Virgin Australia will add new 'carrier charge' fees onto tickets booked using Velocity Frequent Flyer points, increasing the cash component of a points-based reward booking by up to $460 per person based on a return flight.
The new fees apply to Virgin Australia reward flights booked from January 1 2019.
Journeys between Australia and Los Angeles are the hardest hit, with a $230 one-way charge applying to business class reward flights operated by both Virgin Australia and Delta Air Lines.
Premium economy and economy class reward bookings will see carrier charges of $145 and $60, respectively, per one-way flight on the same LAX routes.
Flights between Australia and Hong Kong will attract surcharges of $50 in business class and $35 in economy per one-way flight, while on all other international routes except New Zealand, the charge is $50 per one-way business class flight, or $25 per one-way economy flight.
Domestic flights within Australia and trans-Tasman journeys between Australia and New Zealand will attract carrier charges of $5.50 in business class and $3.50 in economy class per one-way flight.
Passengers making bookings for travel solely within Australia will also need to pay GST on those carrier charges. Travellers booking connecting flights on the one ticket – such as Brisbane to Hong Kong via Sydney or Melbourne – will pay that carrier charge per flight sector too, but with no GST.
As with genuine government taxes and airport fees, these new carrier charges will be collected at the time of booking, where a credit card surcharge of between 0.6% and 1.3% is also levied, despite there being no other way to pay using money, unless you use additional points to cover the spread.
Itineraries booked before January 1 2019 will not be subject to these carrier charges – including when travel takes place in 2019 – and carrier charges are not being introduced on any other Virgin Australia partner airline bookings, including routes operated by Delta beyond Sydney-Los Angeles.
Virgin Australia already levies an “Etihad Airways Carrier Charge” of up to US$300 per flight when using Velocity points to book Etihad Airways journeys, and this remains unchanged.
Earning status credits on Virgin Australia flights
In related news for Velocity members, Virgin Australia is also changing the number of status credits that can be earned on domestic Getaway-branded fares.
These tickets currently provide as few as five status credits per flight, such as on shorter routes like Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane, although flights taken from December 1 2018 will begin earning a minimum of seven status credits per one-way flight instead.
While that’s a small change in number, it makes earning or retaining Velocity Gold status a fair bit easier for domestic economy travellers.
Currently, it takes 100 short-distance Getaway flights to earn the 500 status credits required to obtain Velocity Gold – that’s 50 return trips every year, or a journey almost every week.
Under the new earning rates, passengers travelling on the same routes could instead reach Velocity Gold for the first time from a reduced 72 one-way flights, or 36 return trips.
Also from December 1, Virgin Australia passengers travelling with Air Canada from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal or Toronto on a Virgin Australia codeshare flight number will begin earning status credits, in line with Virgin Australia’s existing earning tables.