Double Velocity Points on Virgin Australia flights booked by 24 July 2018

Virgin Australia is offering double Velocity Points on all eligible flights booked by 24 July 2018 and flown before 13 June 2019.

To activate the offer, simply register on the Velocity Frequent Flyer website.

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Earn airline status without flying

Traditionally the only way to earn status with an airline has been through flying. However flybuys offers customers the opportunity to earn Velocity Status Credits and Etihad Tier Miles on their spend at Coles.

Virgin Australia

Your membership tier in the Velocity Frequent Flyer program is based on the number of Status Credits you earn in a 12 month period. Usually the only way to earn Status Credits is from actually flying on Virgin Australia or a codeshare partner.

Introduced last year at flybuys, for every $100 spent across Coles Supermarkets, Coles Online, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor each calendar month gets you 1 Status Credit. Each $100 may be spent across multiple transactions and total spend is calculated at the end of that month. Up to 10 Velocity Status Credits can be earned each month.

 Status Credits earned from Coles spend with flybuys
Status Credits earned from Coles spend with flybuys

Etihad

Membership tiers in Etihad Guest are determined based on a member’s accumulation of Tier Miles throughout the year. Tier Miles are predominately earned through flying with Etihad and its partners. Tier Miles cannot be redeemed for flights and are used purely to determine a member’s status level.

Members of flybuys can earn 1 Tier Mile per dollar spent at Coles Supermarkets, Coles Online, Coles Express, Liquorland or First Choice Liquor, up to 2500 Tier Miles per month.

 Tier Miles earned from shopping at Coles with flybuys
Tier Miles earned from shopping at Coles with flybuys

Given the fairly high limit of 2500 Tier Miles per month, it is technically possible to reach Etihad Guest Silver, and gain lounge access in Abu Dhabi when travelling with Etihad, through shopping alone. However I think for most people this will just serve as a top up for people who are already collecting status through flying with Etihad.

Summary

Traditionally there has been very few avenues for earning status without actually flying, so it’s interesting to see some alternative offers coming through. For me personally, I use flybuys to gain an extra 30-40 Velocity Status Credits per year through my normal shopping at Coles, which makes it slightly easier to retain Platinum/Gold each year.

Earning points on discounted Europe flights

If you’re thinking of visiting Europe during the peak summer season (June-August 2017), now is a great time to lock in a deal as most of the top tier carriers have kicked off the year with some great value deals.

If you’re thinking of visiting Europe during the peak summer season (June-August 2017), now is a great time to lock in a deal as most of the top tier carriers have kicked off the year with some great value deals. Carriers offering special deals for the second half of this year to Europe include Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Qantas and Qatar.

With all special deals come special conditions, and these include reductions to the points and status credit earn rates on these fares. I’ve put together a quick summary of what you’ll pay and what you’ll earn on return airfares to Europe from Brisbane during the sales promotional period. It’s worth noting that if you credit your Cathay flight to Qantas, you won’t earn any points or credits. In many cases I still think these are worth booking given how much they’re discounted.

 Cathay Pacific's new A350-900 which flies daily from Brisbane to Hong Kong (Source: Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific’s new A350-900 which flies daily from Brisbane to Hong Kong (Source: Cathay Pacific)

Brisbane to London economy return

Airline Sale period Price Program Status Credits Points
Qantas Oct – Nov 2017 $1520 Qantas 165 14,000
Cathay Pacific Mar – Nov 2017 $1198 Asia Miles 40 5,150
Cathay Pacific Mar – Nov 2017 $1198 Qantas 0 0
Singapore Airlines Jul – Sep 2017 $1413 Velocity 140 2,115
Etihad Oct – Nov 2017 $1344 Velocity 140 5,448
Tier Miles Points
Singapore Airlines Jul – Sep 2017 $1413 KrisFlyer 2,115 2,115
Etihad Oct – Nov 2017 $1344 Etihad 5,448 5,448

This table just shows Brisbane, but similar deals exist for all major capital cities in Australia. Qatar flies from all major capital cities except Brisbane. It’s great to see Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offering discounts during the peak season, unlike their rivals. So how do the points stack up?

Earning points

Singapore Airlines offers the least amount of points for their promotional fares, with only a 10% earn rate. Cathay and Etihad are slightly better with a 25% earn rate on their cheapest fares, followed by Qantas who offer roughly 50%. It should be noted however that redemptions on Asia Miles and KrisFlyer are less than Qantas, so this must be taken into consideration.

I’m planning a trip to Europe later this year and am heavily swayed by the Cathay Pacific deals. As a Velocity Platinum and Qantas Bronze member I won’t be eligible for lounge access, but would still love the chance to fly the A350 even in economy and Cathay’s schedule to Europe via Hong Kong is ideal.

Overall it’s great to continue seeing heavily discounted airfares and competition flooding the Australia to Europe sector. Happy booking!

The best apps for tracking your trips

Welcome to the world of travel planning and tracking apps. These apps allow you to import all of your reservation details, mostly automatically, and keep an organised listing of each reservation that you can easily refer to.

Remember the days when you had to physically print your airline tickets and take them with you to the airport? As a child I vividly remember spending an extra 3 hours in the car on the way to the airport in another city as we realised halfway into the long journey that we had left our travel reservations behind. Skip forward a decade and now you don’t even need to keep copies of your emails on your phone. Welcome to the world of travel planning and tracking apps.

These apps allow you to import all of your reservation details, mostly automatically, and keep an organised listing of each reservation that you can easily refer to. Push notifications for flight delays and gate changes, combined with suggested sightseeing directions and itineraries, can really make your holiday a breeze.  

Here’s my top 3 recommended apps for Aussie travellers.

TripCase

My personal favourite is TripCase. The product was launched by Sabre in 2013 and its strength lies with its deep integration with the network of airlines and travel agents using Sabre reservation technologies.

For airlines such as Virgin Australia, flight delays and gate changes will occur within TripCase often before they are announced at the airport.

Many corporate travel agencies in Australia will link all of your bookings automatically with the app if you sign up with your corporate email address.

For all other reservations, you can forward them to the TripCase email address for automatic import or manually add each detail.

Pros

  • Solid and reliable app
  • Free instant notifications for gate changes and delays
  • Automatically syncs with Sabre’s reservations network (110,000 travel companies)

Cons

  • App design is fairly dated and not as nice as Google’s
  • Sightseeing and food recommendations leave a bit to be desired

Google Trips

For Google users, one of the easiest apps to start using for tracking flight and hotel reservations is Google Trips. The app ties in with Gmail and will automatically pull reservation information from your emails without any manual setup. It’s simplicity is one of its best features; it makes it super simple to locate details that are usually buried deep down in your emails. The app also offers a very pleasant and intuitive design.

The killer feature from Google’s offerings is their ‘Things to do’ and ‘Day Plans’ features for holidaymakers. This feature ties in with Google Maps recommends activities and specific routes to take in cities to see the sights. This is one of the features that only Google can offer, for it relies on vast amounts of data and insights to be crunched. For people short on time, it really takes the stress out of planning sightseeing tours. I personally found some of the plans really helpful on a recent trip to Barcelona. 

Pros

  • Beautiful and intuitive design
  • Fully automatic for Gmail users

Cons

  • No flight delay or gate change notifications
  • Cannot manually add reservations
  • Lacks many of the more advanced features offered by TripCase and TripIt

TripIt

TripIt is a real work horse when it comes to organising and tracking your travel reservations. Probably the most feature packed solution on the market, TripIt can almost handle any type of reservation with ease. You can forward your reservation emails or have the app scan your email account automatically. 

Unfortunately I find the app a bit too clunky for my liking. The design isn’t very aesthetically pleasing and not overly intuitive with a lot of features tacked on in certain areas. This is also one of its strengths, with a lot of advanced features, albeit that require paid accounts. Features such as seat selection notification and flight re-routing suggestions.

While the app is very powerful, unfortunately not even flight update notifications are free, which is disappointing for such a basic feature. The free version of the app still has helpful features but is littered with ads and I find the app less appealing than TripCase.

Pros

  • Handles almost any type of reservation
  • Can be setup to automatically scan Gmail accounts
  • Powerful paid features like seat selection notifications, alternate flight searching and points tracking

Cons

  • App has a very poor design 
  • Flight notification updates require paid accounts

Earning points from ride sharing services

In Australia, the two primary options for points earn are Uber and GoCatch, here’s a summary of what both offer. 

Some changes were announced yesterday that affect the way you can earn loyalty points from taxi and ride sharing services. In Australia, the two primary options for points earn are Uber and GoCatch, here’s a summary of what both offer. 

Uber

SPG has just announced changes to the points earn rate for Uber. Previously SPG members could earn 1 Starpoint per USD spent with Uber, effectively 0.7 Starpoints per AUD depending on the exchange rate. Unfortunately as of 1 Feb 2017, this will reduce to 1 Starpoint per $2 USD spent, or approximately 0.35 Starpoints per AUD spent. 

There is a bonus applied during hotel stays with SPG where you’ll earn 2 Starpoints per USD, which offers a fairly good points earn rate. During stays in the month of Feb 2017 SPG is offering a massive 5 Starpoints per USD as a promotion.

All points earn with SPG and Uber require members to complete a qualifying SPG stay each calendar year. 

GoCatch

Ride sharing and taxi service GoCatch offers 1 Qantas Frequent Flyer Point per AUD spent. 

The good news for business customers is that GoCatch allows you to book and pay for regular taxis, as may be required by your corporate travel policy.  

Keep an eye out for regular promotions from GoCatch that offer bonus points for your travel.