Qantas announced last Thursday some significant changes to its frequent flyer program, including changes to frequent flyer redemptions and the introduction of a Points Club. As Qantas Frequent Flyer’s main competitor in Australia, Virgin’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program will be keeping a close eye on the changes. Velocity as a frequent flyer program is already very similar to Qantas, with almost identical pricing for reward seat bookings; although there are also some key points of difference.
Could lifetime Velocity status be on the cards?
Approached by Australian Frequent Flyer, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline is not ruling out the introduction of lifetime Velocity Frequent Flyer status.
“We believe we offer a compelling program for members but we are always looking at new ways to enhance their experience and benefits,” the spokesperson told us. “A lifetime tier could be one such area for consideration.”
Lifetime status is one key benefit offered by Qantas Frequent Flyer which is not yet matched by Velocity Frequent Flyer. For years, Qantas Frequent Flyer has offered lifetime Silver status upon reaching 7,000 status credits and lifetime Gold at 14,000 total status credits. Lifetime Platinum will be launched in September 2019.
The allure of lifetime status is one way that airlines can keep customers flying with the airline after they’ve already qualified for top-tier status during that year. The powerful magnet also keeps flyers loyal to the airline over a long period of time and is one factor that often prevents frequent flyers from switching their loyalty – even if another airline or frequent flyer program develops a more attractive offering.
Velocity currently offers additional benefits to frequent flyers that earn 500 or 1,000 status credits above the usual Platinum status target within 12 months.
No changes to Velocity reward seats
Changes to Qantas Classic Flight Reward pricing and availability were a key part of last Thursday’s announcement. Qantas will increase award availability and reduce carrier charges. It will also reduce the number of Qantas points required for some Economy reward bookings, but will increase the number of points payable for redemptions in Premium Economy, Business or First Class.
Velocity Frequent Flyer has no plans to copy Qantas’ changes. Virgin Australia believes that it already has a more competitive frequent flyer program, and Qantas’ announcement does not change this.
The Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer that “Velocity Frequent Flyer is the best value airline loyalty program in Australia with no joining fee; the best reward seat availability; the most Points earned per dollar spent; the lowest number of Points required for flight redemption and seat upgrades; the ability to earn and maintain status faster; and lower related fees and charges.”
The spokesperson added, “Velocity has been globally recognised by the Freddies as having the ‘best reward seat availability’ for six years running.”
After the recent changes, Qantas Frequent Flyer is actually charging fewer points than Velocity for most international reward flight redemptions in Economy class. But Velocity remains more competitive overall on domestic reward seats, as well as international awards in premium cabins.
Velocity Frequent Flyer introduced reward seat carrier charges for the first time in January this year. Velocity’s charges are indeed still lower than Qantas’ carrier charges on most routes. However, Qantas charges are lower on flights to Port Moresby, and are now identical for Economy redemptions between Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne and Los Angeles. On Economy class redemptions from Australia to Bali or Hong Kong, Qantas’ carrier charges are now just $10 higher than Velocity but Qantas charges fewer points.
There is some discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum about how Velocity Frequent Flyer might respond to the Qantas changes: What “lessons” will VA learn from today’s changes to QF’s FF program?