Inside Virgin Australia’s invitation-only ‘Beyond’ airport lounges

Virgin seeks to close the gap against Qantas with exclusive VIP perks and an elite loyalty program.

By David Flynn, April 20 2022
Inside Virgin Australia’s invitation-only ‘Beyond’ airport lounges
Executive Traveller exclusive

Virgin Australia is once again looking to woo VIP flyers, with the launch of its new Beyond tier and the opening of elite Beyond lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane earlier today. 

Virgin Australia Beyond, to give the program its full name, both replaces and reboots The Club  created by former Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti as a foil to the Qantas Chairman's Lounge.

However, Virgin Australia Beyond will retain The Club’s invitation-only exclusivity: counter to previous indications by Virgin of a “more transparent eligibility criteria” – expected to be tied to travel spend, among other factors – will not be made public.

Entered via discreet doors where only members know the location, the lounges feature leather and oak-clad walls, plush Chester-style armchairs, and bright greenery. Seating pods enveloped by frosted glass maintain privacy and discretion for those inside.

The new Beyond lounges feature varied seating options for guests.
The new Beyond lounges feature varied seating options for guests.

Numerous seating zones are spread throughout, providing different spaces to dine, relax, refresh and recharge. End of day facilities such as showers (available from July 1), towels and premium bathroom amenities by Appelles Apothecary Lab are also available. 

Beyond membership remains invitation-only

Beyond membership is granted by the CEO and executives of Virgin Australia for the airline’s most loyal guests, which include decision makers for the airline’s corporate accounts and key leaders in many industries across the country. 

The membership roster of The Club was previously a mixed bag of the airline’s most highly valued passengers, from politicians and high-ranking government officials, business leaders, A-list celebrities to those with enough sway over a company’s travel policies to direct substantial bookings to Virgin and its partners.

(There were also the more nebulous ‘F-o-Js’, which in the Borghetti era stood for Friends of John, and in 2022 may well continue as Friends of Jayne.)

Transparent screens allow natural light, yet maintain discretion for those inside.
Transparent screens allow natural light, yet maintain discretion for those inside.

The new door list sees these lounges “reserved for Virgin Australia’s most loyal guests from the worlds of business, travel, politics, sport, music, entertainment and society.”

“Virgin Australia Beyond is reserved for our most loyal and valued guests and signifies a fresh take and a move forward on enhanced status and service, in true Virgin Australia style,” explains airline CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

“Beyond is more than just a future-facing name. It’s our promise to always give a little extra. To provide service that’s as tailored as it is effortless, and to consistently deliver an experience that goes above and way beyond.”

Guests can enjoy a variety of premium wines and spirits.
Guests can enjoy a variety of premium wines and spirits.

Former members of The Club who have been deemed Beyond-worthy will see their membership start on April 20, with complimentary Beyond membership for a nominated spouse or partner.

Beyond membership will last for 12 months and “will be reviewed and renewed as appropriate on an annual basis.”

Trial membership for some Club members

But not everyone who has a now-obsolete matte black The Club card tucked into their wallet or purse will make the cut.

Some will be offered a trial membership lasting either six or nine months which will be “subject to review at the end of the period.”

Those who don’t receive a personalised email invitation from Hrdlicka will instead receive one year of Velocity Platinum membership, for which they’ll need to earn the usual 800 status credits to remain minted after April 2023.

Beyond Lounge: Dining has been upgraded 

To coincide with the opening of Beyond, Virgin Australia has unveiled a fresh à la carte menu for Beyond members, featuring light and substantial fresh menu options using the finest Australian produce. 

A revamped a la carte menu is sure to satisfy members.
A revamped a la carte menu is sure to satisfy members.

Morning flyers may opt to enjoy some pre-flight breakfast with options including eggs cooked to order with their selection of the usual trimmings.

One of the healthier options to get your day going include organic buckwheat and date-toasted muesli with yoghurt.

The buckwheat and date muesli looks highly appealing.
The buckwheat and date muesli looks highly appealing.

Other times of the day may warrant a grass-fed steak sandwich, superfood salad with red quinoa and avocado, or some grilled calamari spaghetti.

Alternatively, place your order for some haloumi sliders, pulled beef tacos or a flat equivalent filled with hot smoked salmon.

There’s also a selection of freshly made sandwiches with your choice of leg ham, chicken or roasted vegetables. Or if you’d just prefer a snack, take your pick from truffle fries or an artisan cheese board.

Sometimes, a steak sandwich just hits the spot.
Sometimes, a steak sandwich just hits the spot.

If your sweet tooth needs nourishing, the all-day dessert menu features delectable morsels including salted caramel tart, pistachio pavlova, and chocolate mud cake.

This can be washed down with some of the finest drops from winemakers on both sides of the Tasman, with labels such as Pinot Gris from the Adelaide Hills; Barossa Valley Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand.

Sweet-toothed members are in for a treat, with options including a salted caramel tart.
Sweet-toothed members are in for a treat, with options including a salted caramel tart.

Breakfast and all-day menus will rotate regularly in line with supply and seasonality, while hosts will also make tailored dining recommendations to guests in line with how long they are due to spend in the lounge prior to boarding.

Perks that go “above and Beyond”?

Also on the cards for Beyond members are what’s described as “a carefully curated mix of exclusive benefits” to be detailed in the coming weeks.

Virgin has previously surveyed many Club members to determine what they wanted from the airline’s most elite tier, with Hrdlicka previously noting four clear callouts from the feedback, with members placing highest value on

  • a private space to work or meet with colleagues
  • dedicated phone concierge service
  • convenience and privacy moving through airports, and
  • complimentary upgrades

This broadly lines up with what several Club members told Executive Traveller at the time of the survey, which focused on The Club as an overall package for high-value travellers.

“It’s about having a better environment than the main lounge, much less crowded, a quieter and more private space where you’re comfortable talking business with colleagues,” explained one former Club member, a CEO in the manufacturing industry.

Virgin says that complimentary upgrades rated highly among Club members.
Virgin says that complimentary upgrades rated highly among Club members.

Flight flexibility was another item on the survey’s checklist.

“That’s very important for me,” said one Club member who flies between capital cities at least weekly. “If I’m on a 5pm flight and my day finishes early I want to move to the 4pm flight if there’s a seat, without paying extra.”

He cited a recent experience when changing to an earlier flight would have cost several hundred dollars, “which is more like the Jetstar approach than how you’d treat a high-value customer.”

Beyond lounge services

Virgin Australia has acted on feedback from its ultra-loyal frequent flyers, who asked for private space to work while waiting for their boarding time.

In turn, the airline has incorporated a boardroom into each of its three new Beyond lounges where members can meet with colleagues or take phone calls.

Its two largest facilities in the 109-seat Melbourne lounge and 91-seat Sydney haven will each also include a private office where members can quickly connect and continue their working day.

A boardroom is available at all three Beyond lounges.
A boardroom is available at all three Beyond lounges.

In keeping with its guests' desire for a quiet environment, boarding announcements will not be heard over a loudspeaker in the Beyond facility, replaced by a personal visit from a Virgin Australia lounge host who will advise each guest their flight is due to board.

Virgin's business triple play

Beyond can be seen as the third plank in Virgin Australia’s play for business travellers.

It follows the launch of the Business Flyer loyalty program for Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise (SME) market and the slashing of baseline business class fares to as low as $299 on key routes such as the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne ‘triangle’.

“With the additional airfare discounts we are offering under the Business Flyer loyalty program, on top of Velocity Points earn for businesses, it’s going to be very hard for any business owner to look past Virgin Australia when choosing a domestic airline partner,” says Virgin Australia chief Hrdlicka.

The new light and bright lounge interior is a stark contrast to its predecessor.
The new light and bright lounge interior is a stark contrast to its predecessor.

“We know that’s important for small to medium-sized businesses and corporates who are emerging from the pandemic more conscious of value provided by their partners than ever before.”

To further bolster its appeal to the business market, Virgin plans to increase the number of flights between Sydney and Melbourne – the country’s busiest route – "during peak business hours" to up to 35 flights per day from the start of July 2022 – the highest level of service frequencies offered since March 2020.

Sydney-Brisbane will also see up to 20 daily flights, with up to 13 daily services between Brisbane and Melbourne, plus up to 11 daily on services between Adelaide and Melbourne.

But the Club lounges at Canberra and Perth Airports won’t be coming back, with Virgin’s Chief Commercial Officer Dave Emerson remarking in late 2021 "regrettably, we just couldn’t make them viable."

"While Canberra and Perth are a really important part of the Virgin Australia network, standalone premium lounges in these airports are not commercially feasible."

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

If they don’t have a P1 lounge as part of the new Club those seasoned FF won’t be loyal. Put a $100.00 on it.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 389

Maybe Virgin Australia values high-spending corporates more than seasoned frequent flyers because they can deliver more revenue? Not everything has to be seen through the eyes of the frequent flyer and Virgin certainly doesn't have to copy Qantas.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

I lost count of the number of corporates that jump ship, even the ones that had disputes with Qantas kissed and made up, but then again they do have a shopping list in hand. The best marketing people I know just copy what the market leader is doing then do it better.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

Trust I'll be corrected if I'm wrong, but I thought someone at Virgin 2.0 said they were NOT going to chase the large corporates and government, but focus on the small and middle-market size segment?  If that's the case, then uber-frequent flyers (i.e. who churn thru, say, 2,000 - 3,000 SC each year) should rate pretty high on the invitation list.  Let's hope the increased 'transparency' paints a clearer picture.  

07 May 2015

Total posts 30

That is exactly what Virgin said, what Bain said and what JH said. But it looks like they've seen the numbers and the numbers don't lie. I think Virgin's much lower fares can help them win a lot of business from many companies, SMB and upwards. There were reports that this new 'Club' would need a demonstrable and attributable travel spend from most members, not just being some 'VIP', but I hope there is room for those super frequent flyers too.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

Your right B-T spot on again, if people can't trust a brand they won't stay with it.

There got rocks in there head, I know several people who earn 800 status credits in 2-3 months, have company access to which ever airline they feel like flying so nothing would stop them from getting P1 with Qantas and a lazy Platinum with Virgin. Sydney Airport has the overflow lounge upstairs that could be a P1 lounge and Brisbane has the smaller lounge down from the main lounge. Melbourne could easily make room for a P1 lounge as well, but anyway who cares when they sent the Platinum cards out last month they already told us there wa snow P1.

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 29

I'm going to fly Virgin on Sydney -Brisbane and Sydney - Gold Coast which will get myself 1800 status credits for the year (2 Platinum Cards). Then Qantas on the other routes for the year, considering VA aren't flying direct to places like Townsville till July 2022 that will work for me fine. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 108

Bert, how do you earn 1800 status credits from two return (J) domestic flights? 400 maybe. Did you offer to fly the plane for free?

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 29

@stmaus I fly those routes Sydney -Brisbane and Sydney - Gold Coast, 12 times a year.

We all knew this was coming, I'm glad Mr Joyce gave me my new shiny card starting April 2022 for the next 12 months.

07 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

LOL I'm P1 with Qantas am I going to jump ship and be a Virgin with no Life Time Gold and no P1.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

I think we are in a new era, airlines are handing out status extensions left right and centre without any hard work by FF, if VA don't reward the hardcore flyers with P1 as part of the new club I can see myself and others flying all 3 airlines Qantas, Virgin and REX.  VA's time table has really been shot in the last couple of months which has forced myself onto other airlines when normally that particular route would have been flown VA both ways. 

08 Aug 2019

Total posts 4

pretty sure I'm about to lose Platinum after many years originally QF then with VA. Disappointing to see such little effort given to keeping us

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 225

Fantastic news.

Pitched for the loyal customer who actually spends $$$ and modern relevant rewards for a broader cut of the market is very very smart.

Should draw big numbers and many reasons to travel Virgin especially because Virgins tickets are approx 1/3 to 1/2 of Qantas in J and Y, saver or flexi even. 

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 29

Taking a punt 0.01% of VA flyers would be able to use the new club lounge? While Qantas has been giving P1’s access to the chairman lounge?

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 503

The reason they don’t want to call it the club is simply because it is no longer the same product as the pre-take over. 

This will reduce the amount of comparison with what it was like before, particularly when some of the luxuries, exclusivity and privileges will be stripped.

07 May 2015

Total posts 30

Well yes, that's exactly the reason why. Not rocket science. Just 'Marketing 101'. It's a new proposition, very different to John Borghetti's The Club in almost every respect by the sound of it.

30 Aug 2019

Total posts 23

Not sure if relevant to this article, but on the 18th February, VA registered the trademark 'Virgin Australia Beyond'. While some of the registered classes are a bit of a mixed bag (health & beauty services, education, etc) one is 'Concierge Services'. Could this possibly be the name of the new VIP Program?

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 72

I'd be just happy if they'd open the premium entry again. Valet parking would be great too but not as essential.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Feb 2018

Total posts 10

Could not agree more, it was a zoo a few Sunday morning ago in Brisbane and the security line was though the terminal no premium lane

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 13

Just would like someone from Virgin to upfront about International Long Haul  resuming or their link up with United Airlines, I still prefer Virgin as my overseas carrier, can they be upfront and tell us a little of their plans, a little hope to us would be great, but fear won't  get a reply to this

All I know is consumers are getting sick of guessing what is going to happen. How to build a brand is trust, integrity, respect and being openly honest with consumers.

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 18

I'm a small business owner who is about to enter my 13th year as a Platinum frequent flyer with Virgin Australia but I have been weighing up my long term options pending this decision. I was hanging out for this as I thought VA might finally provide recognition for those who remain loyal in the long term - those who are spending their own money rather than the wealthy corporate folk who are spending other people's money. If I had chosen Qantas back in the day, I would have achieved lifetime Gold by now but with Virgin, I'm only worth what business I bring them in the current year and they'll be quick to dump me if I have an off year. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

... but with Virgin, I'm only worth what business I bring them in the current year and they'll be quick to dump me if I have an off year.

David, I reckon in nearly 25 words, you've summed up Virgin under the new management.  Bit sad really, but at least this aspect is transparent (even if not much else is).  If nothing else, it reminds us to keep focus on the airfare cost with Virgin (and in flight service), as little else will matter until the United Airlines partnership starts showing really tangible benefits.  Perhaps Qantas will lift their game (again) to but transparent parity from VA2?  

Or as Ned Kelly once famously remarked:  "C'est la vie !"

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

Qantas will up the anti I'm counting on it.

"That's Life"  

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 35

I’m VA Plat three times over. Certainly doesn’t seem there’s much in this announcement for me. Nor any reason not to now direct my spend to QF to bump up my status there from Gold to Plat. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

@vbarberini So you earn 2800 status credits a year?

I think it should be very obvious to Virgin that it needs some kind of 'Platinum Plus' tier, even through Beyond is clearly not that.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 5

If I stick to just VA for my travel, I easily rack up between 3.4 an 4k points a year. As there is still no lifetime status or anything more than Platinum (the extra card makes no sense to my circumstances) I will then continue to use QF for the rest of the year and keep on adding up to my lifetime status etc. Now I suppose Jayne is cool with that because she thinks the Chairman of BHP will jump ship and only fly Virgin whereas my small company and I wont generate enough revenue for them! Not if they have flown with Virgin lately and enjoyed the "benefits" of the lounges and inflight service, even in Business.

24 May 2020

Total posts 9

I understand the place of 'Beyond', and whilst I won't make that list, it does show the need for a 'Platinum plus' type tier, or at a minimum some form of 'lifetime recognition'.  I usually achieve a 1.5 to 2x Platinum with nothing to show for it, nor for being Platinum since mid-2013.  I've often though that I should go for a higher QF status by directing travel there once I achieve VF Plat.  I'm incredibly loyal, often paying more to travel on partner airlines (deservedly on EY & SQ) but for a few years and baring C19, the offering has been so 'inconsistent' and patch-work - Lounge access, status level with others etc.  I booked some flights with United to London only 3 weeks ago for travel at end of April.  I called the Platinum Service Center several times in the month prior to check on the VA-UA partner product that was meant to have been launched by now (according to VA website, PR, press-releases).  They just read from the website each time and now it turns out this won't go ahead in April, nor for several more months! So I can kiss away status, points and benefits and I get to sit in the terminal at LAX doing work for 4hrs.  I think Business people value consistency - reliable product (arrive/depart on time), reliable freq times, reliable quality (lounge, seat, food), reliable service.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

So True and an Honest take on it

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

With you on that, friend.  Will be interested to read your comparison of UA's Club/Polaris lounges v Delta Sky Club at LAX/SFO.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 114

We never know, while QF balances itself after this announcement, VA may still have another step to share. Why put all your cards on the table at once. New and appealing loyalty perks could be around the corner - remember, be new and innovative, not just polish and improve what is already there. This is now a new aviation world and QF is still in the 80's.

21 Jul 2020

Total posts 16

I was in the Melbourne lounge on Easter Monday for the first time in years, yes it’s been upgraded but I wish some things would return. No sandwich press or option for a toastie was shocking, had to go get the kids Maccas. Budweiser gone, xxxx gone. An average soft drink machine with most flavor missing. I hope it’s Covid issues, GC lounge was ok on the way down.  

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

I think the self-serve toastie has been removed as a Covid measure.  The removal of XXXX is merciful :)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

Was in VA's Sydney and Melbourne (common) lounges last Wednesday (13th).  One positive is the removal of self-service means only sensible meal portions were being served, preventing the few who would otherwise load their plates high.  What I did notice and enjoy was fewer people in the lounges, though I suspect that is temporal.  Travellor90 makes a good point.  To use a casino metaphor, perhaps Virgin are keeping some cards close to their chest (for now)?  Hoping for the sake of deserving Platinums (David QLD, UU&A and Ors) not on the FoJ list that some other 'casino-style' perks are coming their way.  Complimentary Valet Parking would be a clever start (but, alas, 'clever' might be in short supply in the VA Mothership?).

PS: Inflight means in J-class were better than expected, cabin staff service typically excellent* (comparable to that in casino VIP gaming salons), although the 50 minute late push back of VA888 deserved a better explanation than that given.  

KC
KC

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 26

Oh great! So back to the bad old days where the (now so rare,) seats available for points or platinum comp upgrades will all but disappear as “Beyond” members get free upgrades. 

It was always a huge source of irritation that these people commonly purchase cheapest fare of the day and receive the highest level of service and perks. I hope they adjust this in their new eligibility. I always buy full flex if I don’t choose business, and as happened to me twice pre CoVid, to get bumped to economy or offered next flight to accomodate a then ‘club’ now ‘beyond’ member, erodes any feeling of loyalty.

And as much as I enjoy flying VA in preference to QF, (certainly my wallet does,) I too would like to see some incentive after achieving Platinum to continue collecting those status credits.

And the lack of premium entry or, (security screening at MEL,) has in the last three weeks really tested me. 

Offer Platinums access to spirits in lounges, and perhaps additional food item selections accessed through an in app ordering system. A comp alcoholic beverage on board is another possibility. There are so many things that could be added as extra perks for platinum plus members, I just hope that this is in consideration, or the fantastic work done so far to make positive and fiscally responsible changes will be lost on people like me.

25 Feb 2015

Total posts 37

What do people think of these VA lounge refurbishments? I’m finding the fitouts look like a bit of a patchwork of old lounge & new lounge, with some rather gaudy choices of finishes in some cases and ironic replacement of other finishes in others (eg replacing polished stone with vinyl planks). Not awful but definitely nothing to write home about.

07 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

Love It “Looking after their Ultra Loyal Customers” but I know how many flights and how revenue some of those people are worth. Let’s be honest here, when your setting a business up for sale especially an airline business what will be the markers to look for in a business? How many Beyond, Platinums, Golds, profitability and long term viability. O and I forgot the worth of Velocity, one Beyond person said it’s worth $500,000,000.00 currently.

Oh lordy, the whinging and whining in these comments. Typing this from the PER lounge, enjoying a tasty lunch, snacks, cheese and wine. Wife and I are both PT, love the service, love the lounge, love the economy X upgrade and occasional business upgrade. Life's good, pour another glass, take a chill pill and if Virgin is not good enough for you then buzz off to Qantas so there's more upgrades available to mediocre plebs like me.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Nov 2017

Total posts 16

I'll be happier when they re-open the express entry at SYD. These are the things that make a difference for me. I fly a great deal but unless you are delayed or have a painful transit you shouldn't need too much lounge time. 

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 225

Virgin Tragic 

They won’t because the tickets are 3 times what they are in Qantas compared to Virgin.

And it’s next to impossible to get a reward seat. 

Virgin is the sweet spot for travel that’s for sure.

Rumour has it the lounge is empty no one is using it, things will get interesting in May - June to see how many people are flying which will affect revenue for all airlines. Silly idea but maybe VA could add the top 30 - 40 flyers into the Beyond lounge as a Beyond Platinum perk, add an extra row in business, give economy x a free snack (sandwich, protein cookie).

The other interesting challenge is looking after your existing customers and then trying to get Qantas P1's to come over to the other side, reminds myself of the old Pepsi - Coke wars for volume, it's all a matter of time.


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