Has Virgin Forgotten its Loyal Frequent Flyers?Top-tier Velocity Frequent Flyer members have accused Virgin Australia of being “asleep at the wheel” until now when it comes to communication. These frequent flyers, who have been fiercely loyal to Virgin Australia in the past, feel their loyalty is no longer being reciprocated. They have become confused about the future direction of Virgin Australia, and feel abandoned and undervalued by the airline.

As a result, many Velocity members are now struggling to find reasons to stay loyal to Virgin Australia as Qantas offers them a compelling status match.

While Qantas continues to launch new and engaging promotions, Velocity Gold and Platinum members say they’ve received almost no communication from Virgin Australia or Velocity lately other than generic “marketing fluff”. Here’s what a few AFF members had to say

After the official transfer to the new owners & and a new marketing campaign release, I would have thought VA would have been in contact with their most Loyal FF’s about returning to the sky’s… I’m on my 4th year of platinum membership & I have had nothing in terms of a targeted offer, welcome back or even a email to say the BNE lounge is open again…! Lots of emails are sale fares and extra points..

I have received nothing specially tailored for elites. Plenty of marketing fluff though.

No specific communications for me either. I’m not even sure what’s happening in terms of my status extension. My anniversary is end of Sep and I’d already qualified prior to COVID shutting everything down. I don’t have any flights with them booked as there had been no news about lounge re-openings until very recently. Will I even get a status extension come Sep next year? If not, then I’ll be saying goodbye to VA permanently.

Nothing here, even the letter with the new Platinum card made no mention of recent news (COVID or the administration). Still confused where the “bonus” SC’s fit in. Considering the ever changing border here in WA, closure of the T2 lounge, temporary move to T2 and so much more it would have been nice to get some more information rather than the “general” marketing fluff. Certainly a survey would have been appreciated too; there’s a few ideas I have tried to pass on to help us both make the most of the situation.

Finally, this morning, Velocity Frequent Flyer emailed its members to inform them of a new status extension offer similar to that announced by Qantas Frequent Flyer a few weeks ago. This is very helpful does address some members’ concerns.

Like almost every other airline in the world, Virgin Australia already promised Velocity members a 12-month status extension back in March – although there had been some confusion about how exactly this works.

Velocity members struggling to find reasons to stay loyal

Throughout recent months, there have been plenty of reports in the media about Virgin Australia going downmarket. The airline is closing half of its airport lounges, removing perks like free snacks in Economy class, and cutting Velocity benefits with partner airlines.

Many of Velocity’s current loyal frequent flyers chose Virgin Australia because it was a premium full service airline. They’re now wondering if it’s worth sticking around. The problem was summed up perfectly in a recent AFF post where a Velocity Platinum member questioned the point of flying with Virgin Australia any more when Jetstar was cheaper. (The only reason AFF members could think of was free access to Economy X seats.)

Other than blind one-way loyalty, perhaps there are still some compelling reasons that Velocity Gold & Platinum members should continue flying with Virgin Australia. But Virgin has been slow to communicate these reasons to its most loyal customers. At a time of continued cost-cutting, members want reassurance that the Virgin Australia flying experience they know and loved will continue into the future.

Approached by Australian Frequent Flyer, a spokesman for Velocity Frequent Flyer said that the loyalty program “continues to provide its 10 million members with significant opportunities to earn and redeem points through a host of airline and non-airline partners”.

“We know that Virgin Australia looks forward to welcoming them back onboard as well as to their lounges and we thank our members for their ongoing loyalty,” the Velocity Frequent Flyer spokesman said.

In its defence, Velocity Frequent Flyer also pointed out that it recently ran a triple points promotion and offered bonus points on credit card transfers in November. There is also a current deal to earn bonus status credits with the Amex Velocity Platinum credit card.

Velocity says it plans to announce some significant new partnerships in 2021, giving members more opportunities to earn points.

Out-of-date information on Virgin Australia’s website

Some confused Velocity members have turned to the Virgin Australia website for answers. But with out-of-date and conflicting information all over the place, the communication on Virgin Australia’s website has been just as poor. One AFF member posted recently:

It’s unbelievable how bad communications are at the moment and they must be loosing business over it.

When they came out of administration it took them a week to remove it from the website.

On the 1st December, they announced they were extending flexibility from 31st January 2021 to 31st March 2021. The Home page still states flexibility until 31st January 2021. The Sales footer (Virgin Australia On Sale) has flexibility until 30th September 2020

Email communication has been poor as well. Overall it’s quite disappointing.

Virgin Australia recently boasted that the traffic to its website at the end of November, as various state borders reopened, was the highest it had been in eight months. So it’s bizarre how little attention has been given to the Virgin website. This is the first place many people will go to when considering booking tickets!

Has Virgin stopped caring about high-spending frequent flyers?

Perhaps Virgin Australia doesn’t care that its alienating business travellers and high-spending premium customers? After all, the airline has flagged that it’s no longer going to spend big bucks chasing corporate travellers and will instead focus on the middle of the market. The closure of Virgin’s “The Club” lounges is part of this shift.

It’s one thing to alienate corporate customers that cost lots of money to attract and retain. It’s another to take for granted good, profitable customers that have already proven their loyalty.

Virgin finally started emailing its Silver, Gold and Platinum members this morning with detailed information about how they can extend their status. Let’s hope Virgin doesn’t drop the ball again from here.

A good time to be a Velocity member?

A few weeks ago, Velocity did email its members to say it’s a good time to be a Velocity member. This email contained a link to a page of questions & answers about the Velocity program.

Velocity says it's a good time to be a member, but is it?
Velocity says it’s a good time to be a member. But why?

But the simplistic, generic answers on that page provided very little useful information. (Many of the links on that page also don’t work.)

For example, here’s one of the questions:

Firstly, that’s not even true – most of Virgin Australia’s partner airlines are currently operating international flights. Some partners, like Singapore Airlines, are even flying to Australia.

We asked Velocity Frequent Flyer when it planned to resume allowing redemptions on partner airlines. A spokesperson clairified that “due to COVID-19 and Government-imposed international travel restrictions, redemptions on our international airline partners are currently paused” but would not indicate when partner redemptions would resume.

Blaming government-imposed travel restrictions is misleading because they do not affect Velocity’s ability to offer partner airline redemption bookings. In fact, there are currently no restrictions on booking Virgin Australia flights using frequent flyer points belonging to Virgin’s partner airlines (such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles). It appears the real reason for partner bookings remaining suspended is that Velocity wants to restrict cash outflows.

The Qantas status match

With Qantas recently launching a status match for Gold & Platinum Velocity members, many former Virgin flyers are now considering switching. In the absence of a compelling case from Virgin to remain loyal, they will do just that.

One of the requirements for people participating in the Qantas status match will be to provide 18 months worth of activity statements from the member’s existing loyalty program. This appears to be something Velocity members will need to specifically request. If Velocity chooses to monitor the number of requests they receive for activity statements over the coming weeks, they may spot an alarming trend…

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Platinum / Gold / Silver FF’s. What communications have you had from VA..?

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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]