Silver frequent flyer benefits: Qantas vs Virgin Australia

By danwarne, November 10 2011
Silver frequent flyer benefits: Qantas vs Virgin Australia

This article has been updated to take into account the recent relaunch of Velocity Rewards.

As part of our series comparing the Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Velocity Rewards programs in  detail we've already examined what you need to do to earn silver, gold or platinum status with Qantas and Virgin.

Silver is the first step up the status ladder in Qantas and Virgin's frequent flyer programs, from the entry-level Qantas Frequent Flyer Bronze and Velocity Red.

50% points bonus

Silver status lets you earn more points than those base levels for the same amount of flying -- 50% more for both Qantas and Virgin.

With Velocity Rewards, you only earn the 50% bonus on Virgin Australia flight numbers (which means if your flight is with another airline but sold by Virgin Australia, you'll earn the bonus, but if you book directly with Singapore Airlines, for example, you'll get no bonus.) The one exception is flights booked with Etihad, in which case you'll earn a 25% bonus.

They're both very competitive, especially now that Virgin has raised its points-earning bonus for Silver members to the same 50% Qantas offers. However, because of how Qantas calculates its bonus on mileage only, rather than dollars, for an average, $158 Sydney-Melbourne flight, this means a Virgin member earns 1,185 points, where a Qantas passenger would only earn 1,000 points.

This makes Virgin's Silver level a little better if you're doing a lot of short-hop flights.

Virgin also rewards business class travel much more generously, again, because the points earned are tied to dollars spent rather than miles travelled. For example, a silver frequent flyer going from Sydney to Perth would earn 4,083 points with Qantas, or 10,492 points on a $1,399 Virgin ticket.

For longer economy class domestic flights, Qantas is better. For example, a Sydney-Perth economy flight earns 3,062 points with Qantas, but on a typical $158 ticket with Virgin, would only earn 1,185 Velocity points.

Both airlines are neck-and-neck on points earning bonuses for international flights, given they both calculate based on mileage. However, Virgin's 50% bonus only applies on flights sold with Virgin Australia flight numbers.

Other bonuses

Silver also gives you a higher baggage allowance with both airlines -- another 9kg for economy domestic flights with Qantas, a second 32kg bag for Qantas business class flights, or a free 23kg bag for every flight with Virgin.

There are also extra baggage allowances for international flights -- see the comparison table below.

Velocity Silver members can also jump the queue at domestic and international check-in, with priority check-in lanes for silver and above members. Qantas used to allow this but recently "enhanced" its frequent flyer program to remove this benefit for domestic flights.

Instead, Qantas silver and above members get one of Qantas' new chip-embedded plastic cards that allows check-in with a single tap on a wireless card reader. They also get the electronic bag tags that wirelessly talk to the luggage chute and allow bag drop without having to stand in a queue.

Qantas silver members still get priority check-in for international flights, though, where real people are still required to check passports.

Both Virgin and Qantas give silver members one free lounge pass each year to get their first taste of the luxury of the airline lounge. However, Virgin issues additional lounge passes for each 100 status credits a member accrues, which is a nice touch.

However, Virgin also discounts annual lounge membership for silver members, which is a nice recognition of the fact that to get to silver you do have to still have to spend a fair bit of money with the airline.

Virgin Lounge membership is discounted from $700 in the first year/$420 in subsequent years to a $300 flat annual fee for silver members. Qantas does not give any discount to silver members wanting to join Qantas Club.

Qantas Silver vs Velocity Silver side-by-side

  Qantas Silver Virgin Silver
Status credits to achieve 300 250 (200 until end of 2011)
Status credits to retain 250 200
Status credits lifetime membership 7,000 No
Other airline status recognition oneworld ruby yes, with Virgin Australia international partner airlines
How points are earned with flights 1.5 points per mile flown under a Qantas flight number (domestic or international), with a minimum 1000 points per flight.

Earning rates vary on partner airlines. See full explanation 
7.5 points per dollar spent on domestic flights.

1.0 - 1.5 points per mile flown on V Australia economy.

Earning varies with partner airlines. See full explanation.

Priority phone assistance Yes Yes
Free seat selection on international flights Yes (Virgin does not charge for seat selection.)
Advance booking of the best seats Yes Yes
Access to best seats 24 hrs before flight Yes Yes
Maximum access to award flights Yes (Virgin does not limit availability of seats for award tickets.)
Priority waitlisting for flights Yes No
Pre-departure upgrade request Yes Yes (domestic and international but only on Virgin Australia group airlines)
Free single-use lounge entry pass Yes - one per year. Yes - one for every 100 status credits accrued.
Discounted lounge membership No Yes - $300, no joining fee
Bonus on points earned on flights 50% (included in calculations above) 50% (included in calculations above)
Loyalty points bonuses 5000 bonus points every 450 status credits until 30 November 2011, then 8000 points every 500 status credits, up to four times a year. No
Ability to "pause" airline status for parental leave No Yes
Ability to pool points and status credits for family use No Yes
Baggage tags Yes, two electronic wireless tags. Yes, two standard luggage tags.
Domestic baggage bonus (economy) Extra 9kg (but no extra bag) Free 23kg bag
Domestic baggage bonus (business) One extra 32kg bag No
Domestic priority baggage handling Yes (though it often makes no difference.) No
International baggage bonus (economy) Extra 23kg bag to USA. Extra 9kg to other destinations.  One extra bag with V Australia to the USA, 10kg extra to other destinations.
International baggage bonus (business) Extra 32kg bag to USA. Extra 32kg to other destinations. One extra bag with V Australia to the USA, 10kg extra to other destinations.
Domestic priority check-in No Yes
International priority check-in Yes, Qantas Club/Premium Economy counters Yes (but Virgin Atlantic only and Air New Zealand when flying trans-Tasman.)
One-touch check-in, plastic card as boarding pass Yes No

So which is better? Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver or Velocity Silver?

If lounge access is important to you and you mainly fly domestically, Virgin's discounted lounge membership is very attractive. (Remember this won't get you into many international airport lounges, though.)

Virgin is also much more generous in terms of points earned for people flying in business class than Qantas.

Bear in mind if you are an employee of a larger company, you might have a company Qantas Club scheme available with very cheap annual fees (check our Qantas Club vs Virgin Lounge memberships comparison.)

On all the other points of comparison, the two silver levels are largely neck-and-neck, though Virgin's introduction of family-friendly benefits are a big competitive advantage over Qantas.

Verdict: Velocity Rewards is a clear winner for silver Frequent Flyers.

Qantas Frequent Flyer vs Velocity: the in-depth analysis 

  1. Which program gives more points for domestic flights?
  2. Which program earns the most points for international flights? 
  3. Which program gets you to silver/gold the fastest? 
  4. Ease of getting upgrades 
  5. How paid lounge membership compares
  6. How silver perks compare [you are here]
  7. How gold and platinum perks compare

09 May 2011

Total posts 294

Not something  that they advertise widely, but it seems as though Velocity Silver members also get preferential seating (i.e. front few rows of economy) even on the cheapest fares -- something that's usually reserved for people on more expensive fares if they don't have status.


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

You're quite right! I've checked that with Virgin and that is indeed the case (even though it's not listed on their Velocity benefits pages). Article updated -- and thanks for the pickup!

09 May 2011

Total posts 294

Also, I've definitely seen priority checkin through the premium ec. lines on V Australia flights...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 May 2011

Total posts 9

Nice touch from qantas. was about to lose my silver status this month but a letter arrive in the mail - we realise that you haven't qualified to retain your silver status, but we will give it to you ...cheers to say qantas are winning me back. The only benefit for me is not having to queue in economy for international flights and the extra baggage allowance in SYD which is nearly the most painful thing in the world.

05 Aug 2011

Total posts 1

Qantas also gives a form of domestic priority check-in... this was "enhanced", but added as a benefit as it always was.

"Should you have any specific requirements, you can use the Premium Service desk at our domestic airports."


QF Silver and Qantas Club members  have priority domestic check-in.

20 Jan 2012

Total posts 1

My experience with Velocity Frequent Flyer Program is ordinary and I think it isnt mature enough to meet other mature international programs.


01 Mar 2012

Total posts 1

Qantas- hard ball policies? dumb? or just mercenaries ?.

My wife & I are retirees, I an ex.CEO, QC member and Business Class flyers. We recently (Dec.2011) flew to the USA on a 3 months trip. A family emergency required us to fly back to be with our son needing urgent spinal surgery. At the time of this email we are still stuck in LA & despite paying AUD$12,259.40. for the fares. We were informed by there call centre staff that we would need to pay an additional $340 booking charge fee +$4,754 each (fare/seasonal difference) to change our return dates.Total anticipated outlay $22,450.40. We were also informed that "it would require a death in the family" to be given special consideration. As a family we are now resolved that after 40 years of flying (& mostly with Qantas) we will have considerable  difficulty to fly with them again, no matter what discounts they offer. Are we expected to pay for their CEO's costly decision to ground his entire fleet last year? .. are we the only family to be "held to ransom" by Qantas. They with Emirates now join the "we will never fly them again graveyard". We live in Perth, our children and grandchildren live in Sydney,LA, New York & London go figure Mr. Qantas...hmmmm? 

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