Virgin’s Economy X seats are a great perk for Platinum frequent flyers

Virgin Australia launched their new Economy X seating product on 21 May 2017 which Platinum frequent flyers can select for free.

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Virgin Australia launched their new Economy X seating product on 21 May 2017. I’ve flown this new product a few times and think it’s a really great perk for Platinum frequent flyers who can select these seats for free.

 Virgin Australia's new Economy X cabin
Virgin Australia’s new Economy X cabin

For regular passengers, Economy X starts from an extra $29 on top of your Economy ticket. You’ll get priority boarding in addition to an extra legroom seat in the first 3 rows of Economy. This guarantees a quick exit from the aircraft upon arrival.

As a tall Velocity Platinum Frequent Flyer, I often attempt to select seats in row 3 to alleviate the problem of sore knees on flights greater than an hour. With Virgin’s introduction of Economy X, there are now 12 seats on each of their 737-800 aircraft that have extra leg room seating without being stuck in emergency exit rows in the middle of the aircraft (rows 3-5). Since rows 4 and 5 are just regular rows, there are no requirements to store your baggage overhead.

 

 Economy X seat selection on Virgin Australia booking page
Economy X seat selection on Virgin Australia booking page

 

Air New Zealand, along with many US carriers, have been offering extra legroom seats to their high tier frequent flyers for many years, and I think it’s a great thing. Currently, in Australia, your status yields the most tangible benefits at the airport before you board, and generally once you’re onboard you get the same seat as every other passenger. Virgin Australia’s Platinum tier is often criticised for not offering many extra benefits above Gold. Giving Platinum tier frequent flyers extra legroom is a really great onboard offering and something we haven’t seen lately in the domestic market.

The only potential downside to this new product is the chance that middle seats that otherwise might have gone empty may now be filled up by regular passengers paying the money to upgrade to Economy X.

I’d really like to see Qantas embrace this concept and start offering a similar product. It would be especially beneficial on long haul routes.

Upgrade your Etihad flight with Velocity Points

A summary of upgrade options available to Velocity Frequent Flyers when travelling on partner airlines.

A compelling use of frequent flyer points in many programs is the ability to upgrade from one cabin class to the next on paid tickets. This is often appealing whilst travelling during peak times when outright award tickets are not available. It gives you the opportunity to fly regardless of whether there are vacant Business or First Class seats. Often it can be difficult to wait for award seats to be released when working with a fixed business or holiday schedule.

Virgin Australia and its partner Etihad Airways both offer flyers the ability to redeem points for award tickets. Etihad flights can be booked easily using Velocity Points by searching on the Virgin Australia website and selecting ‘Points + Pay’.

 Etihad's excellent Business Studio cabin on their A380 and 787 Etihad’s excellent Business Studio cabin on their A380 and 787

A question that often arises is how to upgrade Etihad flights with Velocity Frequent Flyer points. Unfortunately the answer to this is that it’s not possible. Both airlines offer the ability for travellers to upgrade using frequent flyer points but Etihad flights can only be upgraded with Etihad Guest Miles and Virgin Australia flights can only be upgraded with Velocity Points.

What other options are available?

Virgin Australia’s two major international partners are Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines. If you’re looking to buy tickets that you can upgrade with frequent flyer points, consider travelling with Singapore Airlines instead.

 Singapore Airlines Economy Flexi booking Singapore Airlines Economy Flexi booking

Singapore Airlines Flexi tickets can be upgraded using KrisFlyer miles, which can be converted from Velocity Frequent Flyer at a rate of 1.35:1.

Be careful to check what cabins are available on your aircraft as upgrades on Singapore Airlines are one cabin only, and so if Premium Economy is available then you can only upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy and not Business Class.

Virgin Australia Lounge access for Red and Silver Velocity members

If you haven’t managed to rack up enough Status Credits to reach Gold or Platinum with Velocity Frequent Flyer don’t worry, there are still other ways to access Virgin Australia’s excellent domestic lounges.

If you haven’t managed to rack up enough Status Credits to reach Gold or Platinum with Velocity Frequent Flyer don’t worry, there are still other ways to access Virgin Australia’s excellent domestic lounges. Here’s a quick summary of the top four ways to access the lounges.

Silver lounge passes

If you’ve travelled enough to reach Velocity’s Silver tier, you can redeem one of your two single entry lounge passes, valid at all of Virgin Australia’s lounges. You must also have an eligible Virgin Australia boarding pass to gain access. Silver members receive two single entry vouchers every 12 months.

Redeem points

Velocity members can swap 10,000 Velocity Points for a single entry lounge voucher for entry into the lounge, provided they are also travelling with Virgin Australia on the same day. Entry is subject to capacity restrictions.

Upgrade to Business Class

Depending on the route you’re travelling and the type of fare you’ve booked, you might find better value by upgrading your flight to Business Class with points. If confirmed in advance, you’ll be able to access the lounge as part of your ticket.

For example, if you’re travelling from Brisbane to Sydney on the cheapest Getaway Economy ticket, you can upgrade to Business Class for 10,000 Velocity Points, the same price as what it costs to redeem a single visit lounge pass. Upgrades are awarded on a space available basis.

Pay cash

Failing all other options, parting with $65 cash at the front counter will also score you entry into the lounge. It’s worth noting that this can only be used up to 2 hours before your flight, so can’t be used for an extended layover of eating and drinking.

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.