Virgin Australia's Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers will finally gain access to airport lounges when travelling on some Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines flights from next month, as the airlines expand their existing partnership from July 2 2018.
However, in most cases, including on flights between Australia/New Zealand and Greater China, Velocity Gold and Platinum members will still largely be without airport lounge access.
On the brighter side, benefits like priority check-in, priority boarding and extra checked baggage are more widely available and will be offered on Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines too, as Virgin Australia also expands its codeshare network to cover more destinations in Greater China.
There's benefit for members of Fortune Wings Club travelling with Virgin Australia as well: but as the partnership between Virgin and the HNA Group covers five distinct airlines, here's how it all works on an airline-by-airline basis, when all these new perks kick in from July 2nd.
Velocity Frequent Flyer + Hainan Airlines
Virgin Australia will begin by codesharing on Hainan Airlines' flights from Sydney to Xi'an, Changsha and Haikou; from Melbourne to Xi'an and Changsha; from Brisbane to Shenzhen and from Cairns to Shenzhen, which travellers will be able to book on a VA flight number.
This will allow Velocity members to earn Velocity points and status credits at the same rates as though they were sitting aboard a Virgin Australia flight – although Velocity's existing agreement with Hainan Airlines also allows this when booked on an HU flight number, so it won't be a case of 'missing out' if you book the alternative flight number, unless you book a fare that doesn't earn points.
Whether you book these flights under the HU or VA flight numbers, Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum members will be eligible for priority check-in, and can bring an additional checked bag of up to 32kg in business class or 23kg in economy class.
These benefits apply on all flights between and within Australia, New Zealand and Greater China, with Velocity Gold and Platinum members also gaining priority boarding, and access to Hainan Airlines' domestic lounges only, in Beijing (T1 only), Xi'an, Guangzhou, Urumqi, Taiyuan and Haikou when travelling on flights operated by Hainan Airlines.
Lounge access when flying Hainan Airlines internationally, including on flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, remains unavailable to Velocity Gold and Platinum members, however.
Velocity Frequent Flyer + Hong Kong Airlines
On all Hong Kong Airlines flights – except those between Hong Kong and North America – benefits for Velocity Silver members will include priority check-in and an additional checked bag of 32kg in business class or 23kg in economy class.
Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders receive priority boarding in addition to those perks, plus access to Hong Kong Airlines' lounges in Hong Kong, such as the airline's modern Club Autus Lounge.
AusBT review: Hong Kong Airlines' Club Autus Lounge, Hong Kong
That's great when you're flying from Hong Kong, but when you're flying from anywhere else to Hong Kong, there's still no lounge access for Velocity Gold and Platinum members.
This includes Hong Kong Airlines' flights from the Gold Coast – at least, until these flights cease on October 28 2018 – where even business class passengers don't get lounge access, despite Virgin Australia operating a lounge at the same airport terminal.
Velocity Frequent Flyer + Beijing Capital Airlines, Tianjin Airlines
Virgin's upgraded partnership with Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines covers flights between Australia, New Zealand and Greater China only, on which Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum cardholders gain priority check-in and an extra checked bag of 32kg in business class or 23kg in economy class.
As expected, Velocity Gold and Platinum members will also be entitled to priority boarding, but lounge access for Velocity members flying with these two carriers will not be available.
Fortune Wings Club + Virgin Australia
Members of the Fortune Wings Club program – HNA Group's frequent flyer scheme covering the foreign airlines above – will gain some limited lounge access benefits when travelling with Virgin Australia.
This includes access to all Virgin Australia domestic lounges prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights for Fortune Wings Club Platinum and Gold members, along with access to international lounges when flying with Virgin Australia between Sydney or Melbourne and Hong Kong.
Across all these partner airlines, the new benefits for Velocity and Fortune Wings Club members are available to travellers from July 2 2018, with Virgin Australia's expanded codeshare flight network with Hainan Airlines going on sale from June 21 2018 for travel from July 2nd, also.
In September of the same year, the partnership expanded to permit Velocity members to book Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Beijing Capital Airlines flights using Velocity points – although not flights with Tianjin Airlines, which remain unavailable to Velocity members.
Further improvements this year saw Velocity Frequent Flyer add points-based bookings with Hainan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines to the Velocity website, avoiding the need for members to call to book a reward flight, although Beijing Capital Airlines reward flights still require a phone call.