Resurgent Virgin Australia Restores International Partnerships

After more than a year and a half, Virgin Australia is relaunching its international partner network and, once…

Resurgent Virgin Australia Restores International Partnerships

After more than a year and a half, Virgin Australia is relaunching its international partner network and, once again, allowing frequent flyers to earn and spend points on flights outside Australia.

Virgin Australia has restored most of its international partner airline alliances. Photo: Getty Images

Virgin Australia restores its web of pre-COVID international airline alliances

Virgin Australia confirmed the highly anticipated news on Wednesday. The airline’s ten million plus Velocity members can again earn and burn points on Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, and Hawaiian Airlines. Missing from the lineup are former alliance partners HNA and the now-defunct Alitalia.

Singapore Airlines is also locked in. But unlike the partnerships with the other six airlines, which officially resume on November 1, a few kinks in the deal with Singapore Airlines need to get ironed out before a resumption date gets announced.

The restoration of these partnerships is a big deal for Virgin Australia and restores its web of pre-COVID international alliances. It marks a big comeback for an airline that was on the verge of extinction last year.

The partner airlines, most of who fly to Australia, will pump passengers onto Virgin Australia’s domestic network. Photo: Getty Images

A return to form for Virgin’s Velocity program

The partnerships are also a big deal for Velocity members. The frequent flyer program lost much of its luster when redemptions on international partner airlines stopped last year. This writer earns Velocity points in the air and on the ground in Australia and traditionally uses them to pay for medium and long-haul flights on Singapore Airlines. It’s good to get the ability to do so back and makes Velocity more competitive with the rival Qantas frequent flyer program.

Equally, a Delta SkyMiles member can now use their points to fly around Australia. They can fly into Sydney on Delta and seamlessly transfer onto a Virgin Australia flight to, say, Adelaide, earning or burning points all the way through.

“On behalf of the whole team, I want to thank each and every one of our 10 million members for their patience as we worked around the clock to negotiate some great deals for our members with some of the world’s leading airlines,” says freshly installed Velocity CEO Nick Rohrlach.

“Virgin Australia will always have a strong core of its own international flights and then through Velocity will partner with leading airlines to offer an enviable network to travel-hungry Australians.”

Virgin Australia’s domestic route map. Source: Virgin Australia

Still a few kinks to iron out

Virgin Australia’s network of partner airlines makes it possible to fly around the world on Velocity points. But there are some caveats and quirks. For example, Velocity points cannot currently be used to redeem Air Canada flights between Australia and Vancouver – which seems counterintuitive.

The fine print also says not every flight offered by Virgin Australia or partner airlines will have seats available for points redemption. But you can certainly earn Velocity points with the partner airlines if you pay cash and book via Virgin Australia.

Equally, members of partner airlines’ frequent flyer programs can earn points in their program when flying on Virgin Australia flights from November 1.

While there’s no fixed date on Singapore Airlines coming back into the fold, it will happen, with Virgin Australia saying on their website: “We are working closely with Singapore Airlines to plan for the reintroduction of Reward Seats and the ability for members to transfer Points between the Velocity and KrisFlyer programs.”

The ability to flick points between Velocity and Krisflyer is a convenient perk. Krisflyer opens up redemptions across the Star Alliance network. One of the stumbling blocks needing quick resolution is a correct valuation of the Velocity/Krisflyer exchange rate.

Wednesday’s announcement marked the public debut of new Velocity CEO Nick Rohrlach. Photo: Virgin Australia

Public debut of new Velocity CEO

Wednesday’s announcement from Virgin Australia also marked the public debut of new Veolicty CEO Nick Rohrlach. Mr Rohrlach was the subject of an acrimonious legal battle between Qantas and Virgin Australia earlier this year.

Nick Rohrlach has probably burnt his bridges with Qantas, but he’s off to a stellar start at Virgin Australia restoring these international partnerships.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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Qantas Plans Pop-Up Darwin Lounge Ahead Of International Restart

Qantas is making its Darwin stopover as comfortable as possible for premium passengers after opening a lounge in…

Qantas Plans Pop-Up Darwin Lounge Ahead Of International Restart

Qantas is making its Darwin stopover as comfortable as possible for premium passengers after opening a lounge in the airport’s international zone. The airline is temporarily taking over the now-shuttered Catalina lounge to cater for passengers flying to and from London on QF1/2.

Qantas is opening a “pop-up” lounge in Darwin to cater for its passengers traveling on QF1 and QF2. Photo: Qantas

A comfortable Darwin rest area for a 90-minute pitstop

After 19 months off the route, Qantas is resuming their London flights in early November. Fully loaded jets don’t have the capacity to safely make it to London from cities like Sydney and Melbourne without a stopover.

Before COVID-19 curtailed flights, Qantas London-bound flights out of Sydney flew via Singapore, and flights out of Melbourne operated via Perth. As Qantas reboots its international network, both cities are dropped as stopover ports in favor of Darwin.

It is 23 and a half hours flying time between Sydney and London on QF1. No matter where you are seated on the plane, that’s a long-haul. The stopover in Darwin might be brief – a 90-minute refueling pitstop, but Qantas knows its passengers will want to get off the plane and stretch their legs.

Qantas’ new Darwin lounge in Catalina Lounge mode. Photo: Lucid Consulting

Minimal changes to the lounge space serving as a short term fix

Qantas also knows its well looked after pointy end and other high-status frequent flyer passengers wouldn’t be impressed with the less than luxe surrounds of Darwin Airport’s international transit zone. Taking over the Catalina Lounge and restyling it as a pop-up lounge is an obvious short-term fix.

“We know that spending time in our lounges is one of the most enjoyable parts of the travel experience. We are excited to work with our friends at Darwin Airport to have our lounge facility ready next week in time to welcome our first international customers in 20 months,” says Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.

“Given the relatively brief transit time of 90 minutes, our focus will be on offering a comfortable space for customers to stretch their legs, enjoy a brunch or light supper, and to refresh before their onward journey.”

The Catalina Lounge is a perfectly pleasant space. However, it isn’t a patch on the Qantas First lounge in Sydney or even the Qantas lounge at Heathrow with its marble cocktail bar. It’s also unlikely Neil Perry will fly in to dole out serves of his fairy floss pav.

However, the 100 seat lounge will have an open bar, lounge and dining areas with a serviced buffet, menus suited to the time of day, and well-maintained bathrooms (we assume that includes shower facilities as the Catalina lounge offered those).

The lounge will be open to business class passengers, oneworld emerald and sapphire members, platinum one, platinum, gold Qantas frequent flyers, and Qantas Club members.

Qantas is promising to offer some signature cocktails and drinks at its new Darwin lounge. Photo: Qantas

Other airlines’ passengers out in the cold?

Alas, neither QF1 nor QF2 land in Darwin close to the time Jetstar’s soon to commence flights between Darwin and Singapore will depart. Consequently, there will be no access for Qantas frequent flyers who find themselves on that Jetstar flight.

As other international airlines return to Darwin, a question also arises where they will park their premium passengers before departure. The Catalina Lounge was Darwin Airport’s only lounge in the international departures zone and served as a multi-user airline lounge.

Qantas has only scheduled flights to London via Darwin until April, at which point it is eyeing returning to flying via Perth and Singapore. But Darwin is currently finding favor with Qantas, and the airline may stick with the new route in the longer term.

That means the Darwin pop-up lounge may settle into something more permanent. It also raises the question of what other non-Qantas affiliated airlines will do for lounge facilities in Darwin.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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