Virgin ponders Velocity VIP tier for 'super Platinum' frequent flyers

The Club could lose its invitation-only status and become part of Virgin's equaliser to Qantas' Platinum One tier.

By David Flynn, May 31 2021
Virgin ponders Velocity VIP tier for 'super Platinum' frequent flyers

Could Virgin Australia turn its invitation-only The Club program into an above-Platinum status level for the airline's most frequent flyers?

That's apparently one option being considered, indicates CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, in ongoing contemplation over the role of the elite program.

The move would see the Velocity VIP tier – which is the formal name for The Club program – opened to Velocity members who regularly earn the equivalent of Platinum status many times over, as an equaliser against Qantas' Platinum One status.

As a benchmark, Virgin passengers much currently rack up 1,000 status credits in 12 months to attain Velocity Platinum.

By comparison, on top of Qantas Platinum's 1,200 status credits threshold, continued flying to hit 3,600 status credits vaults members into the Platinum One category – which comes with added perks and a much higher level of service when flights are disrupted.

This leaves Virgin without a means to recognise and reward its most loyal and most active frequent flyers – and leaves those flyers with no incentive to keep flying with Virgin, instead of perhaps shifting their business across to Qantas to ensure they also hold Platinum status with the flying kangaroo.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

Speaking with Executive Traveller on the sidelines of last week's launch of the partnership between Velocity and 7-Eleven, Hrdlicka said "we are working our way through our VIP program design right now, and we will unveil it as we get confidence in exactly what it will hold."

Was there room in the new value-oriented Virgin Australia 2.0 – an airline which has staked out the middle of the market rather than the top end of town – for an elite invitation-only program like The Club?

"That's what we are working through right now, " Hrdlicka said. "We have lots of VIPs who travel with us every day and we want to make sure they that have exceptional experiences every time they travel with us."

Asked if the Velocity VIP could be opened up to 'super frequent flyers' who reach Velocity Platinum status many times over, along the same lines as Qantas Platinum One, Hrdlicka responded "there are lots of different ways you can think through a VIP program and we're considering all the options in what makes best sense for our guests."

Under such a model, those above-Platinum frequent flyers would enjoy access to The Club lounges before their flight.

The fate of The Club

Located at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth, Virgin's The Club lounges have largely remained shuttered since COVID-19 struck in March 2020, although Qantas has reopened all of its competing Chairman's Lounges.

In February, Hrdlicka wrote to The Club's estimated 4,000 members, seeking to reassure them that "regardless of what happens with the Club Lounges we will be maintaining a VIP program with the high touch services you know and have loved in the past."

Virgin's The Club was a sanctuary of schmooze for high-flying corporates and captains of industry.. Source: Supplied
Virgin's The Club was a sanctuary of schmooze for high-flying corporates and captains of industry.
Source: Supplied

It's not a stretch to see how those benefits could be extended to Velocity Platinums who might clock up 2,000-3,000 status credits in the course of a year, alhough this will be more of a challenge now that Virgin is no longer flying to Los Angeles or Asia, having ditched its long-range Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 jets and contracted to essentially a domestic-only airline with a handful of short-range overseas destinations.

Former Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti created The Club to compete against the Qantas Chairman's Lounge, with membership reserved for the airline’s most highly-valued passengers: including politicians and high-ranking government officials, business leaders, A-list celebrities and those with enough sway over a company’s travel policies to direct substantial bookings to Virgin and its partners.

Executive Traveller understands that one model being considered for The Club could see membership measured against the booking revenue which could be attributed to that member – a clear focus on the bottom line which would be in keeping with Virgin's new owner, US private equity firm Bain Capital.

What's your take: does Velocity need an above-Platinum tier, and should this be the same Velocity VIP level as enjoyed by The Club members?

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

This would be a really interesting development. I just hope Virgin is considering Velocity VIP as a competitive strategy against Qantas instead of the old reflexive "Let's do what they do" of the Borghetti era. But I could see access to The Club lounges, maybe also if they had slightly better f&b than the main lounges, being a good perk for Virgin's own 'Platinum One' tier passengers.

I'm certainly not the first person to say this but The Club lounges should become Virgin's business class lounges, a bit better f&b than the regular lounges maybe although Virgin's latest lounge menu is actually pretty good, maybe they just add a few extra dishes to it if you're in the business lounge, using different QR codes and menus. Virgin could then rebrand The Club lounges as Business Lounges and still allow access for any Velocity VIP members as a perk of their membership.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 160

Virgin needs to actually rethink a few things with Velocity such as introducing lifetime status for Silver, Gold and Platinum. Also, why is Bain taking this long to work out what to do with The Club etc? They were announced as the owner in July last year, they were voted in as the new owner in September, they formally took over in November, and yet plans for The Club are still "under review"?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 455

Quite correct, Gold4Life.  Nearly fell off my chair when I read:

Was there room in the new value-oriented Virgin Australia 2.0 – an airline which has staked out the middle of the market rather than the top end of town – for an elite invitation-only program like The Club?

"That's what we are working through right now, " Hrdlicka said.

It's not rocket science Jayne, trust me.  Make sure there's a form of 'landside Valet service' upon arrival at the airport (i.e. car parking, check-in, screening).  Go check out Virgin Atlantic's business class entry to their Clubhouse lounge at Heathrow.  Copy it unashamedly.  Platinum VIPs will have earnt it.  

I’d go only VA if they gave double platinums access to The Club, most people who achieve double platinum don’t over eat or over drink in lounges and are well heeled so it would be a no brainer to add them into the VIP tier.

Mmm. I miss the old Melbourne Virgin lounge. Nice views of the tarmac whilst enjoying a coffee and then straight through the dedicated security to the gates. But lifetime gold or platinum, now that would be exciting..

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 617

I'd fly VA only if they brought this in, most double platinums don't over eat or over drink and are well heeled. Looking at the  actual difference between QF and VA they both have there perks in different areas.

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 66

I'd be happy if they just opened the Premium Entry Lounge and Valet parking at Sydney and Brisbane.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 273

I know this sounds like we're all playing 'armchair airline CEO' and telling Virgin what to do, but the fact is that the people on this web site are the very frequent flyers, the Golds and Platinums and above, as well as business travellers, so Virgin should be considering this as valuable feedback on what these high-value "guests" want.

I really think Virgin has an opportunity here to do what so many people have been suggesting, which is to turn The Club lounges into Business Class lounges and also roll out the new Velocity VIP tier for ''triple Platinums" but drop the entry requirement to "double Platinum" for the first year to reflect the airline's lack of long high-SC earning international routes. Maybe make it retrospective for the past membership year or the past 12 flying months too.

Then make the Business Class lounge only for business class passengers and VIP members, which would include Club members. Put some extra dishes onto the menu just for those lounge passengers. This would give Virgin a solid competitor to the Qantas business lounges and QFF Platinum One status at the same time.

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 27

2000 to 2400 status credits makes sense when you compare QF ratio compared to VA tier set up.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 78

How does this align with “middle of the market”?  I know everyone in here ‘loves’ VA, but shouldn’t management just focus on their target market and make money that way this avoiding Virgin Mark 3 which will likely happen if they don’t stick to the plan. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 617

Mid market is spin for someone not making money, very rarely does anyone come up with a new idea that makes bucks / dollars, the best marketing people I know just copy what works or what the number 1 competitor is doing and in this case; QF with P1, Club, Life Time Gold. Flying yesterday on QF business and VA business they both had point of difference but was equally as good, I didn't eat on the QF flight like normal but with VA the meals size is a rub in the face when you compare both airlines.  

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 14

If it comes in, it'd be nice if they used pre-covid history rather than the past 12 months. I've been Platinum with VA for 11 years and gifted Platinum for most of those years but have pretty much given up on them now to focus on flying Qantas. In hindsight, I would have earned lifetime Gold with Qantas if I had stuck with them from the start.

26 Jul 2011

Total posts 11

I just wish they'd get their act together and introduce lifetime status already. I've been Platinum since 2015, and have suggested it in every feedback form they've asked me to fill out.

Not holding my breath anymore though

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 63

At least add a stock image that has a member with a Platinum card in hand, not a mere Gold! Fail

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2501

You don't reckon we would have chosen a stock image of a Velocity member holding a Platinum card if one was available? We can only work with what we have and what's available to us.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 63

David, as I'm not an online jourrnalist, have no knowledge whether that's your image or one Virgin gave you. I have no idea whether it's possible to get one of you or Chris to use and how much time or cost to insert it instead of the image used. I wouldn't think this is outside the realms of possibility, however in the imitable words of Game of Thrones "You know nothing QF WP" :D

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2501

As a rule, the classier and better-looking the photo, the less likely we took it LOL! And this is very definitely a classy professional pic shot for and supplied by the airline. If we had anything suitable with a Platinum card we'd have used that.

Generally we use images supplied by the relevant company (eg an airline, hotel) or licensed from a photo agency; in fact, for the feature image in an article we always prefer those because they look clean and professional, and less 'bloggy' than anything we'd have snapped ourselves (in fact none of the Executive Traveller team holds Platinum with Velocity, or QFF for that matter, as we earn neither status credits or points on flights hosted by an airline).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

I agree it would be a good idea. I may well qualify. BUT it will be hard as we gained most of our status by flying to LAX in J twice per year. Pre COVID!! Domestic flights as well but small numbers compared to LAX  

Will a code share will delta still apply?  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

I agree good idea. BUT might find it hard to qualify as most status came from flying to LAX twice per year in J. Per COVID. 

Will the code share with delta continue?  

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 617

I wonder what would happen if I emailed Jayne and said, I've hit Platinum at the end of July (Platinum in 4 months) now I'm going to fly Qantas and hit Platinum with them for the rest of the year.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 455

Oh please do.  And don't forget to mention this forum of Platinum members frustrated that the absence of international travel means some of us might re-start in September with Qantas.  But don't expect much, I'm told hubris in ingrained into Bain personnel (who always know better than their clients).  

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 617

I worked out I’ll be 78 status credits short by the end of June, I dare not mention how many QF status credits I’ll have by the end of June as well.

16 Sep 2017

Total posts 7

I'm not sure lifetime status would be in the best interests of VA, owned by a private equity firm. At some point Bain may (will?) sell VA to somebody else. Having lifetime status members could make it difficult for the next owner to tweak loyalty programs. Who knows what airline loyalty programs will look like in a few years time? 

It was only a year ago we were all speculating whether VA might end up as a LCC, an arena in which the loyalty program may not be compatible with the financial strategy.

04 Jun 2021

Total posts 1

They could easily do like Delta does: declare the status to be an annual gift for people who meet the criteria, rather than calling it “Lifetime status”. Keep giving it every year automatically, to the point where everyone treats it as if it were a lifetime status. However, that leaves them an out if things ever go badly enough to make it worth the PR hit of ending the program.


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