Travelling trans-Tasman with Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand over the coming year, and wondering what’ll happen to your booking and flight experience now that the two airlines are breaking up?
You’re not alone – and while the airlines’ entire game plan isn’t on the table just yet, here’s what we know so far.
Flying between now and October 27, 2018
The partnership between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand is set to end on October 28 2018, so if you’re flying before then, up to and including travel on October 27, you’ll have the same options and experience as you do today.
That means you can continue earning and redeeming Velocity points on Air New Zealand trans-Tasman flights, along with journeys on New Zealand domestic routes, whether booked to fly on a Virgin Australia (VA) codeshare or an Air New Zealand NZ flight number.
Similarly, Air New Zealand Airpoints members can continue earning points aboard Virgin Australia domestic and trans-Tasman flights when travelling on a VA or NZ flight number, and can spend Airpoints Dollars on the same.
Until October 27, Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders can also continue enjoying reciprocal airport lounge access when flying on either airline on the same routes, as can paid-up Virgin Australia Lounge and AirNZ Koru members.
Flying on or after October 28, 2018
Once the trans-Tasman alliance winds up, your travel experience could become very different.
That’s because the partnership is what enables many of those key perks – including airport lounge access for Velocity, Virgin Lounge, Airpoints and Koru members – along with other niceties such as priority check-in and boarding, boosted baggage allowances and more for tiered members.
The tie-up also extends beyond international flights: the airlines’ domestic networks are connected as well, which is currently very beneficial for Virgin Australia frequent flyers making multiple stops in New Zealand before returning home.
For example, a Velocity Gold member can currently fly with Air New Zealand from Sydney to Auckland, jet onward to Wellington for a batch of extra meetings in the nation’s capital, continue their mission in Christchurch and then zip down to Queenstown for a little R&R, before flying home straight to Sydney: all while enjoying access to Air New Zealand lounges before every flight.
That perk extends far beyond the ‘Big Three’ cities, too, with AirNZ’s regional lounges currently welcoming Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders – plus paid Virgin Australia Lounge members – further afield in places like Dunedin, Hamilton, Invercargill and Palmerston North, among others.
When departing internationally from Auckland, Velocity Gold and Platinum members also receive access to Air New Zealand’s dedicated express channel at security and immigration, separate to the main public checkpoints, which can be a real time-saver.
On the other side of the coin, Air New Zealand currently sends its own international passengers to Virgin Australia’s Gold Coast and Cairns lounges, with Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders able to visit Virgin Australia’s other lounges too, prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights.
Both airlines also offer Gold and Platinum-grade members of the other airline access to priority check-in and boarding lanes, priority baggage delivery, and an increased baggage allowance on most flights (excluding some carry-on only fares).
However, come October 28, many of those benefits may be affected – as may the airport lounges Virgin Australia uses before its own trans-Tasman flights – which the airlines are yet to comment on.
Passengers booked on a Virgin Australia codeshare flight operated by Air New Zealand (or vice versa) from this date will be contacted by the airline they booked with to make alternative arrangements, which may include moving onto a flight operated by the airline that accepted your booking.
For instance, if you booked an Air New Zealand flight for travel over Christmas through the Virgin Australia website, and that flight was booked on a VA flight number, expect a call from Virgin Australia over the coming days.
Australian Business Traveller will keep you posted when these airlines provide further information for affected passengers travelling across their soon-to-be-defunct alliance, and how these changes will impact your journey.