Since 2016, Virgin Australia has imposed a hefty “Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge” when redeeming Velocity points for Etihad flights. This Etihad carrier charge adds up to USD300 ($420) to every single Etihad flight sector booked using Velocity points.
Until recently, Virgin Australia was charging this Etihad carrier charge on all Etihad reward flight bookings. But there is now a way to avoid paying this surcharge when redeeming your Velocity points.
What is Velocity’s Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge?
The Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge adds a fixed surcharge amount to all Etihad Airways flights booked using Velocity points. This is applied to every individual flight sector in your booking. So, for example, you’ll pay the surcharge four times on a round-trip Etihad Airways award booking from Australia to Europe via Abu Dhabi.
The Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge amount is USD50 ($70) in Economy, USD205 ($287) for Business Class or USD300 ($420) when booking a First Class award. There is a reduced charge for infants not occupying a seat.
Fuel and carrier surcharges are banned in Hong Kong and the Philippines
Both Hong Kong and the Philippines currently ban fuel and other surcharges being imposed by airlines. Australian Frequent Flyer recently noticed that, despite this, Virgin Australia was still adding the Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge to Velocity award flights originating in these countries.
After we got in touch with Virgin Australia, the airline has since stopped charging the Etihad carrier charge on reward seat bookings originating in Hong Kong and Manila. This means you can now book an Etihad award flight departing from either of these cities and pay only legitimate government and airport taxes. The Etihad carrier charge will no longer apply to any reward flights in your booking, provided you start your trip in either Hong Kong or Manila.
Etihad reward seat bookings originating in Manila will be quoted exclusive of the carrier charge indefinitely. Meanwhile, Etihad award bookings departing Hong Kong will have the surcharge removed until 31 October 2018. The Etihad carrier charge will be reinstated on Hong Kong bookings from 1 November due to Hong Kong lifting its ban on airline fuel surcharges from this date.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed that the airline is contacting a small number Velocity members that have booked Etihad award flights from Hong Kong since the surcharge was introduced in July 2016. The airline will arrange a full refund of the Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge paid.
It’s worth noting that you can also avoid paying the excessive Qantas carrier charges by redeeming Qantas points for flights originating in Hong Kong or Manila.
Taxes on Etihad reward bookings from Hong Kong and Manila
So, how much will you now pay on Etihad reward seat bookings from Hong Kong or Manila?
Before the changes, you would have paid 92,000 Velocity points and approximately $656 in additional charges to fly Etihad Business Class from Hong Kong to Paris. Now, you’ll pay 92,000 Velocity points and just $78.50 in taxes.
As another example, we checked the cost of a multi-city booking from Manila to Paris, with a return flight from Paris to Sydney, in Etihad Business Class. The price quoted was 243,000 Velocity points and $230 in taxes. Before the change, you would have paid around $1,384 in additional charges for the same flights.
How to book Etihad reward flights originating in Hong Kong or Manila
It is not possible to book Etihad award flights from Hong Kong or Manila on the Virgin Australia website. To book, you’ll need to call the Velocity Membership Contact Centre on 13 18 75 between 7.30am and 10.30pm (AEDT) daily.
Velocity’s call centre staff have been briefed on the new process, but may need reminding of the recent changes. Beware that it may take a little while to complete your booking as a new manual process for calculating the taxes on bookings originating in Hong Kong or the Philippines is required.
Until now, the Etihad carrier charges have been an anomaly in the Velocity Frequent Flyer program as no surcharges were payable on reward flights with most other partner airlines. But this will change from next year when Velocity introduces new “carrier charges” on Virgin Australia award bookings. Read more: New Velocity Carrier Charges on Reward Flights