Virgin Australia Velocity points are a reasonably versatile currency, thanks to Virgin’s airline partnerships. For domestic travel and flights to New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Asia, Europe and South Africa, Virgin Australia and its partner airlines have you covered. But Velocity points are significantly less useful if you want to fly to the Americas in Business Class.
It’s virtually impossible to fly to South America using Velocity points. Virgin Australia does not fly there, nor does Virgin have a single airline partner based in the entire continent of South America. In theory, you could transfer your Velocity points to KrisFlyer and book an Air New Zealand flight to its Auckland-Buenos Aires flight. But Air New Zealand never releases award availability on this flight. So, unless you want to fly via the United States or South Africa, it’s impossible to redeem Velocity points to South America.
Redeeming Velocity points to North America is possible, but it’s still very challenging if you want to fly in a premium cabin. Virgin Australia flies from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles. There is often Reward Seat availability on these flights in Economy. And, although availability is much more limited, there are sometimes a few award seats available in Premium Economy. But Virgin Australia does not generally release Business Reward seats to Los Angeles until around a week before the flight.
This may work well for you if you’re booking at the last minute. But for the majority of people that plan trips in advance, it’s incredibly frustrating.
Virgin Australia’s policy is the exact opposite of Qantas. Qantas normally releases a few reward seats to its Gold, Platinum and Platinum One members exactly 353 days in advance. Any remaining seats are then released to Bronze and Silver members around 297 days (9.5 months) before departure. Within a week of the flight, all premium cabin reward seats are usually long gone and Qantas will instead start processing points upgrades.
We regularly receive requests from Award Flight Assist clients who want to use their Virgin Australia Velocity points to fly to North America. These customers have followed our advice and are planning their trips 11 months in advance – which is normally a very good idea when redeeming points. Unfortunately, there is no possibility for us to find Business reward availability for these clients on Virgin Australia flights to Los Angeles this far out. The seats almost never exist.
So, what should you do if you want to fly Business Class to the USA with Velocity points?
Book in Economy or Premium Economy and upgrade
If you can’t find any Business Reward seats on Virgin Australia, one strategy is to book an Economy or Premium Economy award in advance. That way, you at least have a backup option in case no Business Reward seats are released. Then, around 6 days before you depart, check if any Business class award availability has been released. If it has, you can call Velocity Frequent Flyer and re-book in Business class. You’ll just need to pay a change fee (either $60 or 7,500 Velocity points) and any difference in points and taxes.
If you have Gold or Platinum Velocity status, you could also try booking a commercial ticket and requesting an upgrade. On Virgin Australia long-haul flights, points upgrades are available to Gold and Platinum members (only) booked on Economy Freedom or Premium Economy tickets. If there is reward seat availability, your upgrade can be confirmed instantly.
Look for award availability on a Virgin Australia partner airline
Failing this, you’ll need to turn to Virgin Australia’s partner airlines. There are a few options here…
Redeem Velocity Points for Delta flights
Delta flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles and reward seats on Delta cost exactly the same as reward seats on Virgin Australia’s own flights. However, Business class award availability on Delta is just as difficult to find as it is on Virgin Australia. So this is rarely a viable option.
Redeem Velocity Points for Hawaiian Airlines flights
Hawaiian Airlines does sometimes offer Business Class reward seats between Australia and Hawaii, with onward connections available to the US mainland. Award availability in Business is still quite limited, but if you’re flexible with your dates then you will sometimes find something. Unfortunately, Hawaiian Airlines award availability is not displayed on the Virgin Australia website. So you’d need to call Velocity to check for seat availability and to book.
If you can’t find any award availability on Hawaiian Airlines between Sydney or Brisbane and Honolulu, it can be worth detouring via Auckland. There are often multiple Business award seats available on the Auckland-Honolulu route. Similarly, there is often better availability on flights from Honolulu to secondary cities on the US mainland (such as Sacramento) compared to more popular destinations like Los Angeles or New York.
Read more: How to fly to Hawaii with Velocity points
Redeem Velocity Points for Singapore Airlines flights
If you don’t mind flying the long way around – and spending a few more points – Singapore Airlines is another option. The travel time will be much longer, and you’ll usually have at least two stops along the way, but you may have better luck finding Business Class award availability.
Transfer Velocity Points to KrisFlyer and redeem for United flights
If you prefer a direct flight across the Pacific and don’t mind spending a few more points, there is one other option that might work for you. It’s possible to transfer Velocity points to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program, and then redeem KrisFlyer miles for flights on Star Alliance Airlines. Using this method, you could fly United from Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles or San Francisco. United also flies daily from Sydney to Houston, and there has been a reasonable amount of Business class award availability on this route during off-peak periods lately.
It would cost 117,000 KrisFlyer miles (and around $114 taxes) to fly United one-way from Australia to North America. That’s equivalent to 181,350 Velocity points, meaning you’ll spend almost double the amount of Velocity points of flying Virgin Australia across the Pacific. But this is a moot point when there are no seats on Virgin Australia flights. If you manage to find award availability on the date you want, it could still be worth paying the extra points.
You could also redeem KrisFlyer miles to fly Air Canada Business Class from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to Vancouver for the same price. However, Air Canada award availability is very limited these days in Business class. You’d be lucky to find one date in an entire month with Air Canada award availability across the Pacific.
Redeem Velocity Points for Etihad Airways flights
If you’re really, really desperate, there is always the possibility of flying to America in the completely opposite direction. Etihad Airways often has good award availability via Abu Dhabi, and the travel times aren’t too extreme if your final destination is on the US east cost. But this option is long and expensive, especially with the Etihad Airways carrier charges applicable to Velocity reward flights.
Is it even worth collecting Velocity points to fly to the USA?
If you don’t mind using your points to fly Economy or Premium Economy, or you don’t mind booking Business reward seats at the last minute, then redeeming Velocity points is an effective method of getting to the USA.
But, in general, redeeming Velocity points for Business class to the Americas is way too difficult. Although premium cabin award availability to the Americas is rare in general, there are other frequent flyer programs that will give you access to better award availability.
If you have Qantas Gold or Platinum status, you’ll usually be able to find seats if you book well in advance (and don’t mind paying Qantas’ hefty carrier charges). Otherwise, using a Star Alliance frequent flyer program with direct access to United seats could be a better way to go. There is also plenty of award availability on SkyTeam airlines such as Korean Air (which is bookable using Alaska Airlines miles) if you don’t mind flying via north-east Asia.
Would you like help using your frequent flyer points?
If you’re having trouble redeeming your Velocity points for flights to the USA, the Award Flight Assist team over at Frequent Flyer Solutions might be able to help. They’re experts at finding award availability and understand all of the complex rules surrounding frequent flyer programs and reward seat bookings.
However, if you’ve already tried doing everything that we’ve suggested in this article, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to find any Business class seats to the United States for you. This article lays out pretty much all of the options that you have when using Velocity points! So if you’ve already tried unsuccessfully to find reward seats, you’ll probably need to try different dates, change your destination or just pay for commercial tickets.