Executive Traveller exclusive
Virgin Australia may be going decidedly mainstream with its new mid-market 'value' focus, but CEO Jayne Hrdlicka says the airline will retain a VIP program with perks for its elite flyers.
In pre-pandemic days, this was of course The Club – an invitation-only clique created by former CEO John Borghetti as as an equaliser to the Qantas Chairman's Lounge.
Membership was reserved for the airline’s most highly-valued passengers including state and federal politicians and high-ranking government officials, business leaders, deal-makers and power-brokers, A-list celebrities and those with a great deal of input over a company’s travel policies.
The fate of The Club has been under a cloud since Bain Capital took control of Virgin Australia, and there are now signs that at least in name, The Club could close its doors and be replaced by something a little less ostentatious.
In an email sent overnight to The Club estimated 4,000 members, Hrdlicka sought to draw a line between The Club as an elite tier – which has always been formally known as Velocity VIP – and The Club lounges and associated 'executive services', which were the most visible sign of the program, while offering assurances that they'd still receive some VIP recognition.
"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," Hrdlicka promised.
"This includes the exclusive benefits you have enjoyed with our concierge services, flexible baggage allowance, preferential seating and reciprocal family benefits."
That said, it's understood that the most indulgent benefits of The Club have long since been wound back.
Hrdlicka didn't indicate if this "VIP program" would retain its affiliation with The Club brand or become a new invitation-only rung of Velocity Frequent Flyer, sitting above the publicly-accessible Platinum tier.
However, it seems the jury is still out – or at last unwilling to comment – on The Club lounges, as well as what Hrdlicka described as "the end-to-end Club offering."
"We still have many things to finalise in our program for you going forward," she wrote.
"I know that the future of the Club Lounges is a very important issue. Given the state of play in the industry at the moment with borders continuing to open and close and business still not being fully back in the cities, we are not in a position to make calls on how much infrastructure is sensible to carry forward.
"Once we have a better sense of the future of business travel, we will have more clarity on outlook. You will be the first to know when we finalise the end-to-end Club offering and the future of the Club Lounges."
Under Borghetti, Virgin's well-appointed The Club lounges were a haven for the well-heeled and well-connected, with superb à la carte meals designed by Luke Mangan and a top-shelf selection of wines and spirits.
The Club lounges are secreted away at Virgin's domestic terminals at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth, and in most cases are co-located with the main Virgin Australia lounge.
However, December 2020 saw The Club Lounge at Melbourne Airport fling open its doors to all almost anyone who'd usually qualify for regular Virgin Australia lounge access due to maintenance work being carried out in the main Melbourne Lounge.
While the catering is now standard fare, it affords most travellers a rare glimpse inside what was once a sanctuary of schmooze.
As previously reported, Virgin will officially open its new-look Adelaide lounge on Tuesday February 23, ahead of a late March reveal and relaunch of its new business class proposition.