Despite a reputation of superior reward seat availability, it seems Virgin Australia has drastically slashed frequent flyer redemption flights made available to the USA. Significantly fewer reward seats, particularly in premium cabins are now being released, leaving Velocity Frequent Flyer members frustrated.
It has not traditionally been difficult to find reward seats on Virgin’s flights to Los Angeles, even in premium economy and business class. But flyers hoping to score a redemption flight to LA are now are unable to do so, even when booking eleven months ahead.
I have definately noticed the difference. I made a trip last October to LA. Booked around April. I had lots of dates to choose from at 6 months out. Have always seen lots of availability to Europe and the US. But sometime this year it all disappeared. I had pulled the pin on Qantas and moved all flying and point collection to Virgin based on their previous availability.
One theory is that the seats are being taken by members of Virgin’s partner airline Delta. However, the most likely theory is that the seats simply aren’t being released by Virgin. Currently only one business class seat is being released on each of Virgin’s daily Brisbane-Los Angeles and Sydney-Los Angeles flights – and they are being taken almost immediately.
With availability on Virgin’s own flights drying up, some members are looking to Virgin’s partner airlines as an alternative method of using their points. Travel to the United States is possible on several of Virgin’s partner airlines. Velocity points could be used to fly on Air New Zealand via Auckland. Other partners include Hawaiian Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Velocity points can be transferred to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program and used to fly on any Star Alliance airline. Star Alliance members such as Asiana, Air China and EVA all fly between Australia and the USA through their Asian hub airports. All Nippon Airways will also be an option once they begin services to Sydney.
If you’re determined to use your points to fly Virgin to the US, searching on the Delta Airlines website could help to find available seats more easily than searching on Virgin’s own website. Delta’s website shows availability over the space of a whole month at once, making it easier to find flights with award availability quickly. By comparison, the Velocity website shows only individual days at a time.
Another good way to search is using the Delta award booking engine – shows availability 5 weeks at a time (look for 80k).
Flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles also appear to have slightly greater availability, so Sydney-based flyers should consider connecting. Finally, it should be noted that reward seats on other routes remain relatively easy to find. So, you may wish to consider using your points to fly within Australia, or to another international destination instead.
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