Virgin Australia has been offering flights to London in conjunction with its partner Virgin Atlantic since May 2018. Velocity members can fly with Virgin Australia from Sydney or Melbourne to Hong Kong, connecting on a Virgin Atlantic codeshare flight from Hong Kong to London. Velocity members, of course, can earn full Velocity points and status credits all the way to London as both flights carry “VA” flight numbers.
AFF member mikenz recently gave the alliance a try, flying from London to Sydney via Hong Kong with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia as a Velocity Platinum member. Unfortunately, despite a few highlights, much of the experience was decidedly average.
The Virgin Atlantic codeshares to London faced some initial teething problems. For example, Velocity Gold and Platinum members did not previously receive lounge access in Hong Kong when departing on Virgin Atlantic. This was fixed in December 2018, although there is now a four-hour time limit on access to the Plaza Premium First Lounge used by Virgin Atlantic in Hong Kong. This is problematic as Virgin’s schedules force a seven hour layover in Hong Kong en-route to London. At least Velocity Platinum members now receive arrivals lounge access at Heathrow Airport.
Velocity Gold and Platinum members can use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow when departing on Virgin Atlantic. Access is also available to “The House” lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, and the Hong Kong Airlines Club Autus Lounge in Hong Kong when departing on flights operated by Virgin Australia.
Check-in with Virgin Atlantic in London was relatively painless, despite mikenz‘s Velocity Frequent Flyer number not appearing on the boarding pass. Gaining access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in London was a little bit of a hassle, but once inside it was well worth it.
I had to show my digital velocity card showing the expiry date to enter the lounge, which was a major pain because my phone battery had died. There seems to be a very clear rule, no proof of status = no entry.
I’d never experienced it, so the Virgin Clubhouse at LHR was the main reason I booked this route and I wasn’t disappointed. It has to be up there with the best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve heard comparisons with QF First in Sydney which I’ve never been to -the best I’ve been to is the LAX Star Alliance lounge by Air NZ – and the clubhouse probably wins.
On board, mikenz was happy with the seating in Virgin Atlantic Economy class but found the food quality and in-flight entertainment options lacking.
The flight was full but comfortable. The seat was fine and the food options and entertainment weren’t great. All in all an ok flight with the highlight being we arrived 90 mins early, but I would probably go with Singapore over VS and Etihad for the hard product.
The Club Autus Lounge in Hong Kong was also good. Once on board the next flight – from Hong Kong to Sydney on Virgin Australia – this member received a personal greeting as a Platinum member. But they again found the food and in-flight entertainment disappointing.
Although nothing went disastrously wrong, it seems the whole experience was a little underwhelming. The highlight was the lounges – which are only accessible to Velocity Gold and Platinum members. So if you’re a Velocity Red or Silver member, you may be better off following mikenz and sticking with Etihad Airways or Singapore Airlines – both of which offer excellent service – on future trips to London.
In all – the Clubhouse was the highlight and the rest was pretty average. I’m doing the return journey in a few weeks and the only thing I’m looking forward to is the ‘Etihad’ lounge in Sydney and the revivals lounge in London.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Not Flying VA / VS through HKG Again to LHR