Virgin Australia’s new livery showcasing their transition to a premium-focused carrier Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
VIRGIN AUSTRALIA BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Virgin Australia
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (VH-YIF)
Departed: Brisbane Airport (BNE)
Arrived: Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business class
Length: About 1.5 hours
Cheers: Fresh and funky looking cabin interior and great catering for such a short flight
Jeers: No foot-rests and no curtain divider thus limiting privacy
Overall: A great new business product on the Australian domestic market which with a few improvements will give competitors a run for their money.
During the last two years, perhaps no other airline has gone through as much transformation as Virgin Australia. Starting off as the first true low-cost carrier (LCC) in Australia in 2000 (then known as Virgin Blue) it quickly became a popular choice for leisure travelers. As the Australian market became more saturated with LCCs, Virgin decided it was time to remodel and focus more instead on the premium market. This transformation included the introduction of a business class across the fleet, with all aircraft having completed the re-fit by the 3rd quarter of 2013.
The New Virgin Australia Velocity Rewards Card – Mines Gold – Photo: Virgin Australia
Recently, I received a lovely little gift in the mail, all the way from the other side of the world. In the envelope was my new Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flier card. When I looked closer at the card, though, I noticed something different. The back resembled a debit card; in fact, it was a prepaid Visa card. It made me think about what has been happening lately between airlines, their frequent flier programs, and credit cards.
Over the last 12 months, two of the largest US-based frequent flyer programs have introduced minimum spending amounts to attain or maintain elite status. In 2014, United’s MileagePlus program will require a minimum amount of Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD) along with the usual amount of miles or segments. Your PQD has to be made up of ticket spend on United-issued tickets or by purchasing upgrades to Economy Plus. To maintain your Gold Status into 2015, a Premier Gold flyer would not only have to earn 50,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM), but they would need to spend $5,000 on airfare (taxes don’t count, sadly).
United’s move was almost a carbon copy of Delta’s SkyMiles program, however they just changed the words around. Replace “Medallion” for “Premier” and hey, presto… welcome to SkyMiles! A very similar arrangement, but unlike United where all the tickets have to be issued by United, Delta allows you to earn your Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) with partner airlines (but what qualifies as a partner is a whole story of its own). United only allows partner earning when booked through United.
A Virgin Australia 737 at Melbourne Airport – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com
As an Australian expat, I will often have an opportunity to commute back to Australia for special events. This trip was one of those times. I got to head to Australia to attend a friend’s wedding (congrats Stuart & Michelle!) and thankfully it meant that I could combine a number of things together: a trip home to see friends and family, the wedding (obviously) and a mini mileage run with Virgin Australia to re-qualify for my gold status.
Though I had already re-qualified on points, I still had four segments required on Virgin Australia operated aircraft. As an AvGeek, I always look forward to these types of adventures.
Directly from Virgin America’s Press Release:
San Francisco – June 11, 2012 – Virgin America, the award-winning U.S. airline, announces today that it is requesting U.S. Department of Transportation approval to place the Virgin Australia code on Virgin America services from Los Angeles to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle and Washington D.C. Once approved, this will be the first-ever codeshare agreement for the California-based carrier, building on a 2009 interline agreement with Virgin Australia that paved the way for a more seamless travel experience for guests flying between Australia and the U.S. This will offer seamless booking on a single ticket for guests traveling from Australia to multiple destinations in the U.S. Virgin America’s recent move to a new reservations system allowed the carrier to initiate this first codeshare alliance as well as significantly expand its interline partnerships in recent months.
“We believe this partnership will be welcomed by travelers on both sides of the Pacific, especially our most loyal guests – those who seek out the upscale service and amenities that the Virgin branded carriers are known for around the world,” said Diana Walke, Virgin America’s Vice President of Planning and Sales. “With touch-screen entertainment, an international grade First Class, a premium Main Cabin Select product and an award-winning Main Cabin – our product offerings are uniquely matched to Virgin Australia. With this new partnership, U.S.-Australia travelers will be assured best-in-class guest service in three well-aligned classes of service – throughout their journey.”
Earlier this year, Virgin America announced an enhancement to its Elevate® frequent flyer program that allows members to earn and redeem points across the combined route network of the Virgin family of carriers. And last month, all three award-winning Virgin airlines – including Virgin Atlantic – joined forces for the first time ever to launch a joint entertainment, digital and out-of-home “Virgin Skies” advertising campaign to convey the unique Virgin in-flight experience in the Los Angeles market and mark the airlines’ global frequent flyer partnership. The centerpiece of the campaign includes the creation of an independent short film shot entirely on three commercial Virgin flights while at 35,000 feet. For more on the campaign, including behind-the-scenes footage from the filming, visit: www.flyvirgin.com/#film
“The United States is a very important market for Australia; it is the third most popular international destination for Australian visitors and our fourth biggest source of overseas visitors to Australia,” said Virgin Australia Group Executive of Alliances, Network and Yield Merren McArthur. “Today’s announcement means Virgin Australia guests can connect seamlessly to key leisure and business hubs and earn frequent flyer points and status credits in the process.”
The new codeshare agreement will not change the airlines’ existing interline agreement, through which guests already enjoy a seamless “Virgin” experience at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Under the codeshare, guests will check-in once and receive all their boarding passes. Domestic to international connections at LAX are within the same terminal (Terminal 3), so guests traveling from the U.S. to Australia do not have to re-clear security. Both airlines will transfer baggage between connecting flights and to guests’ final destinations – with customs clearance of guests and bags still required for travelers coming from Australia to the U.S.
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