Using frequent flyer points to upgrade from economy to Virgin Australia business class is one of the best ways to spend your hard-earned Velocity points – but how can you tell if a points-based upgrade is available on a specific flight before booking your ticket?
The airline’s reservation system doesn’t make this clear when you’re searching for fares and flights, but fortunately, there are two methods you can use to check this before locking-in your paid fare.
1: Search Virgin Australia’s website for ‘Reward Seats’
All Virgin Australia upgrades follow one simple rule: if you can use your Velocity points to secure a ‘Reward Seat’ on a particular flight in business class, you can also use your Velocity points for a confirmed upgrade to business class on that same flight.
It’s as simple as logging in on the Velocity website, browsing to ‘Search and Book Flights’ on the left-hand navigation menu and plugging in your preferred route and travel date.
Be sure that ‘Use Points + Pay’ is selected at the top, and then click ‘Find Flights’.
On the next page, scroll until you find your desired flight or travel time, and check to see if it has a ‘Business Reward’ available.
On the date we searched, we observed that flights VA816 and VA820 had a Business Reward available, but that flight VA824 did not – instead with ‘sold out’ appearing in the business class column (ignore 'Economy Reward' and 'Any Seat').
This means that on flights VA816 and VA820, you would be able to use Velocity points for a confirmed business class upgrade after purchasing an economy class ticket, but wouldn’t be able to achieve the same on flight VA824.
Armed with this information, you can then book your fare and use your points to upgrade as soon as your ticket has been finalised – whether that’s between Sydney and Melbourne or indeed on any other Virgin Australia route.
(On flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, points-based upgrades to business class and also premium economy are restricted to Velocity Gold and Platinum members only, while on domestic and all other international flights, all Velocity members can use points to upgrade.)
This method is best for travellers who need to fly on very specific dates, but if you’re flexible and aren’t having much luck in finding a Reward Seat (and therefore, an upgradeable flight), there’s another tool which can help you out.
2. Use ExpertFlyer to search for Reward Seats week by week
As above, Virgin Australia’s own website allows you to search for Reward Seats, determining also the availability of upgrades, but only on one calendar day at a time.
If you’d like to know all of your upgrade options, and fast, consider subscribing to the ExpertFlyer website. This allows you to search for Virgin Australia Reward Seats on any given route one week at a time, with the results all appearing on a single page.
You’ll pay US$10/month (A$13.35) or US$100/year (A$133.50) for the Pro Premium subscription, but once your membership is sorted and you’re logged in, head to the ‘Awards & Upgrades’ area and enter your route and travel date, while also selecting the ‘+/- 3 Days’ option at the side.
Also be sure to select ‘Virgin Australia (VA)’ as your airline of choice, enter how many Reward Seats (upgrades) you’re searching for, check the ‘Business – Award (Z)’ option and then click ‘Search’.
Looking at the Sydney-Auckland route in mid-December, we can see that at least one Reward Seat/upgrade is available on both VA144 and VA146 on December 13, and that at least one Reward Seat/upgrade is too up for grabs on December 14’s VA144 flight.
(Because we’ve searched for one upgrade, a ‘Yes’ in the ‘seats’ column means the software was able to find what we were looking for, being one seat.)
But from the same screen, it’s also clear that on December 15 and the days that follow, no Reward Seats are available on any Virgin Australia Sydney-Auckland flight, which means no points-based upgrades can be snagged, either.
(When Reward Seats/upgrades aren’t available, you’ll either see ‘no entries’ appear, or you’ll see the details of a flight but with ‘No’ in the ‘seats’ column: both indicate the same thing.)
You’ll also spot an ‘Aircraft’ column. This is handy on routes where Virgin Australia swaps between aircraft types, such from Sydney to Perth where both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 appear, as you can easily spot which flights are being served by which planes on the dates you’ll be travelling and can plan your journey accordingly.