New Virgin/South African Airways partnership put to the test

Virgin Australia recently announced a new partnership with South African Airways. As part of the agreement, Velocity members can earn and redeem points with South African Airways. They also have access to reciprocal status benefits, such as lounge access, when flying South African. The partnership is a fairly useful addition to the global network of Velocity partners. South African Airways flies daily between Perth and Johannesburg and is a dominant Star Alliance member in Southern Africa.

One of our members recently put the new partnership to the test on a trip from Melbourne to Antananarivo. Did everything go off without a hitch, or were there a few teething problems?

I’ve just got back from my first trip on South African Airways since the benefits for Velocity members were announced. I booked the trip a couple of months ago and was hoping that the benefits would be available before I travelled and luckily enough they were.

Overall, it seems our member was fairly happy with the experience. The Velocity points and status credits posted correctly. Priority baggage also seemed to work a charm, with our member’s bags first off the belt in Antananarivo.

However there were a couple of teething problems experienced. Surprisingly, Gold and Platinum Velocity members are not allowed to access the lounge in Perth if flying to Johannesburg on the South African Airways flight. Although our member was able to enter using a United card, other Velocity flyers were turned away and clearly unhappy about it. Similarly, lounge access is not granted if the onward flight is not operated by South African Airways itself. Our member was almost denied entry to the lounge ahead of a flight on South African’s regional offshoot Airlink.

Despite our member’s success, another member commented that they were unsuccessful in crediting a South African flight to Velocity as the check-in agent in Johannesburg hadn’t even heard of Virgin Australia.

Flew business class JNB to CPT this evening. Tried to add my velocity number when I checked in, as originally Qantas had put me on the South African flight. Not only did it not work, and the agent not know anything about the partnership, but she’d never heard of Virgin Australia.

So, it does appear that there have been some minor teething problems. Regardless, our member was satisfied on the whole.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the experience. I know there was at least one Velocity member who was disappointed about not having lounge access in Perth (as the people at the desk were discussing it), so that would be good to resolve, but other than that, the benefits seem to work pretty well.

Have you flown with South African under the new partnership, or perhaps you have an upcoming flight with them? Follow the discussion HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]