Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways ink ‘strategic partnership’ deal

The Gulf carrier is a surprising but solid addition to Virgin’s roster of international ‘earn and burn’ partners.

By David Flynn, May 10 2022
Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways ink ‘strategic partnership’ deal
Executive Traveller exclusive

  • Full ‘earn and burn’ across both airlines
  • Use Avios to book Virgin Australia flights
  • Reciprocal lounge access for Velocity, Privilege Club members

Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways are joining forces in an unexpected alliance which will see the Gulf carrier added to Virgin’s list of international partner airlines.

Why ‘unexpected’? Because Qatar Airways is also a member of the Oneworld alliance – indeed, its CEO Akbar Al Baker is Oneworld’s current chairman – and by extension, a de facto partner of Qantas, Virgin’s bête noire.

But then, Qantas has its own decade-old joint venture with Emirates, and Oneworld members can also be frenemies (cv: Qantas and Cathay Pacific).

Putting all that aside, the fresh partnership between Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways will significantly expand both airlines’ networks and loyalty programmes.

“Today is more great news for Virgin Australia and Velocity Frequent Flyer members who are hungry to travel internationally,” said Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

“Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways are both known for their award- winning service and joining forces means that together we can provide an incredible experience when travelling between Australia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and beyond.”

Virgin Australia’s other international partners include Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada and Etihad Airways, which will remain on the roster despite its rivalry with Qatar.

For his part, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker noted the airline’s “strong, long-standing relationship with Australia”, adding “this agreement with Virgin Australia comes at a time when it is needed the most.”

“This partnership will give Australian passengers access to the world that they have so acutely missed these past two years, to be able to reconnect with family and friends, and keep the wheels of trade moving.”

A joint statement issued by both airlines said the Virgin-Qatar partnership would “commence later this year”, although Executive Traveller understands it’s well on track to start in July.

Putting their best foot forward: new partners Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways.
Putting their best foot forward: new partners Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways.

Virgin, Qatar codeshare

Travel will be made easier by a joint ‘codeshare’ pact to extend across the full network of both airlines.

Qatar Airways’ QR prefix will appear on all Virgin Australia flights, enabling a passenger to journey all the way from London to Brisbane (for example) with Qatar Airways and then seamlessly connect onto a Brisbane-Cairns flight by Virgin Australia, all on the same booking.

Likewise, Qatar Airways flights to over 140 destinations worldwide will sprout a VA code, so that Virgin Australia travellers could venture from Melbourne to Madrid on a single ticket.

Virgin, Qatar ‘earn and burn’

Under the Virgin Australia / Qatar Airways partnership, frequent flyers will be able to choose which ‘currency’ they earn when travelling on either airline – Velocity Points or Avios –  according to which rewards program membership is entered against their booking. 

The same will apply to Virgin Australia’s Velocity status credits and Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club Qpoints.

With Qatar Airways recently adopting Avios as its rewards currency, this could unlock the ability for Qatar Airways Privilege Club and British Airways Executive Club members to stockpile Avios on domestic flights within Australia.

However, the exact number of points and status credits to be accrued on each airline, and indeed against each type of ticket – cheaper discounted tickets typically earn less than full-fare flexible tickets – is yet to be revealed.

You'll soon be able to trade in your Velocity Points on a flight in Qatar Airways' superb Qsuite.
You'll soon be able to trade in your Velocity Points on a flight in Qatar Airways' superb Qsuite.

The other side of the coin is that Virgin Australia frequent flyers will be able to use Velocity Points to book seats on Qatar Airways, while Qatar loyalists can turn their Avios into a Virgin Australia flight.

This will include award redemptions on Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways business class. 

Virgin, Qatar lounge access

Top-tier members of the Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways frequent flyer programs will also enjoy access to the other airline’s lounges.

For Qatar Airways, Privilege Club Gold and Platinum members will be able to visit any Virgin Australia lounge ahead of their domestic VA flight.

And if there’s a Velocity Gold, Platinum or Beyond card tucked into your travel wallet, that’s your pass into Qatar Airways’ premium lounges around the world.

However, Executive Traveller understands that at Qatar’s Doha hub, Velocity lounge access will be restricted to the same lounges as frequent flyers of Qatar Airways and Oneworld partner airlines – with the branded First Class and Business Class lounges for Velocity Platinums and Golds, respectively – rather than the more salubrious Al Safwa First Lounge and Al Mourjan Business Lounge, which are the nominal home of Qatar Airways’ own first class and business class passengers.

The Virgin Australia / Qatar Airways partnership is also going to turbocharge elite membership of Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club, given Qatar’s Oneworld membership, with a Gold or Platinum card set to open the doors of both Qantas and Virgin Australia lounges.

Virgin, Qatar status benefits

While lounge access is generally the most appealing and obvious benefit of status, there are plenty of other perks which will also cascade down to Velocity and Privilege Club frequent flyers – such as priority check-in and boarding, a more generous luggage allowance and a bonus serve of Velocity Points or Avios.

It’ll be easy to determine which perks your status attracts, as the Virgin Australia Velocity and Qatar Airways Privilege Club tiers are neatly aligned:

  • Velocity Silver = Privilege Club Silver
  • Velocity Gold = Privilege Club Gold
  • Velocity Platinum = Privilege Club Platinum

There’s certainly some irony in the fact that just two years ago, Qatar Airways targeted Virgin Australia for an instant status match into its Privilege Club loyalty scheme.

The wildly successful offer reportedly saw tens of thousands of Velocity Gold and Platinum members immediately minted as Privilege Club Golds and Platinums.

Virgin, Qatar and Qantas

So how does Qantas feel about all this? Executive Traveller understands the Flying Kangaroo has no plans to change how it treats Qatar Airways as a Oneworld partner, given that ‘side deals’ are a reality of the global airline industry.

But Qantas would certainly suggest Emirates trumps Qatar Airways when it comes to the size of their respective networks.

And it’s not the first time a Oneworld member has sided with Virgin: frequent flyers with long memories will recall Air Berlin was both a Oneworld member and Virgin partner before the bankrupt German challenger collapsed in 2017.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Jul 2013

Total posts 64

Wow! Didn't see this coming. 

I wonder what it means for the Etihad partnership longer term. No complaints though. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

Love It, and all those people who kept bagging me for the last 3 years saying it would never happen Qatar and Virgin.

@UpUpAndAway I remember back in 2019 - 2020 you said this would happen with the CEO of Qatar and Qantas at log a heads with each other and you got shot down in a big way. They should give you the 5000 status credit man a Beyond membership.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

@IaB I'll take the Beyond membership but you get more intel from the normal lounge with loose lips than the lounge upstairs, the photos I've been seeing there is only 1 to 5 people in the lounge at anytime anyway.

09 Dec 2015

Total posts 12

Qatar or Singapore airlines to Europe?? Mmm

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 569

And your answer is . . . . ?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1393

Surprised that their partnership with Etihad allowed partnerships with any other ME airline.

But the more the merrier as they say.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 77

Although, after international travel has been open for quite sometime now. We still can't book cash fares from the VA website with their international partners. This is crazy why it's a points only approach.

Would expect they want to sell more tickets of any kind wouldn't they?? 

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 38

Now this is messing with my head. Should I forget about maintaining my QF and VA status? and just aim for elite Qatar Privilege membership so that I can access both Qantas and VA benefits/lounges. 

AYP
AYP

28 Oct 2020

Total posts 3

Wow! I was delighted to receive the Qatar status match as a VA Velocity member. 

But no o/s flights on Qatar due to COVID-19. Would I ever use the Qatar QCredits they provided to Gold/Platinum members for the status match, and for Privilege Club members who maintain their membership at the two top tiers..? And no this partnership! I guess it will be revealed if QCredits can be used (in the future) as a Velocity member, or if one would need to maintain a Privilege Club membership too..? My head hurts! ;-) 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

Is Qantas a sitting (dead) duck? Once Bain list on the ASX  I can see Qatar having the most shareholding (Qatar Australia Airlines “Joke”), followed by Singapore Air, Etihad and United.

This is how Al Baker will square up with AJ, money talks. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 316

@UpUpAndAway

Singapore and Etihad getting involved in the Australian market via equity (let alone Virgin) would be very minimal if not close to zero, especially after they lost billions across most if not all of their investments around the world.  Singapore's prioritised investment is in "Vistara" (India) where they are buying planes for them, and the Indian market is a lot larger than Australia's.

SQ's dismal track record at their Australian investments by losing billions, including SQ's indirect involvement in Ansett (via Air NZ), Tiger Airways Australia (via Tiger Airways Holdings) and Virgin Australia is not a track record to be proud of, and I'm sure SQ's current management would be happy with a strong partnership with VA without the financial stress of a stake.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

@DanV It’s not always about the money making, it’s about foot traffic in Singapore. Loss leader airline and profit centre Singapore hotels, business. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 316

@UpUpAndAway It may be the case if SIA was Government run airline.   However, SIA's 58% stakeholder Temasek is a state owned commercial firm, where they still have to answer to their shareholders, pay taxes and so forth by state legislation.  Their shareholders won't be happy if they continually invest in money losing firms such as continual loss making airlines for very little if any return.

The same would apply to the 42% of SIA's stakeholders on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

@DanV To be honest I don't really care who makes money and who doesn't as long as the consumer (being me) wins on dollars and service everything else is irrelevant. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 322

Not just money talks, more importantly for we frequent travellers a decent standard of service talks.  This is a slap in the face for Joyce and TAA aka Australian.  Im still offended they  adopted QANTAS (which was was an entirely different operation historically) and had nothing to do with TAA/Australian   BA dumped Qantas  By the way  many of us are not into the Emirates bling- thats for the expats of England and their former colony now broke  emirate Dubai) and much prefer the well heeled yet honest and non-pretentious Qatar Airways.  Nothing beats the Al Safwa First Lounge in DOHa and Qatar's network, and their First Class is  up there with Cathay Lufthansa Swiss.  This is a back door for Qatar to pick up some of the majority Star Alliance traffic,  and years ago they used to partner with United.  Go Qatar, Go Virgin Australia 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 135

Velocity’s biggest weakness has always been partner airlines. Whilst I prefer Virgin to Qantas 4 times out of 4, I don’t collect Velocity points the same way I do Qantas points - I don’t bother so much with credit cards or insurance etc since there’s fewer places to redeem them, especially on the oddball routes that I travel.

This - and the United deal - is an excellent step in the right direction as it shows Virgin is taking new partnerships seriously. If they’re not going to join an alliance, I hope they continue to create a network of excellent partners.

bsb
bsb

21 Jul 2011

Total posts 82

This does my head in. I guess it serves QF right since they tied themselves to the Blingbus carrier which IMHO is nowhere near as slick as QR. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 125

I don't know who made this 'out-of-the-box' move: al Baker or Hrdlicka. But I know I'm loving it, and my commitment to VA is assured for the next decade. Between the quality product and worldwide networks of Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways (incidentally my two favourite airlines), and a reliable domestic partner in Virgin Australia (who for the past 18 years have never kept me waiting on the phone for more than a few minutes!!), I personally can't ask for more than that. Done deal.

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 173

What's the champagne like on Qatar Airways?

Seriously? Qatar is being petty, Qantas had the partnership with Emirates before QR joined OW. Doesn't mean QR can't feed to QF passengers in Australia. We've known for a while that QF and QR don't get along one bit, but they're in the same alliance, QR is just escalating things IMO.

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 29

I wonder if Beyond members will get access to the highest level of lounge in Qatar which is much better than the Privilege Club Platinum lounge and one of the best lounges in the world.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1437

Interesting if Virgin tickets get access to the qantas international lounges if flying in a Qatar flight. Qatar tickets will of course  but will Qatar cover the access costs for VA tickets 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Nov 2018

Total posts 3

I just flew QR MEL-CDG Rtn economy and QR were magnificent. I got good use of the QR gold perks from last years status match although I couldn't use the QCredit upgrade. VA/SQ/QR what a choice! I have 32 points to retain PC Gold and didn't think it was possible to get but now, that's all changed.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways ink ‘strategic partnership’ deal