Virgin Cuts Bags, Velocity Benefits on New “Economy Lite” Fares

Virgin Cuts Bags, Velocity Benefits on New "Lite" Fares
Virgin Australia has removed many benefits from its new “Economy Lite” fares. Photo: Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia has removed checked baggage, seat selection, a range of Velocity benefits, and reduced status credits, on its cheapest Economy Class tickets. It’s part of a shake-up to its domestic fare categories.

Virgin’s Economy Getaway, Elevate and Freedom fares are now gone, replaced by Lite, Choice and Flex fares. Business Saver fares have also been removed, with all Business Class fares now featuring the same inclusions.

VA CBR-BNE fares with new fare categories in August 2021
Virgin Australia now has four fare categories: Lite, Choice, Flex and Business.

The benefits on Virgin’s new Economy “Lite” fares have been significantly reduced. Passengers still receive access to in-flight entertainment via the Virgin Australia Entertainment streaming App, and can still earn points & status credits. But the rate at which status credits are earned has been reduced.

Notably, Economy Lite fares do not include a checked bag, complimentary seat selection or bonus points for Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum members. They also do not count as an eligible Velocity sector for the purposes of earning Virgin Australia status, and are not eligible to upgrade with points or via an UpgradeMe Premium Bid.

You can read more about the inclusions of each fare type on the Virgin Australia website.

Standard seat selection on Economy Lite fares now costs $7 on shorter flights, or $10 on longer flights. These charges apply until 3 hours before departure, when all remaining seats become available to select for free. Velocity Platinum members can continue to select seats on Lite fares for free at any time before departure, but not Silver or Gold members.

VA seat selection CBR-ADL
Virgin Australia now charges at least $7 per flight for seat selection on an Economy Lite ticket, except for Platinum members.

Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum members do not receive any complimentary checked bags on Economy Lite fares, which cost at least $40 per bag to add individually.

Economy Choice fares, which do include checked baggage, seat selection and more Velocity benefits, are generally only $10-20 more expensive than Lite fares. So for many people, paying a little more for a Choice fare will be a no-brainer. In fact, Virgin is actively encouraging people to choose the higher fare on its new website.

VA website upsell Lite to Choice
Virgin Australia wants to encourage customers to buy-up from a Lite to a Choice fare.

Interestingly, Virgin Australia is not currently selling Economy Lite fares on routes in direct competition with Rex. On these routes, Virgin appears to be matching Rex’s pricing with its Choice fares. This makes sense as Rex offers a complimentary checked bag on all tickets.

VA SYD-MEL fares August 2021
Virgin Australia is selling Economy Choice fares on routes in competition with Rex for as low as $39 one-way.

While Business Saver fares are no longer offered, it’s largely good news for flyers buying Virgin Australia Business Class tickets. Instead of selling two different categories of Business Class fares, all Virgin Australia Business Class fares now include the greater flexibility and higher status credits of the old “Business” fares. And you can still access cheaper Business Class fares on Virgin by booking at least 28 days in advance.

Meanwhile, there are changes to Velocity status credit earning rates. Velocity Frequent Flyer members will now earn fewer status credits on Lite fares, but status credits for some Business fares have increased.

New Velocity status credit earn table August 2021
New Velocity status credit earning table as of 19 August 2021.

Virgin Australia says the changes make flying with the airline “even more affordable and passenger-friendly than ever before”.

“We discovered that nearly one in every three Virgin Australia customers don’t bring a checked bag when they travel, despite a bag allowance built in to their airfare. On flights between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, that number is even higher,” a Virgin Australia Group spokesperson said.

“Today we’re putting the power back in the hands of our customers by leaving it up to them to choose what they want. If they don’t want a checked bag or seat selection, they won’t have to pay for it – it’s that simple. If they prefer to keep the extras, there are great value inclusive fare options available.”

This sounds very similar to Jetstar’s old tagline: “Use it, pay for it. Don’t, don’t.”

Virgin Australia says that charging extra for checked baggage on domestic Economy Class tickets brings it “in line with most major US and European carriers” such as Lufthansa, Delta, American Airlines and also Air New Zealand. However, we would note that the major US airlines waive checked baggage fees on Basic Economy fares for frequent flyers with status.

Virgin Australia had already introduced “Economy Light” fares on its long-haul flights back in January 2020, but unfortunately had to shut down its long-haul operations just two months later due to COVID-19. The last major change to Virgin’s domestic fare structure was in 2016.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New Virgin Australia fare categories

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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]