This week's wrap for Qantas, Virgin Australia, Qatar frequent flyers

By Chris Chamberlin, May 1 2015

Business travellers now have access to the largest airport lounge in South America with the opening of LAN’ and TAM’s new facility at Santiago Airport, which also welcomes Qantas Frequent Flyers and business class passengers on the airline’s own Australian flights.

But if you are travelling with LAN or TAM in economy, you’ll soon fewer Qantas Points unless booking on a QF codeshare – while the Red Roo’s Optus customers will shortly earn no points at all, however much they spend.

Also in this week’s wrap, we compare supermarket fuel discounts and earning frequent flyer points on petrol to see how they stack up in value, show travellers how to grab a free Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card for their partner, and examine Virgin Australia’s new tie-up with South African Airways.

Finally, we zoom in on the five best credit cards for Virgin Australia Velocity points, and how the Qatar Airways Privilege can be used to earn and redeem points for Australian travellers.

How to get free Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status for your partner

Frequent business travellers often manage to notch up Gold or even Platinum frequent flyer status, but if you fly more than most your travels could also land your partner or spouse their own shiny frequent flyer card.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia provide this perk to their high flying elite, which lets their partners enjoy many of the same privileges as they would when accompanied by their frequent flying partner – such as lounge access and priority boarding – but when travelling on their lonesome.

Here’s how it’s done: Free Partner Gold, Platinum status

Virgin Australia: 15% off frequent flyer bookings

Virgin Australia Velocity members can book flights for 15% fewer points than normally required for economy, premium econony and business class.

The deal covers bookings made from today through to June 30 2015, although travel dates can be beyond June or even into next year – you'll just need to finalise your booking by the end of the financial year.

Discounts are only offered on Virgin Australia's own flights – either domestic or international – but not with its partner airlines such as Etihad, Singapore Airlines or Air New Zealand.

Fuel discounts vs frequent flyer points: which is better value?

Through the recent tie-up between Virgin Australia and BP, motorists may now be tempted to ditch the traditional ‘four cents per litre’ fuel saving vouchers in favour of earning Velocity Frequent Flyer points on their tank of petrol.

But are consumers getting the best value when paying the full sticker price at the pump with ‘free’ frequent flyer points on the side, or are they better off taking advantage of supermarket fuel discount vouchers provided by Coles and Woolworths with the purchase of groceries?

We take a look at the major options available to car owners including with BP and Virgin Australia Velocity, Woolworths/Caltex and Qantas Frequent Flyer and Coles Express (Shell) and Flybuys to find the best deal.

Read more: Fuel discounts or frequent flyer points?

The five best credit cards for earning Velocity Points

Using a credit card to pay for your everyday purchases is a great way to notch up points on money that you’d otherwise be spending, and so long as you pay your credit card bill in full each month, you’ll come home with all of the points but none of the interest charges.

That’s everything from your commute to work on public transport via Opal, Myki or Go Card through to your petrol, groceries, travel expenses and even those larger purchases such as furniture, electronics and whitegoods.

Depending on how much dough you drop and where you shop, here are the top five credit cards in our book for collecting Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points, whether you’re spending at home or abroad.

Read more: The five best credit cards for earning Virgin Australia frequent flyer points

Optus opts out from Qantas Frequent Flyer points

Optus will pull the plug on its partnership with Qantas as of 30 June 2015, under which the telco's customers could earn up to two Qantas Frequent Flyer Points spent on phones, plans, broadband Internet and additional services.

Australia's number two telco explained the decision as "part of a new direction" for its own Optus Yes Rewards scheme, which currently lists Qantas Points and discount movie vouchers as sole perks.

Continue reading: Optus axes Qantas Frequent Flyer points

New lounge in Santiago for Qantas Gold, Platinum members

Santiago now boasts the largest airport lounge in South America with the opening of LATAM’s two-storey facility for LAN, TAM, Qantas and other Oneworld passengers in the Chilean capital.

With space for up to 460 seated guests, LAN’ and TAM’s own business class travellers can proceed directly from priority check-in and into the lounge via a private security screening channel that reminds us of Virgin Australia Premium Entry in Sydney.

Eligible Qantas Frequent Flyer members and the airline’s business class passengers can also access the lounge from the main terminal.

Photos: New Santiago lounge for LAN, TAM, Qantas passengers

Qatar Airways Privilege Club: the unofficial guide

With free upgrades to business class, a ‘meet and greet’ service in Doha and worldwide Oneworld lounge privileges for top-tier Gold and Platinum members, Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club is a great alternative to Qantas Frequent Flyer for travellers heading to the Middle East and beyond.

And for less-frequent flyers who won’t make it past the Silver rung, you’ll also enjoy lounge access in many airports worldwide whenever flying with Qatar – including to the Qantas business class lounges in Melbourne and Perth: the airline’s two Australian destinations.

If Privilege Club piques your interest, here’s what you need to know about the program.

Read: Qatar Airways Privilege Club: the unofficial guide

Virgin Australia, South African Airways partnership

Virgin Australia Velocity members can now earn both frequent flyer points and status credits when booking and travelling with Star Alliance member South African Airways, including on its Perth-Johannesburg flights.

Also part of the tie-up: Velocity Gold and Silver cardholders can make use of priority check-in on SAA flights and can bring an extra 23kg of baggage in economy or 32kg when flying in business class, while Platinum members can also skip the queues with 32kg of baggage on any ticket.

The airline’s nine Baobab Premium Class Lounges await Velocity Gold and Platinums across South Africa including in Johannesburg (domestic and international), Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London, along with Lagos (Nigeria), Harare (Zimbabwe) and Lusaka (Zambia).

Read more: Virgin Australia’s SAA partnership kicks off

LAN, TAM cut Qantas Points on economy flights

Qantas Frequent Flyer members stuck in economy on Oneworld airlines LAN and TAM will soon earn fewer points on most economy tickets, with travellers reeling in as little as a quarter of what they do today.

It's most noticeable on the cheapest fares, which drop from earning one frequent flyer point per mile flown to just 0.25 points on June 6 with LAN and October 1 with TAM.

Midrange economy fares also see their earning rates halved – lowering from one point per mile to 0.5 points per mile flown on the same dates with both airlines, as below:

Read more: LAN, TAM cut Qantas Points on economy flights

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


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