Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program has gone into a month-long freeze, following a run on points which threatened to weaken the airline's already-precarious cash balance.
While Velocity members will be able to continue earning points via credit card spend, Flybuys, Ola ridesharing and more, they'll be unable to spend those points until at least late May, when the temporary suspension will be reviewed.
Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah said the rush to redeem points was sparked by a "reduction in confidence" once the airline's request for a $1.4bn government bailout was made public.
"When our original request to the government made its way into the newspaper there was a run on Velocity points that we weren't able to slow down," he told media during a briefing on the airline's decision to go into voluntary administration. "We need to make sure that we preserve as much value as we can as we get through this process."
It's estimated that some $2bn worth of Velocity points is in circulation, with Velocity counting 10 million members 90 corporate partners, along with airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Etihad.
The suspension covers everything from flight bookings with Virgin Australia and its partner airlines through to buying products and gift cards at the Velocity online store.
Velocity points that have already been earned will remain in members’ Velocity accounts, and the expiration of those points – which happens only if a member has not earned or spent any Velocity points for 24 consecutive months – will be extended by the duration of the suspension.
Virgin administrator Vaughan Strawbridge said on Tuesday that Velocity members and their points were "well protected", with the business itself being "a separate legal entity" from the embattled airline.
Strawbridge also ruled out selling the program of "as an individual asset", saying that Velocity would be offered to Virgin's new owner as part of the overall airline deal.
"Velocity is an important part of the group and it's intended that as we go through the restructuring process that we offer that up as part of the package... there is no intent to run a separate process to look at selling that."
Lauding Velocity as "an incredibly good asset", Vaughan added that the scheme was "a key part of how this business is restructured and comes out of administration."
Additional material by David Flynn