Virgin Australia frequent flyers can now earn points while they talk, text, browse, email and roam, with the airline signing up Optus as the latest partner for the Velocity rewards program.
The telco is offering up to 40,000 Velocity points across its range of mobile plans for smartphones, tablets and watches, including SIM-only plans and data SIM packages, for both new and existing customers through to 9 December 2019. After that date these special introductory rates are halved to a maximum of 20,000 Velocity points.
However, there are no Velocity points for broadband and NBN services or Optus' business plans.
The mobile packages are also focused on a plan-based rather than dollar-based spend, and don't attract additional Velocity points for add-ons such as data roaming packages.
Optus in, BP out
Optus was previously a Qantas Frequent Flyer partner from September 2011 through to June 2015, with the telco's customers able to earn up to two Qantas Frequent Flyer Points for every dollar spent on phones, plans, broadband Internet and additional services. Optus ended that arrangement to focus on its own Optus Yes Rewards scheme.
However, Virgin's next Velocity announcement may not be such a cheery one, with long-standing partner BP switching its allegiance to Qantas as part of the early 2020 Australian launch of its BP Rewards loyalty program.
This will allow customers buying petrol, drinks or snacks at one of 1,400 BP service stations around Australia to collect BP Rewards points, which can be applied as a cash discount at BP outlets, or to pocket Qantas Points directly at an as-yet-undisclosed earning rate. Additionally, BP Plus fuel cards "will become the exclusive fuel partner" of the Qantas Business Rewards program.
Virgin and Velocity have reportedly been working to stitch up a replacement deal with a competing petrol provider.
Virgin Australia is also moving to take back full ownership and control of its Velocity loyalty program by purchasing the 35% stake of Affinity Equity Partners, which bought into the program in 2014 for A$335 million. The buyback is estimated to cost $700 million, which would see Velocity valued in total at around A$2 billion.
A new trajectory for Velocity
"We're thrilled to buy back the Velocity business and bring it back under the airline," Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah says. "Velocity, with its 10 million members, is a very important part of our future."
The decision demonstrates Scurrah's confidence in the longer-term proposition for Virgin Australia and growing Velocity as part of that future. Loyalty programs are usually a pillar of strength for airlines – in the 2018-2019 financial year Velocity reported pre-tax earnings of A$122.2 million (up 12% over the previous year).
Velocity members were also wary of sell-off plans, fearing that the program's core benefits – especially when it comes to the earn-and-burn equation and redeeming points for seats – might slowly be watered down by non-airline stakeholders.
Scurrah says the buy-back "allows us to move from a very successful member acquisition phase to one focused on improving the engagement and earnings quality of those members."
As exclusively reported by Executive Traveller earlier this week, Virgin is now considering the introduction of a paid subscription service for Velocity Frequent Flyer members which would unlock a range of additional perks and services for an annual fee.
Some of the mooted 'beyond status' benefits include early access to sales, discounts on non-sale fares, a 'concierge' to help assist members with finding points-based reward seats, bonus Velocity points and status credits and discounts on inflight WiFi