Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer parents a way of pausing their Silver, Gold, Platinum (or higher) frequent flyer status during times of less-frequent travel that inevitably come with raising a child.
But just how generous are the airlines when you’re expecting children but also to retain your frequent flyer status? We pit Qantas Frequent Flyer against Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme to find out.
- Who qualifies for Qantas and Virgin Australia parental pause?
- What do I need for Qantas or Virgin Australia parental pause?
- How long does Qantas or Virgin Australia parental pause go for?
- What perks do I get with Qantas or Virgin Australia status pause?
- How often can I apply for Qantas or Virgin Australia status pause?
Who qualifies for Qantas and Virgin Australia parental pause?
Above all else are the rules around who qualifies for the airlines’ parental perks, and with Qantas, you’ll need to be a Silver, Gold, Platinum or Platinum One frequent flyer, and need to be taking at least six consecutive months of leave from paid employment to spend time with your family.
You’ll also need to be expecting a child of your own in the coming three months – or to be adopting or housing a foster child during the same period – or to have had or taken in a child the last six months. Frequent flyers of both genders can apply for Qantas’ ‘status hold’.
With Velocity, Silver, Gold and Platinum members of both genders can apply for a membership pause when caring for or preparing to care for a child aged two years or under with no formal requirement to be on leave from employment. Adopted and fostered children are included in that age limit.
However, you cannot apply in the one-month ‘grace period’ following your membership year which applies to those not meeting the requirements to retain their status, or if you’re a Velocity Pilot Gold member, such as via Virgin Australia’s Accelerate program or by corporate contract.
What do I need for Qantas or Virgin Australia parental pause?
In all cases, Qantas requires a letter from your employer confirming that you’ll be taking at least six months of consecutive leave to care for your new addition, which Qantas advised Executive Traveller can be paid or unpaid leave or a mixture of both, as long as the leave period totals six months or more.
Natural parents also need to provide a doctor’s letter advising of the expected due date or the birth certificate of the child after it's born, and adoptive parents must show an ‘adoption registration’ or a doctor’s note confirming the planned adoption date.
Foster parents are asked to show a foster registration form or certificate, or a copy of your ‘foster carer placement plan’.
Virgin Australia’s requirements are vaguer, noting only that members “may be required to provide verification to complete the application, at the discretion of (Velocity)”.
How long does Qantas or Virgin Australia parental pause go for?
Take out a Qantas Status Hold and you can keep your current tier for 18 months. Any status credits already earned this membership year will be reallocated to the next membership year, helping to retain your status as your status hold begins to wind up.
If you begin to fly more frequently during your status hold and you reach the requirements for a higher tier (such as moving from Gold to Platinum), you’ll be bumped up at that point and your status hold ended. The same applies if you get gifted Gold or Platinum status from a member.
Velocity provides a shorter six-month pause where status credits continue to expire, but after which your existing tier level is maintained for a further 12 months.
If you’ve earned enough status credits and eligible sectors during the pause to reach a new tier, you’ll only be moved up at the end of the pause – not during, as with Qantas.
Once you move up, you’ll then have 12 months to retain your newly-activated membership level, so you’ll not miss out in that respect.
What perks do I get with Qantas or Virgin Australia status pause?
Both airlines allow you to enjoy the benefits of your frequent flyer membership during the parental pause, so Gold and Platinum frequent flyers can still stop by the lounge or use the priority boarding lanes as they usually would, and Silver members also receive their usual entitlements.
Additionally, Velocity Gold and Platinum members can continue to book an annual reward trip on Virgin Australia flights where seats aren’t otherwise available, and Velocity Platinum members can use their complimentary upgrades until the usual expiry date.
However, for Qantas frequent flyers, if your status was a gift from a high-flying partner such as a Qantas Platinum One member gifting ‘partner Platinum’, you cannot pause your membership.
How often can I apply for Qantas or Virgin Australia status pause?
Qantas allows eligible frequent flyers to apply for a status hold twice in a five-year period – giving you plenty of time to recover from the first child before having another or the flexibility to have (or adopt/foster) a second straight away.
Virgin Australia instead accepts one membership pause application per 24-month period, and like Qantas, only one application per child.
That means you can’t apply for a membership pause before a child is born and again for the same child during his/her early life, but if you have a second child and your last application was made more than 24 months ago, you’re set.
Additional reporting by Brandon Loo.