When redeeming Velocity Frequent Flyer points for Virgin Australia or Etihad Airways reward flights, you’ll need to pay a “carrier charge” in addition to the points and taxes required for a reward seat. These surcharges range from $10 for a Virgin Australia trans-Tasman flight, through to USD320 (~AU$430) for an Etihad Airways First Class flight.
No carrier charges apply when redeeming Velocity points to fly with other partner airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Hawaiian Airlines, South African Airways and Air Canada. With these airlines, you would just need to pay any government taxes or other third-party fees such as airport security charges that apply to all flight bookings. The carrier charge that previously applied to Delta flights between Sydney & Los Angeles has also been removed.
Velocity carrier charges are applied to every Virgin Australia or Etihad flight sector booked using Velocity points. The amount is based on the route and class of travel.
Carrier charges are not payable when booking Virgin Australia reward flights using points in other frequent flyer programs, such as Etihad Guest or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
You can also avoid paying carrier charges by booking Etihad Airways flights using American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Air Canada Aeroplan points.
List of Velocity carrier charges on Virgin Australia flights
Here is a list of Velocity carrier charges as of November 2021 in AUD:
|Other international flights||$35||$70|
The slightly higher surcharge on domestic flights, compared to trans-Tasman flights, is due to GST being charged for domestic itineraries.
List of Velocity carrier charges on Etihad Airways flights
Velocity began adding carrier charges to Etihad Airways redemptions without warning in 2016. These charges used to be USD50 per sector in Economy, USD205 per sector in Business or USD300 per sector in First Class.
In November 2021, Velocity changed its Etihad carrier charge pricing so that longer flights attract a higher fee, and shorter flights attract a lower fee.
Etihad Airways carrier charges are listed in USD and converted to the local currency at the time of booking. Here is the full list of Velocity carrier charges for Etihad flights as of November 2021:
|One-way flight distance (miles)||Economy||Business||First|
|Up to 1,000||USD30||USD150||USD280|
Infants not occupying a seat pay a reduced carrier charge of 10% of the normal price.
You would need to pay multiple carrier charges for itineraries with more than one flight sector. For example, when redeeming Velocity points for a return Etihad Airways Business Class trip from Sydney to London via Abu Dhabi, the total cost would be 278,000 Velocity points + $1,700.66 in taxes & carrier charges. Of this amount, USD860 (~AU$1,156) is carrier charges.
A history of Velocity carrier charges
For many years, Qantas Frequent Flyer has imposed very high fuel surcharges (which it renamed to “carrier charges” in 2015) on Classic Flight Reward bookings. But Velocity didn’t have them until 2016, when it started adding carrier charges on Etihad Airways redemptions (only).
When Velocity Frequent Flyer announced it would implement carrier charges on Virgin Australia flights as well in early 2019, it citied “local industry practice” and pointed out that “Velocity still remains very competitive and well below the price charged by our competitors”.
Velocity then increased its carrier charges for Virgin Australia flights in January 2020.
With both of Australia’s main frequent flyer programs imposing carrier charges on reward bookings, Australians may prefer to look to overseas frequent flyer programs like American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, United MileagePlus or Air Canada Aeroplan which don’t pass on fuel or carrier surcharges for most redemption bookings.
If you earn most of your points from credit cards, consider switching to a flexible rewards program such as Amex Membership Rewards. That way, you’ll have the option to transfer your points to a range of different frequent flyer programs. This gives you more options when redeeming your points. It also means you’re not stuck with points in one particular program should a devaluation occur.