Gold-grade frequent flyer status is the real 'sweet spot' of the skies, delivering year-round airport lounge access, bonus points on flights, priority perks at the airport, and more.
But how does Qantas Gold stack up against Virgin Australia Velocity Gold? Executive Traveller puts the two to the test.
- Reaching Gold status for the first time
- Retaining your Gold status for another year
- Priority check-in for Gold frequent flyers
- Checked baggage for Gold frequent flyers
- Carry-on baggage for Gold frequent flyers
- Airport lounge access for Gold frequent flyers
- Status bonus for Gold frequent flyers
- X-factor perks for Gold frequent flyers
- Qantas Gold vs Velocity Gold: the verdict
Reaching Gold status for the first time
If you're starting from scratch and hoping to unlock Gold, it's worth seeing how Qantas and Virgin Australia compare.
Here's how many status credits you'd need to notch up during a single membership year to attain Qantas Gold or Velocity Gold, as well as how many status credits it takes to reach Qantas Lifetime Gold over the course of your membership:
|Earning Gold status|
|Qantas Lifetime Gold|
On paper, Velocity Gold would appear the easier target – but it's not all about the digits.
You also have to factor in how many of those status credits you could earn on every flight, and by extension, how many flights you'd need to take to reach that goal.
Here's how Qantas and Velocity compare on that front for a traveller starting from scratch, based on short domestic routes like the ordinarily-popular Sydney-Melbourne and Brisbane-Sydney trunks.
|Short flights to earn status|
|Economy reward seat||
|Standard business class||
|Flexible business class||
|Business reward seat||
*Only for Qantas Points Club members
As above, travellers booking the lowest-priced fares would reach Qantas Gold faster than Velocity Gold, with Qantas requiring two fewer one-way flights (or one return trip) to get over the line.
Virgin Australia, on the other hand, awards status faster than Qantas for travellers booking higher-priced tickets: everything above Getaway economy, in fact.
Winner: Travellers purchasing entry-level fares will prefer the Qantas approach – ditto Qantas Points Club members flying on points – while those paying more would earn status faster through Velocity, making this a draw.
Retaining your Gold status for another year
Once you're at the Gold tier, you can keep it for another year without earning quite as many status credits, as below.
|Retaining Gold status|
Interestingly, as Qantas requires around 15% fewer status credits to retain Gold than to earn it, but as Velocity commands 20% fewer status credits for the same, the balance swings into Velocity's favour across all fare types.
Those booking entry-level economy on short flights (e.g. Sydney-Melbourne) would need to take 60 one-way trips on Qantas, but a lesser 58 one-way flights on Virgin, to keep their Gold in-check.
The difference becomes wider on flexible fares, with 30 short one-way flights needed at Qantas, but only 16 'Freedom' flexible trips on Virgin, or 27 Elevate departures.
Winner: While Qantas has the carrot of Lifetime Gold for seriously high flyers, Virgin Australia wins for those retaining Gold status on an annual basis.
Priority check-in for Gold frequent flyers
Unlike Silver status for which only Qantas offers priority check-in for domestic travellers, the rules are better-aligned for Gold members of the two programs.
With Qantas, that means access to domestic Premium Service Desks and international business class check-in counters, while with Virgin Australia, look for the purple priority check-in queue.
Winner: A Gold card is your ticket to priority check-in with both airlines, making this a draw.
Checked baggage for Gold frequent flyers
With online check-in the easiest way to get your boarding pass, visiting those priority check-in counters normally means you're travelling with a suitcase.
In domestic business class, neither Qantas nor Virgin Australia provides an additional allowance for Gold members – the standard 2x32kg limit remains unchanged – but things are different in economy.
At Qantas, the domestic checked baggage allowance is boosted from 1x23kg as ticketed to an impressive 2x32kg for Qantas Gold.
That's 41kg over an above the regular economy limit, and the same as provided for business class passengers.
Virgin Australia also affords Gold members a second checked bag, but sets the limit at 2x23kg for Velocity Gold – compared to 1x23kg as standard.
This sees Virgin's Gold baggage booster only useful for those carting along a second suitcase.
Winner: With a total Gold baggage allowance 18kg higher than the competition – allowing for a greater maximum weight in each bag – Qantas wins for those checking-in.
Carry-on baggage for Gold frequent flyers
When it comes to carry-on baggage, Qantas takes the approach of having a generous allowance for all passengers, which means there's no boost for Gold cardholders.
On the other hand, Virgin Australia has a stricter base policy, but relaxes the rules somewhat for Velocity Gold members.
With that in mind, here's how the numbers compare for domestic jet journeys taken by Qantas Gold and Velocity Gold members.
|Carry-on baggage options|
14kg total weight
14kg total weight
|1 bag + 1 suit pack||
14kg total weight
14kg total weight
Even with Virgin Australia's booster for Velocity Gold members, its elevated carry-on baggage allowance still ranks below the Qantas limits for travellers with the most popular packing habits.
For those bringing along one standard bag plus a suit pack, Qantas again allows that bag to be heavier.
Under that same scenario, Virgin Australia instead allows the bag to be slightly larger, but capped at 3kg lighter, which is counter-intuitive.
Winner: Allowing travellers to pack up to 10kg in a single bag regardless of the limit chosen, most travellers would favour the Qantas approach.
Airport lounge access for Gold frequent flyers
Gold status is your ticket to unlimited airport lounge access when you travel.
Qantas Gold members have access to Qantas Club lounges, and Velocity Gold members to Virgin Australia's lounges.
With Qantas, you'll find Qantas Clubs across 24 domestic airports, covering every capital city and many other major and regional centres, accessible prior to both Qantas and Jetstar flights.
(Temporarily, that tally is reduced to 22 locations given ongoing airport works in Port Hedland and Rockhampton, where lounges are closed for an extended period.)
Over at Virgin Australia, the airline's domestic lounge network now spans seven airports – covering six of the eight capital cities (Darwin and Hobart miss out), plus the Gold Coast – with access prior to Virgin Australia flights.
Both Qantas Gold and Velocity Gold members can bring one adult guest with every visit.
These tiered members can also be joined in the lounge by children aged three years and under (no limit), while for kids aged 4-17, Qantas permits two and Virgin allows three.
Winner: With a domestic lounge network more than three times the size of Virgin Australia, Qantas takes this round, but hats off to Virgin for its more family-friendly guesting rules for those with three children in the 4-17 age bracket.
Status bonus for Gold frequent flyers
Gold-grade travellers get to earn extra frequent flyer points on selected journeys with both Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Qantas Gold status bonus
For those taking to the domestic skies, Qantas offers 75% more points for Gold members versus Bronze on eligible Qantas and Jetstar fares, although that applies only to a flight's base earning rate, not to any 'minimum points guarantee'.
On popular short hops like Sydney-Melbourne and Brisbane-Sydney, this sees no extra points earned at Gold compared to Bronze when flying economy.
The booster instead comes into play on mid-length routes like Melbourne-Brisbane and Brisbane-Cairns, on which Gold members grab at least 1,225 Qantas Points down the back, versus 800 for Bronze.
Longer journeys such as Perth to either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane see the biggest increase, with your minimum haul pushed from 1,450 to 2,538 Qantas Points – and more, of course, on flexible fares or those booking business class.
Velocity Gold status bonus
Virgin Australia similarly provides a 75% points bonus for Velocity Gold on eligible flights.
However, bonus points are only given when travelling on semi-flexible (Elevate) fares and above, while those on the airline's most attractive (Getaway) fares miss out.
That's true regardless of the length of the flight, leaving many Gold members earning the same number of points as entry-level Red cardholders on domestic routes long and short.
Where bonus points are earned, however, the bounty is likely to be more significant, given the higher price of semi-flex and flexible economy fares, as well as business class tickets.
As Velocity gives points based on dollars spent, the bonus elevates the earning rate to 8.75 Velocity Points per $1 spent on airfares, versus 5 Velocity Points per $1 for Red.
Perhaps more useful for many is a similar 75% points bonus on Ola airport rides, and on car hire with selected partners.
Winner: As travellers purchasing entry-level fares will likely prefer the Qantas approach – especially on longer flights – while those booking semi-flex fares and above may benefit more from the Velocity earn structure, this one’s a draw.
X-factor perks for Gold frequent flyers
Over and above the expected privileges of frequent flyer status, Qantas and Virgin Australia add extra niceties into the mix.
Additional benefits for Qantas Gold
Right now, the biggest treat for Qantas Gold members on domestic services is complimentary upgrades to premium economy seats on Boeing 787 flights, where only economy and business class is sold.
From the moment a Dreamliner departure is booked, the Gold member can assign themselves a spare seat in premium economy: a perk also extended to any companions on the same reservation.
The inflight service remains as it'd be in economy – with economy-style dining and beverages – but in the more comfortable surroundings of premium economy.
Separately, frequent flyers who notch up 500 status credits from Qantas and Jetstar flights each year can select a bonus of either 8,000 Qantas Points or 50 status credits.
That's available again when recording 1,000 status credits in the same year after flying with Qantas and Jetstar.
Additional benefits for Velocity Gold
Virgin does things differently, beginning with domestic Fly Ahead.
This allows Velocity Gold members booked on both reward seats and semi-flexible fares (and higher) to make same-day changes to their flight, without incurring change fees or paying a fare difference.
Velocity Gold members can also opt-in for one year of complimentary Hilton Honors Gold or IHG Rewards Gold hotel status, as well as Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star or Europcar Privilege Executive membership.
Through the Velocity program, family members living at the same address can also opt to pool their points and status credits.
This could allow the most frequent-flying member of a family to reach or retain Gold status even faster, when any member of the pool earns status credits, including when travelling independently.
Winner: Although free premium economy seat upgrades are an excellent perk for Qantas Gold, Boeing 787s appear on relatively few domestic flights, giving Virgin Australia's package of perks the edge for most travellers.
Qantas Gold vs Velocity Gold: the verdict
There's plenty of appeal in reaching and retaining Gold status with either Qantas or Virgin Australia – and if you find yourself travelling more regularly with one than the other, aiming for Gold with that preferred airline will likely give the best overall benefit.
But for those just starting their journey or considering a switch, it's clear that Qantas Gold and Velocity Gold have different strengths.
On the one hand, Qantas is more generous with checked and carry-on baggage for domestic economy flyers, not to mention with premium economy seat upgrades when booking a Boeing 787, on which the Qantas status bonus comes into its own.
Qantas also has a much larger domestic lounge network – which may not fuss travellers primarily jetting between the east coast capitals, but broadens the Roo's appeal for those travelling around other parts of the country, particularly through regional destinations.
Velocity Gold is instead easier to maintain year-on-year, and packages handy perks like free same-day flight changes and elite hotel and car hire status to round out the benefits.