Virgin Australia launches Australia to London codeshare service

Virgin Australia has launched services from Australia to London via Los Angeles codesharing with Virgin Atlantic.

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Virgin Australia has launched services from Australia to London via Los Angeles codesharing with Virgin Atlantic. Previously, only Virgin’s partners Singapore Airlines or Etihad could take Velocity Frequent Flyers to London. Now, Virgin will fly customers from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles followed by a Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London on their Boeing 787 service.

It’s great to see Virgin expanding their long haul network with additional codeshare routes. Unfortunately the flight timings don’t work that well from Brisbane and will result in an 8 hour wait in LAX. A stopover could be added in LAX however to make the trip more appealing.

I would love to see a much more tightly integrated international network under the Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic brands. Virgin Australia starts flying to Hong Kong from Sydney shortly and already flies there from Melbourne. This could provide another opportunity to connect onto Virgin Atlantic services.

Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand end trans-Tasman alliance

On 4 April 2018, Air New Zealand announced that its strategic alliance with Virgin Australia on flights across the ditch would come to an end after over 7 years of partnership.

On 4 April 2018, Air New Zealand announced that its strategic alliance with Virgin Australia on flights across the ditch would come to an end after over 7 years of partnership. This agreement allowed both airlines to codeshare on each other’s flights and offer reciprocal lounge access and status benefits to each other’s frequent flyer program members. So what does this mean for Australian and New Zealand frequent flyers?

Well, it’s still early days so the fallout from this decision is not entirely clear, but it’s unlikely to be positive for Velocity Frequent Flyers. The relationship between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand had been souring over the last few years as Air New Zealand sold off its share in Virgin Australia and called for a change of management of Virgin Australia citing poor financial performance. In addition, status benefits and lounge access for Velocity Frequent Flyers travelling on non-Tasman Air New Zealand flights was revoked in mid-2017.

So what’s are the downsides for passengers sticking with Velocity Frequent Flyers?

  • Trans-Tasman service frequency and capacity will drop substantially – Previously Virgin flyers had access to both Virgin and Air New Zealand services and for some city-pairs, such as Brisbane to Christchurch, this offered more choice than Qantas with both a morning and afternoon option on most days instead of (super early) morning services by Qantas.
  • Loss of easy access to South America – Technically this benefit dried up in mid-2017 when the reciprocal benefit rules changed but it’s worth re-capping here. Without Air New Zealand in the mix and their Auckland to Buenos Aires service, Virgin Australia lacks a partner that flies direct to South America from Australia and New Zealand. Alternative options would be Delta but that means flying via North America which is hardly desirable.
  • No more Air New Zealand lounge hospitality – Whilst it hasn’t been officially announced yet, you can bet that Velocity Frequent Flyers will lose access to the fantastic and newly renovated Air New Zealand lounges in Australian departure ports. Virgin is still sourcing a replacement but it’s unlikely to be as good as the Air New Zealand offerings.

Should I switch my travel to Air New Zealand?

For flyers who seldom travel domestically within Australia and instead regularly fly to New Zealand or further afield, it may actually make sense to consider switching your travel to Air New Zealand and the Star Alliance program with partners such as Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

But, for most Australia frequent flyers, I still think it makes the most sense to stick with an airline that operates within your home country. For example, Air New Zealand status wouldn’t be recognised on any Australian carriers and so you’d be out of luck for domestic flights. It’s still early days and Virgin are yet to announce how they will be expanding their Tasman services, what lounges flyers will be able to access and how Tigerair might be utilised to keep competition strong – watch this space.

Virgin Australia launches redesigned iPhone & Android apps

Virgin Australia has just launched a brand new app in the App Store featuring a full redesign with streamlined travel features.

Virgin Australia has just launched a brand new app in the App Store featuring a full redesign with streamlined travel features, and for the first time, an Android app. The original Virgin iPhone app design deviated from common Apple design principles and had always been fairly poorly received by flyers including myself.

It’s really great to see Virgin trying to close the gap between itself and its rivals. After playing around with the app this morning, I am fairly impressed. It loads quickly – something that the previous app never did – and displays more information in a much cleaner interface. Beautiful imagery is also used to display destination information.

For me, this is a really key part of the flying experience. The Qantas app has always been far superior in this regard, and leads to much more streamlined process for checking in, changing seats, finding your gate and seeing flight status. For regular domestic travel, the technology piece can really make a big difference to your travel enjoyment.

Lets hope this new version is just the beginning and that Virgin continues to expand the app with new features whilst maintaining its speed and simplicity. Upcoming features include an integration of the Flight Specials app and the Inflight Entertainment offering. Overall, great job Virgin and can’t wait to see regular updates.

Virgin Australia offering triple Velocity Points before 26 March 2018

Virgin Australia are offering triple Velocity Points on bookings made between 19 March and midnight on 26 March 2018.

Virgin Australia are offering triple Velocity Points on bookings made between 19 March and midnight on 26 March 2018.

To participate in this offer, you must first register on the Velocity Frequent Flyer website with your Velocity Frequent Flyer Number.

An eligible flight is a flight marketed and operated by Virgin Australia, for travel between 19 March 2018 and 12 February 2019 inclusive and booked in a fare class that normally accrues Velocity Points.

Velocity lounge access in Hong Kong

Velocity Frequent Flyer will be joining the Fortune Wings Club offering full reciprocal benefits.

Earlier this month Virgin Australia kicked off their almost daily Melbourne to Hong Kong service. The company hopes that the new route, serviced by Airbus A330 aircraft, will capture some of the lucrative Chinese travel market. For consumers, it’s great news as more competition on the Australia – Hong Kong route will lead to better prices and better cabin products. Virgin’s A330s offer a world class Business Class product.

Virgin Australia announced that Velocity Frequent Flyer members will have access to the Etihad First & Business Class Lounge in Melbourne when departing for Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the company has partnered with Hong Kong Airlines to give customers access to the Hong Kong Airline’s Club Bauhinia Lounge located in Terminal 1.

Coming soon, Velocity Frequent Flyer will be joining the Fortune Wings Club. Giving Velocity Frequent Flyers lounge access, priority check in, the ability to earn and redeem points and status credits, priority boarding, and additional baggage with Hong Kong Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines. This is pretty good news for Virgin Australia customers travelling to China.

Lookout for more news soon about this relationship as it develops.

Velocity Frequent Flyer cuts Status Credits and lounge benefits on Air New Zealand flights

From 1 November 2017, Velocity Frequent Flyers will only earn Velocity Points, Status Credits, receive lounge access and other frequent flyer benefits on flights within or between Australia and New Zealand.

Another day and another reduction in reciprocal frequency flyer benefits between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand. From 1 November 2017, Velocity Frequent Flyers will only earn Velocity Points, Status Credits, receive lounge access and other frequent flyer benefits on flights within or between Australia and New Zealand.

This means Velocity Frequent Flyers will no longer be eligible to earn status on Air New Zealand’s fantastic flights to North and South America. This is a real shame given Air New Zealand’s direct flights to Buenos Aires from Auckland. Without this connection, Virgin Australia lacks any solid airline partners flying to South America – with the exception of Delta but that means flying to North America first.

Thankfully, any bookings made prior to 10 July 2017 for travel after 1 November 2017 will still be eligible for Velocity Points and Status Credit earn.

It’s pretty clear the relationship between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand is continuing to move south and it appears this is unlikely to change anytime soon. At least Trans-Tasman services are okay for now.

I would really like to see Virgin Australia join Star Alliance so we can get rid of the distruptive and difficult to follow weekly lounge access updates. This is one of the main reasons I’ve switched all of my personal domestic and international travel to Qantas and Oneworld. The simplicity of Qantas’ international partner network is a breath of fresh air.

Virgin offers lounge access for Qantas Gold and Platinum members

In a surprising move, Virgin Australia is offering lounge access to Qantas Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers who book an eligible Economy X seat.

In a surprising move, Virgin Australia is offering lounge access to Qantas Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers who book an eligible Economy X seat for travel between 13 June 2017 and 31 August 2017.

It’s no doubt Virgin Australia is trying to lure across loyal Qantas customers who might be hesitant to start fresh with the airline due to the lack of status benefits. Buying an Economy X ticket in many routes is very cheap ($29) and will now get you most of the same benefits of being a high status customer – lounge access, a seat in the first few rows and dedicated boarding. Infact, for many routes it’s probably cheaper for Qantas customers to purchase an Economy X seat than a regular Qantas Red e-Deal.

Read my take on Virgin Australia’s new Economy X product. In summary, I think it’s an excellent product and I hope we see more differentiation like this in the future.

For full details on this promotion head to the Virgin Australia website.