This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
Qantas and Virgin Australia both offer basic perks to Gold-grade frequent flyers like priority check-in, priority security screening and priority boarding, where available, but how Qantas Gold compare with Velocity Gold on other fronts?
Australian Business Traveller pits the shiny cards against each other when it comes to earning that status for the first time, and then enjoying the other perks it brings like domestic and international airport lounge access, extra baggage allowance, and other ‘X-factor’ perks.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: getting to Gold
Fly with Qantas and you’ll take home the Gold after earning 700 status credits in your fixed 12-month membership year, or could instead earn Virgin Australia Velocity Gold after piling up 500 status credits in any rolling 12-month period.
On the surface, that makes Velocity Gold seem easier to achieve, but it’s not that simple: both airlines award status credits on flights at different rates, and Qantas also has a ‘loyalty bonus’ that can boost your status credit tally.
Every time you earn 500 status credits in a membership year from Qantas or Jetstar flights, you can choose to pocket 50 bonus status credits (or 8,000 Qantas Points) – so you only really need to earn 650 status credits directly from flying when taking that bonus, rather than the full 700.
With that in mind, a traveller always booked onto the lowest-cost Red eDeal economy fares would earn Qantas Gold for the first time after taking 65 one-way flights between Sydney and Melbourne or 32.5 return trips each year, based on earning 10 status credits per flight.
On its entry-level Getaway economy fares, Virgin Australia only provides five status credits per flight on the same route, requiring a significantly higher 100 one-way flights or 50 return trips each year to secure Velocity Gold.
In business class on standard-type fares, the numbers swing in Virgin Australia’s favour, with 10 one-way flights or 5 return trips between Sydney and Melbourne delivering Velocity Gold (earning 50 status credits per flight), compared to 17 one-way fares or 8.5 return journeys aboard Qantas, where 40 status credits are earned per flight.
The same is true on longer domestic flights such as Sydney-Perth, where just three return trips or six one-way business class flights delivers Velocity Gold status (earning 90 status credits per flight), compared to 4.5 return trips or nine one-way flights to fetch Qantas Gold from 80 status credits per flight.
Both programs also require that you take at least four eligible flights each year: with Qantas, that’s four Qantas or Jetstar points-earning flights (including codeshares), or for Velocity members, four VA-coded points-earning flights, again including codeshares.
Winner: For passengers flying on the lowest-cost economy fares, Qantas generally provides a faster path to Gold – but when travelling at the pointy end, Velocity Gold status can be achieved in almost half as many flights than Qantas on comparable domestic routes.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: earning extra status credits
While both airlines run ‘bonus status credit’ deals from time to time which you may be able to take advantage of, there are other, more reliable ways to boost your status credit tally.
For Qantas Frequent Flyer members, 75 bonus status credits can be earned when applying for a new ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa credit card by October 31 2017 and then booking and taking a Qantas return flight by February 28 2018 as a one-off boost.
That’s not enough to take you straight to Gold on its own, but when paired with the 50 bonus status credits you can grab at the 500-mark, means you only need to ‘earn’ 575 status credits directly from flying to reach Qantas Gold for the first time: the rest being delivered as bonus status credits.
Virgin Australia instead allows family members living at the same address – up to one adult and four under-18 children – to ‘pool’ their status credits to one other individual member: so a family holiday with your partner and two children in tow could quadruple your status credit bounty.
Family pooling is available whether you’re joining your family on their travels or they’re flying solo, and covers all status credits earned while pooling is set-up, whether awarded from flights with Virgin Australia or its partner airlines like Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways or Delta.
Separately, you can also fetch up to 120 bonus status credits each year by shopping at Coles, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor, linking your Velocity and Flybuys memberships together and scanning your Flybuys card at the check-out, with one status credit awarded per $100 spent, up to 10 status credits per month.
Winner: With more ways to earn bonus status credits on an ongoing basis, we’re giving this one to Virgin Australia.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: domestic airport lounge access
Qantas offers lounge access to Gold frequent flyers in 24 Australian airports, including those in every capital city and an extensive network of regional lounges in places like Coffs Harbour, Launceston, Karratha, Rockhampton, Townsville and more.
Virgin Australia instead has lounges in only 11 Australian airports, and while these include some outside the major capitals in Alice Springs, Cairns, Gold Coast and Mackay, Qantas has lounges in all the same airports and many more: including in Hobart, where Virgin Australia notably lacks lounge facilities.
Winner: Qantas, with a domestic lounge network more than twice the size of Virgin Australia’s.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: international airport lounge access
Along with its own business class lounges for international travellers departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, Qantas also operates its own lounges in Auckland, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Tokyo (Narita) and Wellington, and is currently constructing an all-new lounge in London.
Through its membership in the Oneworld airline alliance, Qantas Gold cardholders also have access to 650+ business class lounges run by partners like American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and more.
That’s boosted even further with access to Emirates, China Eastern, El Al Israel Airlines, Fiji Airways and Alaska Airlines lounges when travelling on those carriers.
On the other hand, Virgin Australia has no international lounges of its own, period – instead relying on approximately 190 partner airline and third-party international lounges where those options exist: but unfortunately in many airports, those options don’t.
For instance, fly Virgin Australia home from Fiji and you won’t receive lounge access, or fly with its partner Singapore Airlines from many major destinations like Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Zurich, Beijing or Shanghai and you’ll also be waiting for your flight out in the terminal.
You’ll also get no lounge access before its partner Hawaiian Airlines’ flights from Brisbane to Honolulu or before South African Airways flights from Perth to Johannesburg, and from November 1 2017, you won’t get lounge access with Air New Zealand either unless flying trans-Tasman or within New Zealand.
That leaves access to seven Alitalia lounges, 35 Delta Sky Clubs, 15 Singapore Airlines lounges, nine South African Airways lounges and eight Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses when flying with those airlines, plus lounges in 85 destinations served by Etihad, and in 12 international airports served by Virgin Australia.
Winner: With a broader network of airline partners and more consistency across those partnerships, this one goes to Qantas.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: domestic baggage allowance
Closer to home, Qantas allows Gold frequent flyers to check-in 2x32kg bags (64kg total) whether flying business class or economy within Australia, except on regional Dash 8 flights where the allowance is 1x23kg.
Virgin Australia only provides a comparable 2x32kg allowance for Gold members travelling in domestic business class. Book an economy seat and that drops to 2x23kg (46kg total), with an ‘overweight baggage fee’ levied for exceeding the 23kg-per-bag limit, even if flying with only one checked bag (such as 1x28kg bag).
Qantas’ domestic carry-on baggage allowance is also twice as generous as Virgin Australia on jet flights for all passengers – up to 14kg across two bags (max. 7kg each) versus up to 7kg total across two bags with Virgin Australia.
Winner: Qantas overall, although some regional flyers may benefit from being able to check-in a second bag on Virgin Australia regional flights where the allowance is higher than on Qantas.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: other significant benefits
With Qantas largely trumping Virgin Australia on key benefits like lounge access and passenger baggage, Virgin instead tempts with ‘Fly Ahead’: where Velocity Gold members arriving early for a domestic flight can change to an earlier flight at no cost (subject to availability), except on the lowest-priced Getaway fares.
That’s a perk Qantas only ‘officially’ offers to its highest-tier Platinum One members, and even then, only ‘officially’ when booked on a flexible fare: although exceptions to those rules certainly do occur.
Velocity Gold members can also receive their choice of Hilton Honors Gold or IHG Rewards Club Gold for a year as a one-off boost, and either Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star or Europcar Privilege Executive status, for perks on the ground as well as in the air.
Sydney residents and those regularly flying through Australia’s business capital may also appreciate having access to Virgin Australia Premium Entry, offering direct access to the Virgin Australia Sydney lounge from the airport’s drop-off road via a private security checkpoint.
Both airlines offer similar facilities at Brisbane Airport, although neither is linked to the main passenger drop-off road.
Winner: As far as ‘X-factor’ perks, Virgin Australia comes out ahead.
What's your take: which of the two airlines boasts the best Gold status for frequent flyers?