Virgin Australia to Partner with Qatar Airways

Virgin Australia is partnering with Qatar Airways
Virgin Australia is partnering with Qatar Airways. Photo: Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia has found an unlikely new partner in Qatar Airways. This is exciting news for Australian frequent flyers, who could soon benefit from some unique new opportunities.

While an exact date is yet to be announced, Virgin Australia has confirmed it will commence a strategic partnership with Qatar Airways later this year. This will allow Velocity Frequent Flyer members to earn points and status credits, redeem points and receive reciprocal status benefits on Qatar Airways, a Oneworld airline which was voted the “world’s best airline” at last year’s Skytrax awards.

Velocity members will soon be able to redeem points for flights in Economy, Business and First Class across Qatar Airways’ extensive international network. Additional benefits for Velocity Gold and Platinum members when travelling with Qatar Airways could include:

  • Lounge access
  • Additional baggage allowance
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority boarding, and
  • Priority baggage tags

Similar benefits will be available to Qatar Airways Privilege Club members when travelling with Virgin Australia. Passengers of both airlines will also be able to seamlessly connect between each others’ flights on a single ticket.

Qatar Airways currently flies from Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to Doha, with onward connections to many other destinations. Qatar also serves the Adelaide-Auckland market.

Virgin Australia says that its new partnership with Qatar Airways will give its customers access to 57 new international destinations not currently served by existing partners such as Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines or Virgin Atlantic. These will include places such as Almaty, Nairobi, Tbilisi, Helsinki, Oslo, Addis Ababa and Mykonos.

Virgin Australia’s partner airlines

Virgin Australia currently partners with 11 international airlines:

Velocity partner airlines: Air Canada, Capital Airlines, Etihad, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia & Tianjin Airlines.
Velocity partner airlines from June 2022.

Note that United Airlines will become a Velocity partner from 24 May 2022, while Delta (not shown above) will cease being a Velocity partner next month.

Of Virgin’s existing partner airlines, however, only five operate regular flights to Australia at the moment. Of those five airlines, Velocity members only get access to reciprocal status benefits on three airlines – Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Delta (soon to be replaced by United).

Etihad Airways has been a long-standing Virgin Australia partner and previously offered considerable connectivity between Australia and Europe. But Etihad has reduced its network reach significantly in recent years, becoming more of a boutique airline serving only a handful of major destinations including only two Australian cities in Sydney and Melbourne. (Etihad no longer flies to Perth or Brisbane.)

Meanwhile, Qantas already partners with the two other (now much larger) airlines that make up the “ME3”, or the big 3 Middle Eastern airlines. This has offered Qantas customers a lot more international connectivity.

Qatar Airways’ new partnership with Virgin Australia will level the playing field a bit, and is a significant win for Velocity Frequent Flyer members.

Qatar Airways will soon partner with both Qantas and Virgin Australia

The elephant now in the room is the fact that Qatar Airways already partners with Qantas, Virgin Australia’s main competitor, through its membership in the Oneworld alliance. There is no indication that Qatar Airways would leave Oneworld as a result of this announcement (nor that Velocity will end its partnership with Etihad Airways).

Although Qantas and Qatar Airways are both part of the Oneworld alliance, the two airlines have historically not really got along. Over recent years, Qatar Airways has also been blocking Qantas Frequent Flyer members from accessing many Business Class reward seats to and from Australia.

The new Virgin-Qatar partnership could create some interesting opportunities for people with Qatar Airways Privilege Club status who could soon enjoy benefits when flying with both Virgin Australia and Qantas, as well as the rest of the Oneworld alliance.

This situation has existed before, when Airberlin was both a member of the Oneworld alliance and a Virgin Australia partner. But Airberlin’s former Topbonus program made it very difficult to earn status from flights within Australia, and the airline went out of business in 2017.

With Qatar Airways also recently switching the currency of its frequent flyer program to Avios, this could make the Qatar Airways Privilege Club significantly more attractive to Australians going forward.

We don’t yet know exactly how many Velocity points or status credits Virgin Australia’s frequent flyers will be able to earn for Qatar Airways flights. But as it currently stands, Velocity awards status credits for flights with all partner airlines at the following rates:

Zone One-way miles flown Discount Economy Flexible Economy Premium Economy Business/First
1 1-750 10 20 30 40
2 751-1500 15 30 45 60
3 1501-3000 20 40 60 80
4 3001-5000 30 60 90 120
5 5001-8000 40 80 120 160
6 8000+ 50 100 150 200

At these rates, a Velocity Frequent Flyer member could expect to earn 560 status credits for a round-trip Business Class trip from Sydney to London via Doha with Qatar Airways.

That’s more than the 500 status credits required to earn Virgin Australia Gold status. By booking these flights as “VA” codeshares, you could also earn the 4 required “VA” sectors required each year to earn or maintain Velocity status.

By comparison, Qantas Frequent Flyer actively penalises its members for flying with partner airlines like Qatar Airways with reduced earning rates. Qantas would award just 280 status credits for a return trip from Sydney to London in Qatar Airways Business. That’s not even enough to earn Silver status with Qantas Frequent Flyer!

Qatar Airways Qsuites
Crediting Qatar Airways flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer could be a lot more rewarding than Qantas Frequent Flyer. Photo: Qatar Airways.

Qantas also doesn’t award any points or status credits on most of Qatar Airways’ cheaper Economy fares.

We’ll no doubt learn more about how this partnership will work over the coming months. Whatever happens, there are exciting times ahead.

 

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin Australia and Qatar Announce Strategic Partnership

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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]

Community Comments

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Just received an email:


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Virgin Australia is thrilled to announce a new strategic partnership with Qatar Airways commencing later this year.

Like Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways are known for their fantastic customer service and joining forces allows Virgin Australia to significantly expand their footprint and service offering into the Middle East, Europe, Africa and beyond, opening hundreds more ways that you and your team can seamlessly travel the world.

The partnership will provide your business access to 140 worldwide destinations on Qatar Airways’ network through over 600 flights per week, significantly expanding Virgin Australia’s global network to include new destinations and connecting points never before offered by the airline. Qatar currently operates daily flights into Australia through Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth and three weekly flights into Adelaide, continuing onto New Zealand.

The partnership also includes reciprocal loyalty benefits so you and your team can earn and redeem Velocity Points and Status Credits when flying Qatar. Plus, eligible members will receive additional Velocity Status benefits such as:
• complimentary lounge access,
• complimentary extra baggage allowance,
• priority check-in,
• priority boarding, and
• priority baggage delivery
Upon commencement of the partnership, Velocity Points will be able to be redeemed to book Economy, Business and First-Class seats on Qatar, including the airline’s renowned Q-Suite (available on select flights).

Virgin Australia is committed to expanding the Velocity Frequent Flyer program to provide more value and better access to the world. Qatar will join the airline’s long list of international airline partners, including Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways and United Airlines.​

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Wow, this is seriously out of left field.

Reply 10 Likes

Link to FAQs:

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Wow. That adds another layer of complexity to best FF program strategy.
But in a good way
Can't knock alliances with the top two international airlines

Reply 7 Likes

Interesting the e-mail specifically also references Etihad.

I'm wondering if QR will replace EY?

The original EY partnership was inked in 2010 for 10 years, until 30 Dec 2020 with a mid point review. In 2015 it was approved to continue through to the end.

Was there some kind of new agreement, or COVID related amnesty on extending preexisting agreements from the ACCC/Government?

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Similar arrangement with AB previously (I'm referring to Air Berlin, not the CEO of QR) which was also a oneworld member?

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They did an excellent job of keeping this one quiet!

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They did an excellent job of keeping this one quiet!

No doubt - even if there has been a rumour, most would be so incredulous about it the rumor would stop in its tracks due to lack of credence.

I reckon those with both (matched) QR and VA status are feeling pretty good!

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VA media--> Virgin Australia announces partnership with Qatar Airways

The strategic partnership will also include reciprocal loyalty benefits allowing Qatar Airways Privilege Club members to earn and redeem Avios when flying on Virgin Australia, with similar benefits for Velocity members when travelling on Qatar Airways’ services. Privilege Club and Velocity members will also enjoy a wide range of other unique benefits, depending on status tier, which may include complimentary lounge access, complimentary extra baggage allowance, priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage delivery when flying respectively on Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways Privilege Club recently enhanced its programme through its partnership with Avios, significantly expanding accrual and redemption opportunities for its members.

Interesting considering QR is in OneWorld (QF, BA, AA etc)
QR own part of IAG. IAG own BA, IB, EI and others. And all use avios as the ff currency, including QR now. And can be transferred to each ffp (subject to t&c's). So good for BAEC members in AU

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I find it very odd given the existing OW network in Australia that they have access to is bigger than VAs... but perhaps they will get a greater share of the revenue/profit share with VA, and so push VA over QF on certain connections and codeshares

Reply 2 Likes