Virgin Australia is introducing basic economy class tickets that cannot be changed, cancelled or upgraded, are ineligible for advance seat selection, include less checked baggage and earn fewer Velocity points & status credits.
The new “Economy Light” fares are now available for sale on Virgin Australia long-haul flights, for travel from 23 April 2020. You can purchase the basic economy class fares on Virgin’s flights to Hong Kong, Japan and the United States. At this stage, Light fares are not being offered on domestic and short-haul flights, nor for Premium Economy or Business class.
The change comes as Virgin’s joint venture partner, Delta Air Lines, also implements Basic Economy fares with similar restrictions on its flights to Australia. Delta already offers Basic Economy on domestic and various international routes.
What is Economy Light on Virgin Australia?
So, what do – and more importantly, don’t – you get with a Virgin Australia Economy Light ticket?
All Virgin Australia passengers will continue to receive on-board meals and in-flight entertainment. Guests with Velocity Gold or Platinum status will also still be entitled to lounge access with an Economy Light ticket.
But there are many things that aren’t included. For example, you cannot change or cancel an Economy Light ticket – not even for an extra fee. If you don’t use your ticket, you’ll forfeit the fare. The included luggage allowance is also reduced from two bags to one bag weighing up to 23kg.
With an Economy Light ticket, you won’t be able to choose your own seat before check-in opens – not even for a fee. You’ll have the opportunity to select a seat for free, or pay to upgrade to an available Economy X seat, when check-in opens for your flight.
You’ll still earn Velocity points and status credits with an Economy Light fare, but at a reduced rate. Instead of earning Velocity points at a rate of 50% of actual miles flown with an Economy Getaway fare, you’ll earn at a 25% rate. The number of Velocity status credits you’ll earn is also reduced. Here’s the new status credits earning table applicable to Virgin Australia long-haul flights:
If you have Velocity status, you’ll still be entitled to benefits like priority check-in, priority boarding and bonus points when travelling on an Economy Light ticket. However, these fares cannot be upgraded using Velocity points – nor can you bid for an upgrade to Premium Economy or Business class.
More Velocity status credits for Economy Elevate fares
Under the new system, Economy Getaway fares will continue to earn the same as currently. But Economy Elevate fares will soon earn slightly more status credits than before.
Getaway fares on long-haul flights will also now earn 0.6 Velocity points per mile flown, up from 0.5 points per mile.
The Virgin Australia website contains more information about the different fare types.
How much cheaper are Economy Light tickets?
It appears that Economy Light fares will be available on Virgin’s long-haul routes whenever there is availability in any Economy Getaway booking class. On flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo, the Light fare will be $30 cheaper (each way) than the lowest available Getaway ticket. On flights to Los Angeles, you’ll save $50 each way ($100 for a round-trip) by booking Economy Light instead of a Getaway ticket.
Economy Light fares will be treated as “M” class fares.
In our view, given the restrictions placed on basic economy tickets, it’s probably worth paying the extra $30 or $50 to upgrade to a higher fare type.
Although basic economy fares are not yet prevalent in Australia, they have become increasingly popular in the United States and Europe. U.S. airlines often say that basic economy fares are necessary to compete on price with low-cost carriers. However, there are no low-cost carriers offering direct trans-Pacific flights between Australia and the United States. So, it’s hard to understand the logic behind this move other than to increase the price of Getaway fares while providing fewer benefits to passengers shopping purely on price.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin Australia Light Fare Class