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Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.
Private airport limousine transfers, ‘anytime access’ to invitation-only lounges and free upgrades from economy to business class – just some of the benefits provided to members of The Club, Virgin Australia’s secret and invitation-only VIP frequent flyer tier to rival the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
Reserved for the airline’s most highly-valued passengers including A-list celebrities, CEOs and those with a great deal of input over a company’s travel policies, membership in The Club can only be granted by Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti and lasts for two years at a time.
That’s a very tough list to crack, so if you’re stuck on the outside of the Inner Sanctum, here’s what we can reveal about The Club.
Virgin Australia’s The Club: lounge access
No doubt the most coveted benefit is access to Virgin Australia’s private The Club lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra domestic airports, with Perth joining that list from late 2015.
Members can stop by at any time with two adult guests in tow – whether or not they’re flying that day – or can be joined by three guests in Virgin Australia’s ‘regular’ lounges for Gold and Platinum members.
You’ll find The Club lounges tucked away behind doors simply marked ‘private’, such as adjacent to the main lounge entrance in Canberra (below), or through a white door and up a secret staircase immediately after clearing security at the airline’s Premium Entry facility in Sydney.
Internationally, Virgin Australia can request access to two private rooms hidden within the Star Alliance Los Angeles first class lounge for VIPs travelling home to Sydney or Brisbane, plus the same entitlements as Velocity Platinum members in other ports…
According to the Virgin Australia website, these elite travellers can also nominate their spouse or partner for their own membership in The Club, while their executive or personal assistant can nab free Velocity Platinum status.
The Club: free business class upgrades
Every 24 months, cardholders in The Club are given eight free upgrades from economy to business class when travelling on a Virgin Australia domestic Flexi fare.
Similar to the complimentary upgrades given to Velocity Platinum guests – who receive four upgrades every 12 months or the same eight over 24 months of continued Platinum membership – the freebies are offered only when a business class seat can be booked on the same flight using Velocity Points.
Members of The Club must be travelling to redeem a free upgrade, although can redeem a second upgrade credit to cover a companion joining them on the same flight, including on Virgin Australia’s A330 flights to Perth and their angled-flat beds in business class.
Upgrades can be redeemed over the phone after booking an economy Flexi ticket, in The Club before the flight or at the priority check-in desks in Hobart, where Virgin doesn’t have its own lounge for VIPs or regular Velocity members.
Virgin Australia’s The Club: free limousine transfers
As the Virgin Australia website continues to detail, complimentary limousine transfers are offered to VIPs travelling on the airline’s east-west flights – that’s between Perth and either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – with no mention of a minimum fare type.
That means a member of The Club could book a return economy Flexi fare from Sydney to Perth, redeem two of their eight free business class upgrades to cover the return trip, and then also nab free limousine airport transfers at each end: all for the price of an economy ticket.
Free chauffeur-driven cars are also offered when travelling internationally to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi with Virgin Australia – again, with no mention of a minimum fare class – with the inclusive driving distances boosted to 100km in every city for both domestic and international bookings.
And if the member is connecting from a domestic to an international Virgin Australia flight (or vice versa) at an Australian airport – such when travelling from Perth to Los Angeles via Sydney – a private transfer is also offered between terminals in place of the regular bus or train.
The Club: flight bookings and changes
Sold-out flights are no issue for members of The Club, who can book up to two confirmed economy seats on an already-full Virgin Australia flight up until 45 minutes before departure for domestic flights or 90 minutes before departure for international services.
Velocity Platinums also have access to this perk, but must make the request no later than midday on the day prior to travel – giving members of The Club the best chance of grabbing a seat to make any last-minute meetings or in times of family emergency, where a benefit like this can be priceless.
‘Fly Ahead’ – a much-loved perk of ‘regular’ Velocity members – is naturally also available to The Club members and an accompanying guest.
But unlike the rules for Gold and Platinums which ‘technically’ require that the same fare type is available on the earlier flight, if there’s a spare seat, it’s practically a done deal.
Virgin Australia’s The Club: more VIP perks
Members can contact ‘The Club Executive Services’ at any time of the day or night to assist with booking changes, upgrades, limousine reservations, general enquiries, special requests or anything else you might need – VIPs can find the number on the back of their card.
There’s also the option of a concierge service at various Australian airports and in Los Angeles, which CEO John Borghetti revealed to Australian Business Traveller in 2012:
"There'll be someone meeting and greeting you on arrival at the terminal and taking you through. It's to make sure the experience through the airport is all fine. And if there's any issues you need help with, well, that's what they're there for," he said.
Members of The Club also enjoy what’s only described as a “flexible baggage allowance” on all Virgin Australia-operated flights, and the usual Velocity Platinum perks including top-tier hotel and car hire status with the chain of their choice.
Have you been inside Virgin Australia’s The Club Lounges or Qantas’ Chairman’s Lounges? If so, which have you seen and what was waiting for you inside?
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