing the routes you fly to determine which program would yield the highest status tier. For every category except long haul Economy, I would recommend Virgin Australia as the easiest program to reach Gold status with.

Earning points and miles

Velocity Points are the currency of Velocity Frequent Flyer. Velocity Points are awarded based on the fare paid (5 points per dollar) for domestic flights and on miles flown and fare type for international flights. Etihad Guest Miles are the currency of Etihad Guest. Etihad Guest Miles are awarded based on miles flown and fare type.

Domestic points earning examples

For Virgin Australia domestic flights, the difference between the points/miles earn rate for Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest is fairly substantial due to the way Velocity awards points for domestic flights. With Velocity, points are awarded based on spend, and even when purchasing the cheapest fare available, this generally results in a much higher points yield. For Virgin Australia domestic discount Economy flights, Etihad Guest Miles are earned at a rate of 0.5 Etihad Guest Miles per mile flown.

The following table compares points earned under Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest for three example domestic flights on Virgin Australia.

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;border-color:#ccc; width:100%;}
.tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#fff;}
.tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#f0f0f0;}
.tg .tg-s6z2{text-align:center}
.tg .tg-34fq{font-weight:bold;text-align:right}
.tg .tg-hgcj{font-weight:bold;text-align:center}

Return
Brisbane to
Economy
Price
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Price
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Sydney $198 990 465 $1458 7290 1395
Melbourne $298 1490 874 $1920 9600 2622
Perth $450 2250 2240 $3998 19990 22458

For domestic flights, Velocity is the clear winner in terms of points earn. Velocity earns more points for all examples with only Brisbane to Perth offering comparable earn rates. For short economy trips, you’ll generally see about double points earned on Velocity compared to Etihad. For short Business Class flights, the difference is very noticeable. A trip from Brisbane to Sydney up the front will yield 7,290 Velocity Points but only 1,395 Etihad Guest Miles.

For travellers who frequently fly domestically on short Virgin Australia flights, I would definitely recommend crediting these flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer for the maximum amount of points. For longer domestic Economy flights, the difference is less, especially if you’ve scored a cheap fight.

International points earning examples

The points earn rate for international flights with Virgin Australia and Etihad are nearly identical between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest, as demonstrated by the following earn table:

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;border-color:#ccc;}
.tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#fff;}
.tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#f0f0f0;}
.tg .tg-s6z2{text-align:center}
.tg .tg-e3zv{font-weight:bold}
.tg .tg-hgcj{font-weight:bold;text-align:center}

Airline Fare Class Velocity Points Etihad Guest Miles
Virgin Economy Discount E, N, V, Q, T, U, S, M 50% 50%
Virgin Economy Elevate L 50% 100%
Virgin Economy Y, B, H, K 100% 100%
Virgin Premium Economy W, R, O 125% 125%
Virgin Business Discount D, I 200% 150%
Virgin Business J, C 200% 200%
Etihad Economy Breaking Deals E, T 25% 25%
Etihad Economy Saver V, U, G 50% 50%
Etihad Economy Value K, M, Q, L 75% 75%
Etihad Economy Freedom Y, B, H 100% 100%
Etihad Business Breaking Deals Z 115% 115%
Etihad Business Saver W 130% 130%
Etihad Business Freedom J, C, D 175% 175%
Etihad First Freedom F, A, R 250% 250%
Etihad The Residence P 400% 400%

The only differences between the points/miles earn rate for international flights are:

  • Virgin Australia Economy Elevate fares earn 50% points (50% = 0.5 points per mile) with Velocity Frequent Flyer compared to Etihad Guest’s 100%
  • Virgin Australia Discount Business fares earn 200% points with Velocity Frequent Flyer compared to Etihad Guest’s 150%

The following table shows three example return flights from Brisbane to demonstrate the points/miles earned by each program for international flights:

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;border-color:#ccc;width:100%;}
.tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#fff;}
.tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:#ccc;color:#333;background-color:#f0f0f0;}
.tg .tg-s6z2{text-align:center}
.tg .tg-34fq{font-weight:bold;text-align:right}
.tg .tg-hgcj{font-weight:bold;text-align:center}

Return
Brisbane to
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Auckland 1,427 1,427 5,708 4,281
Abu Dhabi 3,743 3,743 29,944 22,458
London 5,447 5,447 43,580 32,685

The table is based on discount Economy and discount Business Class flights. The points and miles earned for all three Economy flights are the same between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest. For the Business Class fares, Velocity has a higher earn rate for discount Business Class fares of 200% compared to Etihad’s 150%, which is the reason for the difference.

For international Economy flyers, I would recommend either program for points earn. For those travelling on discounted Business Class fares, Velocity offers a better points earn rate than Etihad Guest.

Redeeming points and miles

Velocity Points can be redeemed for flights with Virgin Australia and Etihad based on the program’s redemption points tables. Etihad Guest Miles can  be redeemed for travel on Virgin Australia flights based on the program’s redemption table. Redeeming Etihad Guest Miles for Etihad flights is not based on a table and varies by route. A mileage calculator is available.

The following table shows three example redemptions:

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;}
.tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;}
.tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:0px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;}
.tg .tg-s6z2{text-align:center}
.tg .tg-34fq{font-weight:bold;text-align:right}
.tg .tg-hgcj{font-weight:bold;text-align:center}

One way
Brisbane to
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Sydney 7,800 6,900 15,500 13,800
Queenstown 17,800 10,900 35,500 21,800
London 75,000 82,114 139,000 162,534

Etihad offers better value for shorter Economy and Business Class redemptions, but Velocity wins on long haul Economy and Business Class. First Class with Etihad also takes less Velocity Points than Etihad Guest Miles.

Other benefits to consider

Aside from the rate at which status and points are earned in the two programs, there are a few other benefits to consider that may weigh in on the selection of a preferred program. This includes the option of using your points or miles to upgrade cabin class and airline priority benefits.

Upgrading with points

It is worth remembering that only Velocity Points can be used to upgrade Virgin Australia flights and only Etihad Guest Miles can be used to upgrade Etihad flights. Generally speaking, I find upgrades to offer fairly poor value. It usually requires purchasing a more expensive flexible economy ticket and most airlines won’t confirm upgrades until much closer to departure. For some people, especially those travelling for work, upgrades can make a lot of sense and this is important to remember when picking your preferred program.

Those travelling frequently to the United States, Fiji, New Zealand, Indonesia or other Virgin Australia destinations wishing to take advantage of upgrades would benefit from keeping a healthy balance of Velocity Points.

Likewise, those travelling frequently to Europe or other Etihad destinations wishing to upgrade their tickets will need a solid balance of Etihad Guest Miles.

Priority check-in

Priority check-in is a published benefit of Velocity Gold and Platinum members when travelling on Etihad flights however in the past when I’ve used this I haven’t seen any signs specifically mentioning Velocity and when I’ve inquired with the check-in staff they’ve said it’s only for Etihad Guest members, although they’ve been happy to serve me.

I’ve heard similar stories before in regards to lounge access. Generally airlines tend to treat their own frequent flyers better ahead of their partners. If benefits like priority checkin, seating and lounge access are important, you may have a better experience by aligning your loyalty program with the airline you travel with the most.

Having said this, I have had good status recognition inflight with Etihad staff when flying with my Velocity status and have never had any problems entering their lounges, including the Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

Summary

Both Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest are solid frequent flyer programs for Australian travellers to consider. Overall, both programs offer similar benefits that are valuable to frequent flyers.

Travellers who frequently travel domestically in Australia will likely get more value from Velocity Frequent Flyer than Etihad Guest with less flying required for Gold status and more points earned from flights.

Travellers who are frequently travelling long haul on Etihad’s network, with limited domestic travel, would probably benefit from crediting their travel to Etihad Guest. It takes less flying on long haul economy flights to reach Etihad Guest Gold and the miles can be used for flight upgrades.

Midas offers triple Velocity Points on car servicing

For a limited time until 28 February 2017, Midas are offering triple Velocity Points on car maintenance and vehicle servicing; that’s 6 points per dollar spent.

As a Velocity partner, Midas usually offers 2 Velocity Points per dollar spent on eligible car maintenance and vehicle servicing. For a limited time until 28 February 2017, they are offering triple Velocity Points; that’s 6 points per dollar spent.

If you’ve been planning to get your car serviced, now may be a good time to take advantage of the additional points earn opportunity. As always, I’d recommend shopping around with a couple of different reputable providers to ensure you are getting a good deal. Six points per dollar equates roughly to a 6% discount.

For more information, visit the Midas website.

Etihad Guest miles earning opportunities for Australians

There is a solid range of Etihad Guest partners from credit cards to accommodation providers who offer miles earning opportunities for Australian based customers.

With Etihad flying their flagship A380 and 787 aircraft to many Australian cities, Etihad Guest is a worthwhile program to consider for those frequently travelling internationally. Generally one of the downsides of focusing on overseas airline programs is the lack of local points/miles earning opportunities. Fortunately for Etihad Guest members, there is a solid range of partners from credit cards to accommodation providers who offer miles earning opportunities for Australian based customers.

Credit cards

  • American Express
  • Citibank

Retailers

  • flybuys

Hotels

  • AccorHotels
  • SPG
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Hilton
  • Radisson Blu
  • Shangri-La

Travel portals

  • Agoda
  • Kaligo
  • PointsHound
  • Rocketmiles

I have flown several times with Etihad and really enjoy their cabins and onboard service however I haven’t invested much time in Etihad Guest, instead preferring to credit my flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer. The downside to focusing on Velocity when flying with Etihad is that Velocity points cannot be used to upgrade from economy to business, or business to first. Generally I prefer to spend my points or miles on outright award redemptions, however for some flights, using points for upgrades can make good sense and offer good value.

Easily search award space with Chrome AwardFinder app

Easily find award seats with this free Chrome app that lets you search multiple carriers on multiple dates with multiple passengers across all cabin types. The powerful filtering tools make it super simple to find your perfect redemption!

One of the most frustrating aspects of investing time and resources into collecting airline points is the difficulty sometimes encountered when trying to redeem premium seats during peak travel periods. Some people would argue that it’s half of the fun, but it can take a lot of trial and error on which programs and points offer the most value over the different routes and busy periods. 

My favourite tool for solving this problem is the award.flights AwardFinder Chrome app. 

The app, once installed in your Google Chrome web browser, is incredibly easy to use. You give it your account details for the various programs (the app says these are only stored locally on your computer) and it’ll let you search for flights with multiple carriers, across multiple dates with multiple passengers within the classes you want.

 Award search on QF from Brisbane to Hong Kong in April 2017 for Business and Premium Economy
Award search on QF from Brisbane to Hong Kong in April 2017 for Business and Premium Economy

It supports many airlines, including Qantas (with partners Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar), Singapore Airlines, Etihad, British Airways, Air Canada and Japan Airlines.

The best thing about the app is that it allows you to filter results by cabin, route and airline; this is often not possible on the official websites. Qantas for example can show you a month of specific cabin availability, such as Business or First, but will show all oneworld airline connections, some of which may have lengthy stopovers. AwardFinder’s powerful filtering tools allow you to filter out certain connections or carriers, allowing you to find the exact flight you’re chasing.

Overall, I think it’s one of the best apps out there for searching award space.

Virgin Australia cuts Status Credit earn rate by up to half from 30 January

Customer’s flying on Virgin Australia’s cheapest Getaway fare classes from 30 January will see their Status Credit earn rate drop on all domestic routes, some by as much as 50%.

Customer’s flying on Virgin Australia’s cheapest Getaway fare classes from 30 January will see their Status Credit earn rate drop on all domestic routes, some by as much as 50%, as part of changes announced in September 2016 finally coming into effect. The Status Credit changes were announced alongside a raft of changes to Virgin’s fare types.

Let’s take a look at exactly what these Status Credit changes are on the domestic routes and how they compare to Qantas’ offering. The results may surprise you!

Virgin Australia Domestic

The following table shows the new Status Credit earn rate for Virgin Australia Domestic flights.

Miles Previous
Status Credits
New
Status Credits
Reduction
0-750 10 5 50%
751-1500 15 10 33%
1501+ 20 15 25%

The changes are not good. The worst affected routes are the shortest, including the popular Sydney-Melbourne route, along with Brisbane-Sydney and Melbourne-Adelaide. Fortunately, the longer routes have been reduced by less, the likes of Perth-Sydney and Brisbane-Sydney will only see a 25% reduction.

So what does this mean for customers? Well, those flying on the shortest routes with Getaway fares will need to fly twice as much to quality for Gold.

 Velocity Frequent Flyer cards (Source: Virgin Australia)
Velocity Frequent Flyer cards (Source: Virgin Australia)

Qualifying for Velocity Gold

I’ve compiled a selection of Domestic routes offered by Virgin Australia showing the milage and the number of flights requried to quality for Gold status with Velocity Frequent Flyer.

From To Miles Before Jan 30
Flights required
After Jan 30
Flights required
Sydney Melbourne 456 50 100
Brisbane Sydney 465 50 100
Melbourne Adelaide 396 50 100
Melbourne Brisbane 874 33 50
Adelaide Brisbane 1004 33 50
Melbourne Cairns 1453 33 50
Perth Brisbane 2240 25 33
 Qantas A330 (Source: Qantas)
Qantas A330 (Source: Qantas)

So how does this compare to the Kangaroo carrier? Great question, I was wondering this too, and produced the following table that shows how many Qantas flights per route are required with a comparison to that of Virgin’s new Getaway fares.

Comparison to Qantas Gold

From To Miles Flights required Comparison
Sydney Melbourne 456 70 30% less
Brisbane Sydney 465 70 30% less
Melbourne Adelaide 396 70 30% less
Melbourne Brisbane 874 47 7% less
Adelaide Brisbane 1004 47 7% less
Melbourne Cairns 1453 47 7% less
Perth Brisbane 2240 35 5% more

Surprisingly, for the lowest domestic fares and shortest routes, it actually takes less flying on Qantas to quality for Gold status than it does on Virgin Australia. The significance of this discovery is lessened by the fact that Virgin Australia is often a fair bit cheaper for the same particular route. As of the date of publication, the best promotion rate from Brisbane to Sydney is $92 on Virgin Australia and $119 on Qantas, a 30% difference. In addition, Virgin Australia offers family pooling of Status Credits (as well as points) which effectively enables you to double your earn rate when travelling with your spouse/partner.

Overall, it’s an interesting comparison and I’m sure Virgin will be watching closely to see how their customers respond to this change. One positive side effect is that it may make some of the more congested lounges (Sydney) a little quieter during the evening rush.

Double Qantas Points promotion

Qantas is offering up double Qantas Points for any bookings made between 19 January and 23 January 2017, for travel between 1 February 2017 and 7 January 2018.

Qantas is offering up double Qantas Points for any bookings made between 19 January and 23 January 2017, for travel between 1 February 2017 and 7 January 2018.

If you’ve been planning some Qantas travel for a while, now is a good time to book to take advantage of this offer.

Register for the promotion on Qantas’ website!

The best hotel chain for airline points

A comparison of which hotel chain offers the best value for airline point transfers.

Hotel bookings can be one of the most lucrative sources of frequent flyer points, with the likes of Qantas Hotels offering 3 points per $1 AUD and Virgin Australia Holidays offering up to 6 points per $1 AUD for Velocity Platinum members. Combined with regular promotions from Qantas Hotels of up to 9 points per $1 AUD, these can quickly add up to very healthy frequent flyer balances.

Unfortunately the biggest downside to booking your stays through frequent flyer portals, and any online travel agent (Hotels.com, Expedia, etc) is the lack of loyalty benefits and recognition at the hotel itself. There are many benefits to be obtained from acquiring status with your preferred hotel chain; such as free upgrades to bigger rooms or rooms with preferred views, late checkout, and complementary breakfast.

The good news is that almost all of the major hotel chains allow you to collect points from your hotel stays that can be converted to airline points. Infact, most hotel chains have a very large pool of airline points and miles currencies that you can select.


Accor LeClub

LeClub points transfer 1:1 to Velocity Points, Qantas Points
LeClub points transfer 2:1 to Asia Miles, Emirates, Etihad

Spend ($ AUD) Classic Silver Gold Platinum
$1 at Accor* 1.75 2.17 2.59 3.08
$1 at ibis, ibis Styles 0.88 1.09 1.30 1.54

*except Adagio, Adagio Access, ibis, ibis Styles and Mama Shelter

Using 1 AUD = 0.71 EUR. LeClub points based on spend in Euros.


Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

SPG points transfer 1:1 to Velocity Points, Asia Miles, Emirates, Etihad

Spend ($ AUD) Preferred Gold Platinum
$1 1.48 2.22 2.22

Using 1 AUD = 0.74 USD. SPG points based on spend in USD.


Hilton HHonors

Table shows earn rates for Velocity and Qantas Points once transferred from HHonors Points.

Spend ($ AUD) Blue Silver Gold Diamond
$1 1.67 1.91 2.08 2.5

Using 1 AUD = 0.74 USD and earning style set to Points & Points. HHonors points based on spend in USD.


World of Hyatt

Table shows earn rates for Qantas Points, Asia Miles, Emirates and Etihad once transferred from World of Hyatt Points.

Spend ($ AUD) Member Discoverist Explorist Globalist
$1 1.48 1.63 1.78 1.92

Using 1 AUD = 0.74 USD. World of Hyatt Points based on spend in USD.


In summary, even if your goal is maximising your airline points, there is still the possibility of earning a solid amount of airline points by booking directly with your hotel chain instead of through a frequent flyer portal.

The decision comes down to whether you value the hotel status benefits above the extra points you may have obtained from booking via a frequent flyer portal.

Example — Qantas Hotels vs SPG Gold

For example, booking directly via SPG if you’re Gold will earn 2.2 frequent flyer points per $1 AUD spent. This is 0.8 points less per $1 AUD than if booked via Qantas Hotels. Aussming the hotel is priced the same on SPG and Qantas Hotels, if the value of the booking is $300 and you value your frequent flyer points at 1 c per point, you are missing out on only $2.40 worth of value, which is easily offset by the extra benefits obtained with the SPG Gold status; such as room upgrades and late checkout.