With the Australian Government approving Virgin Australia’s plan to launch Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda flights in March 2020, the airline will also forge a partnership with Japanese airline ANA, covering flight codeshares and Velocity Frequent Flyer points and perks.
While the plans are yet to be finalised and won’t be rolled out until March 2020 when those Brisbane-Tokyo flights begin, here’s what we know so far, and what travellers can expect.
Virgin Australia codeshares on ANA flights
As part of its application to Australia’s International Air Services Commission, Virgin Australia shared its intentions to codeshare onwards from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to 38 domestic destinations served by ANA, spanning 1,300 return flights per week.
This will allow Virgin Australia customers to book flights from Australia to their final destination in Japan on a single ticket, under Virgin Australia flight numbers – flying Virgin from Brisbane to Tokyo, and then ANA to their next destination.
ANA domestic flights from Narita Airport are also covered under the proposal, but will have more appeal with passengers breaking their journey in Tokyo and continuing onwards at a later date, given the distance between Haneda Airport, served by Virgin Australia, and Narita Airport, which is further out of the city.
That initial application to the IASC also hints of codeshare opportunities for Virgin Australia on ANA’s flights from Sydney to Tokyo Haneda and Perth to Tokyo Narita, requesting “bilateral codeshare services on routes”, plural, “between Australia and Japan.”
It’s hoped, but not guaranteed, that the deal will allow Velocity status credits to be earned on ANA flights, either on an NH code or a VA codeshare, in addition to frequent flyer points.
However, status credits aren’t always part of Virgin Australia’s airline partnerships.
Its codeshare agreement with Air Canada was limited to points-only for the first 18 months before status credits were added, and its partnership with the now-defunct Airberlin only served up status credits when travelling on a VA flight number, not an Airberlin code.
ANA to codeshare on Virgin Australia flights
In return for Virgin Australia codesharing on ANA flights, ANA will do the same on some Virgin Australia routes.
This will include the new Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda service, as well as a selection of Virgin’s domestic flights – particularly those that provide connections to or from ANA’s Perth-Narita and Sydney-Haneda flights, Virgin shared in its IASC submission.
As such, passengers visiting Australia from Japan could fly into and out of Australia via different cities as part of the same ticket.
For example, a Tokyo-based traveller could hop aboard Virgin Australia’s Tokyo-Brisbane flight booked as an ANA codeshare, continue their journey to Sydney on an ANA flight number, jet across to Perth – again on an ANA codeshare flight operated by Virgin Australia – and then fly straight from Perth to Tokyo with ANA.
As with Virgin Australia, ANA is yet to outline how its own frequent flyer members will earn miles and status on flights operated by Virgin Australia.
Reciprocal Virgin Australia, ANA airport lounge access
Through the upcoming partnership between Velocity and ANA Mileage Club, eligible frequent flyers will enjoy lounge access with travelling with the ‘other’ airline – and of course, for Velocity members taking Virgin’s own Brisbane-Tokyo flights.
At Brisbane Airport, Velocity Gold, Platinum and VIP frequent flyers will join Virgin Australia business class passengers in the airport’s new My Lounge, with similar access expected to the aptly-named “ANA Lounge” at Haneda Airport prior to the return Brisbane-bound flight.
ANA also offers a separate ANA Suite Lounge at Haneda – normally the domain of first class passengers and ANA Diamond-tier frequent flyers – although it’s not yet known whether Velocity Platinum and VIP members will have access to this, in the same way that these travellers can visit the higher-tier Etihad Airways first class lounge in Abu Dhabi.
Also at Haneda, ANA currently provides its own business and first class customers, along with Super Flyers, Platinum and Diamond cardholders, with access to the airport’s TIAT Shower Rooms after arriving on an inbound ANA flight.
It remains to be seen whether this access will be extended to passengers travelling with Virgin Australia, or to elite Velocity members arriving on an eligible flight.
Both airlines have outlined their plans to “implement a bilateral premium customer handling agreement … for high-value guests that are not travelling in business class with access to lounges.”
This creates the expectation that ANA Mileage Club Platinum and Diamond members will gain access to Virgin Australia’s own airport lounges when travelling within Australia – these tiers being equal to Star Alliance Gold, and normally entitled to lounge access – and that Velocity Gold frequent flyers (and above) can hope for broader lounge access with ANA when venturing beyond Tokyo.
Full details, of course, are yet to be confirmed.
Other Velocity, ANA Mileage Club perks
As part of these plans, eligible frequent flyers of Velocity and ANA will gain access to priority check-in, priority checked baggage and priority boarding when travelling with the other airline, Virgin Australia affirmed as part of its IASC submission.
Velocity members will also be able to use their points to book ANA flights, and ANA frequent flyers able to use their miles to travel with Virgin Australia, although the specifics – such as whether this can be done online or over the phone, and how many points are required for each flight – haven’t yet been announced.
Currently, Velocity members can use their points to book ANA flights only by converting those Velocity points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles at a 1.55:1 rate, and making that booking directly through the KrisFlyer program as both Singapore Airlines and ANA are Star Alliance partners.