Executive Traveller exclusive
Virgin Australia is rethinking the tiers of its Velocity Frequent Flyer rewards program, but loyalty chief Nick Rohrlach is determined not to blindly ape Qantas when it comes to areas such as a ‘Super Platinum’ level or even the additional of lifetime status.
In the same way that “Virgin is being Virgin”, Rohrlach says “the cool thing for Velocity is that allows us to go our own way as well, to think about that differently… we're not just a copy of anyone else.”
Rohrlach, who is now nine months into the job as Velocity CEO after ending a decade-long stint as a senior executive at the Qantas Group, sees Velocity as being invigorated with a positive attitude akin to “a start-up with 10.7 million members,” in reference to the number of Velocity members now on the books.
“There’s basically a Velocity member in every Australian household,” Rohrlach tells Executive Traveller, with the airline rewards program now “the third biggest loyalty programme in the country” after Qantas Frequent Flyer’s 13.5 million members and the 12.5 million members of the Woolworths Everyday Rewards.
But Rohrlach is casting his net far and wide when it comes to finding ways to recognise and reward Virgin’s most frequent flyers.
“There are other airline loyalty programs out there, there are loyalty programs for other parts of travel and there are other consumer offerings from other industries as well.”
This doesn’t mean that an above-Platinum Velocity tier to match Qantas Platinum One can be ruled out, but nor is it a slam-dunk.
“That’s in the scope of what we’re looking at” in the tier review, Rohrlach admits, “but we’re not looking to just copy and paste what what anybody else is doing, we'll, we'll look at fresh.”
“I think there are many ways to recognise the people that fly with us very frequently, and a new tier is only one of those ways,” Rohrlach adds.
“I think we’ll find a very Virgin and a very Velocity way to shake things up a bit.”
Lifetime Velocity status – another potential Qantas equaliser – is also “something we’re looking at as part of that review,” Rohrlach tells Executive Traveller.
“Some people have obviously flagged that as an interest… we’re obviously looking at all the feedback we’ve got from members (and) we’ll probably go out and survey more members as well.”
“But first and foremost is making sure that Virgin is a great value offering and that it has a great value rewards program attached to that. So we of course want to make sure we’re not inflating the cost and then no longer being a great value airline, that we can continue to offer those great value fares.”
Value is also a touchstone of Virgin and Velocity’s appeal to the small business segment, which Rohrlach describes as being as much “Virgin’s heartland” as leisure flyers.
“I grew up with both my parents having their own businesses, so small business to me is the absolute perfect thing for Virgin – we have great value fares but we also have the service and the lounges that business customers need.”
Rohrlach believes Virgin is tapping into that need with the recently-launched Virgin Australia, Business Flyer program.
“We had a program in the past with just discounts, but now it’s both the discounts and the rewards, and we’re seeing people signing up for the new scheme at six times more than the old one, so that’s exciting, and we want to grow that Virgin Australia business flyer ecosystem and partner coalition as well.”