Uncertainty over the shape of the Bain-owned Virgin Australia 2.0 continues to cloud the airline's prospects for business travellers and frequent flyers, and spark renewed interest in a Qantas status match for top-tier members of Virgin's Velocity Frequent Flyer program.
Despite promises by Bain Capital that "Virgin Australia will not be repositioned as a low-cost carrier" – adopting instead a mid-market "hybrid" position – the rebooted airline will be a very different proposition to its former self.
Bain's Virgin will relaunch in November with fewer aircraft, a smaller domestic network, no international flights, and the prospects of a pared-back lounge and business class offering.
So what are the options for Velocity Platinum and Gold members seeking a status match to Qantas Platinum and Gold?
Is there a Qantas-Virgin status match?
At the time of writing, there's no 'open to everyone' status match from Virgin's Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
However, Qantas does offer what's called a 'status challenge' for Velocity members which fast-tracks Qantas status.
Called the Qantas Tier Accelerator, it's not widely publicised and operates on more of an invitation-only basis.
Frequent flyers from competing airlines have to request entry to the Qantas Tier Accelerator program and prove they are a worthy catch for Qantas, based on their previous bookings (this is, understandably, to weed out the freeloaders).
What is Qantas Tier Accelerator?
The Qantas Tier Accelerator provides a fast track to Qantas Frequent Flyer status for members of competing airline loyalty programs, among them Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme.
Unlike a direct status match, you don't just send through a copy of your Velocity Gold or Platinum card and voila, automatically receive a Qantas Gold or Platinum card in return.
Instead, the Qantas Tier Accelerator program follows a 'status challenge' model: you still need to take some Qantas flights and clock up a quota of Qantas status credits in order to earn your newly-minted card.
However, the Qantas Tier Accelerator slashes the number of status credits needed to ascend the Qantas Frequent Flyer ladder to well below the usual threshold, and that's what makes this such a valuable shortcut.
Turning Velocity Gold, Platinum into Qantas Gold
Qantas considers that the core perks of both Velocity Gold and Velocity Platinum – such as lounge access, priority checkin and boarding, and a higher checked luggage allowance – are on par with Qantas Gold.
This makes Gold is the default Qantas Tier Accelerator target for Virgin Australia frequent flyers – and it's arguably the sweet spot, because it puts a solid set of practical benefits within easy reach.
For domestic flights, Qantas Gold is a fairly straight match against Velocity Gold; and when it comes to international travel, your Qantas Gold card gets you into the overseas business class lounges of not only Qantas but Oneworld partner airlines such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, JAL and Malaysia Airlines.
Applying for the Qantas Tier Accelerator
Qantas doesn't promote its Tier Accelerator program, so it's up to you to take the initiative: you need to contact Qantas and make the strongest case as to why you should be offered a shot at the Tier Accelerator.
Again, this is different to the usual 'open to everyone' public status match – Qantas is understandably very strict when it comes to deciding which frequent flyers are 'worthy' of the offer.
Invitations to take part in the Qantas Tier Accelerator program are made on a case-by-case basis and entirely at the airline's discretion.
To stand the best chance of qualifying you'll want to be armed with a recent copy of your Velocity statement showing plenty of travel with Virgin Australia (bonus points if a lot of that travel was in business class, and also if your activity shows a regular flying pattern rather than just a few sporadic trips). This is a weed out freeloading status-seekers who have done relatively little flying.
You'll then need to contact the Qantas Frequent Flyer team (on 13 1131 in Australia, or +61 29433 2329 from overseas, or via email at [email protected]).
Express your interest in the Qantas Tier Accelerator program and make your case as to why you'd be a 'good catch' for Qantas.
It's then up to Qantas to decide if you’re a customer worth having – as noted earlier, an invitation to take part in the Qantas Tier Accelerator program is at the airline's discretion.
Earning Gold status under the Qantas Tier Accelerator
Executive Traveller understands that 200 status credits is typically required to earn Qantas Gold status under the Tier Accelerator offer: a significant reduction compared to 700 status credits under the usual QFF rules.
Status credits earned through non-flying channels – such as buying petrol from BP service stations and shopping at Woolworths – may also count to your tally, so this is worth double-checking if you're approved for the Qantas Tier Accelerator.
The only caveat is that those 200 status credits must usually be racked up within three months of signing up for the Qantas Tier Accelerator offer.
Once again, be aware that you won't automatically be gifted Qantas Gold status during this three month qualification period – so if you're invited to take part in the Qantas Tier Accelerator program, make the most of it so you can lock away that Qantas Gold status for the next year.
Qantas-Virgin status matching in the Covid era
Of course, the Qantas Tier Accelerator was created in the pre-pandemic era when borders were open and flights were plentiful. You could easily lock away your Qantas status with a handful of domestic flights or a single overseas trip.
It remains to be seen how Qantas might adapt to this strange new world and if a more direct Qantas-Virgin status match might be rolled out: one which instantly grants Qantas status to Velocity frequent flyers for an extended non-flying period.
In the meantime, one Executive Traveller reader and Velocity Platinum member has advised us that through the Qantas Tier Accelerator program he was offered Qantas Gold status – with the standard 'earn 200 status credits in three months' target – but with an eight month period in which to activate the promotion.
This means he can wait until his travel pattern resumes, through as late as June 2021, before pulling the trigger to start that 90-day countdown.