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This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
Last updated January 2019.
If you normally travel in premium economy or are stuck buying Virgin Australia's economy Freedom fares, business class upgrades are one of the best ways to use your Velocity Frequent Flyer points.
Upgrades are available on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights with business class, with some fares requiring more points to upgrade, and others less points: typically the case when booking a higher-priced ticket.
When it comes to business class upgrades, there are seven types of economy and premium economy fares you should be familiar with:
- Getaway economy fares are sold across the Virgin Australia network and can be upgraded on domestic and shorter international flights (including trans-Tasman), but can't be upgraded on flights to/from Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
- Elevate economy fares appear only on Virgin Australia domestic flights – where upgrades are possible – and on Virgin Australia's LA and Hong Kong flights, on which these fares can't be upgraded using points.
- Freedom fares are the new 'economy Flexi', sold on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights, with upgrades possible on all routes.
- Premium Saver premium economy tickets can be bought on the longer Los Angeles flights, and can be upgraded to business class using points.
- Premium tickets are essentially flexible premium economy, and like their lower-cost counterparts, can also be upgraded to business class where sold.
For example, a business class upgrade from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Perth will cost you 9,900 Velocity points on a Freedom fare, but 30,000 points on an Elevate or Getaway ticket.
Taking a longer trip to Hong Kong or Los Angeles? You’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points from an economy Freedom fare or base-level Premium Saver premium economy ticket, or just 25,000 points if you’re on a flexible 'Premium' premium economy ticket to LA. For flights to Hong Kong, it's a flat 27,500 Velocity points to move from economy Freedom to business on the Airbus A330.
However, points-based upgrades aren’t available when travelling on any of Virgin’s partner airlines – including Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air New Zealand – even if you're booked on a codeshare service with a Virgin Australia (VA) flight number.
But in its favour, Virgin Australia offers confirmed upgrades as soon as you've requested them, provided there are upgrades available on your flight: rather than waiting until closer to departure as happens on Qantas international flights.
Here's what you need to know to turn those spare Virgin Australia Velocity points into a business class seat on your next domestic or international trip with Virgin Australia.
Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Getaway, Elevate fares
If you're travelling on a domestic Getaway or Elevate fare, upgrades with Velocity points can be requested from the time of booking up until two hours before departure via the Virgin Australia website, or until three hours prior to departure over the phone (13 18 75).
If an upgrade isn't available when you request it, you may be able to add your request to a waitlist for consideration closer to departure.
Upgrade requests can also be made in Virgin Australia's lounges between two hours and 40 minutes before departure for Gold, Silver and Red guests who already have lounge access, and at any time on the day of travel until 40 minutes before departure for Velocity Platinum members, including from other airports (such as to upgrade your return flight before taking your outbound leg).
When departing from Hobart where Virgin Australia doesn't operate a lounge, Velocity Gold and Platinum members can instead request a points-based upgrade at the priority check-in desks between 1.5 hours and 40 minutes prior to departure.
All things considered, Virgin Australia's domestic upgrade policy particularly generous, as in addition to scoring upgrades for yourself, you can also use your points to bump-up colleagues, friends and family members, whether they're travelling with you or in their lonesome.
On shorter flights like Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane, the asking price is 10,000 points per passenger, per flight on both Getaway and Elevate fares: equal to the number of points needed for a similar upgrade on Qantas.
That’s not bad value when you consider the typically-low cost of many Getaway fares, plus the benefit of lounge access if you’re not already a Velocity Gold or Platinum member.
But on those longer treks across to Perth, the number of points needed for an upgrade to business class is comparable to simply booking a confirmed business class seat at the onset – 30,000 points to upgrades versus 35,500 points to book outright, as we’ve previously detailed.
Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Freedom fares
Reflecting the higher price of Virgin Australia's domestic Freedom fares compared to their Elevate and Getaway counterparts, the number of points needed to upgrade from these is significantly less.
Book a Freedom fare and you could be sitting in business class on the airline’s short hops for just 4,900 points on routes like Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Canberra.
Like Elevate and Getaway fares, confirmed upgrades can be requested online and over the phone, plus at the airport for frequent flyers and paid-up Virgin Australia Lounge members under the same time frames as above.
Using Virgin Australia Platinum upgrade certificates
Velocity Platinum members receive four complimentary upgrade certificates each year which can turn a Freedom fare into a business class seat at no charge.
They’re valid anywhere on the Virgin Australia domestic and 'short-haul international' network, and are put to best use on those longer flights between Perth and the east coast: especially those served by Airbus A330s.
Not only will you get the most airtime for your free upgrade, but you'll also find the airline's latest 'The Business' seats on those A330 aircraft, with international-grade fully-flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat.
Internationally, you could upgrade to destinations like New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia (Bali), but not on longer routes such as to Los Angeles or Hong Kong.
International business class upgrades on shorter Virgin Australia flights
Heading to New Zealand, Fiji or any of Virgin Australia’s other destinations closer to home?
You can use your points to upgrade to business class if you’ve purchased a Freedom, Elevate or Getaway economy fare.
As Virgin Australia doesn’t have any international lounges of its own – instead using those of airline partners such as Etihad and Singapore Airlines – international upgrades should instead be requested online or over the phone, from any time after booking until two hours prior to departure.
Like domestic flights, Velocity points can be used to upgrade anyone on short international flights, whether you're travelling together or not, while upgrades can be waitlisted if one isn't immediately available.
Between Sydney and Auckland, you’re looking at 9,900 points for a stint in business class from a Freedom fare or 16,000 points from both Getaway and Elevate yickets.
Sydney-Nadi (Fiji) flights also fall in the same distance band and require the same number of points to upgrade, while more lengthy routes like Sydney-Denpasar (Bali) command 14,900 points to upgrade from a Freedom fare or 24,000 points from Getaway and Go Plus bookings.
International business class upgrades to Los Angeles, Hong Kong
While Velocity members at all status levels can move up to business class on domestic and short international flights, upgrades to 'The Business' on flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong are solely the domain of the Gold and Platinum frequent flyer.
But unlike Qantas which doesn’t process any international upgrades until closer to departure, Gold and Platinum flyers enjoy confirmed upgrades on all flights where available, but can again waitlist if an upgrade isn't immediately possible.
These top-tier members can also upgrade other travellers to The Business on Hong Kong or Los Angeles flights, but only when travelling together.
(If a family member holds their own Velocity Gold or Platinum card but the points are in your account, you could always transfer your points across and have them request their own upgrade.)
AusBT review: Virgin Australia 'The Business', Sydney-Los Angeles
Wherever you're headed, also keep in mind that not all business class seats can be snapped up with points – Virgin Australia intentionally keeps a number of these available to fare-paying passengers, while long-haul international upgrades can also only be processed over the phone, not online.
How many points you'll need varies based on your fare type, but on most upgradeable tickets (Freedom and Premium Saver), you’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points in each direction to Los Angeles.
Passengers on the most expensive 'Premium' premium economy tickets require only 25,000 points, however.
As flights to Hong Kong don't have premium economy, a straight 27,500 points will move you from Freedom (economy) to business.
Bidding for a Virgin Australia upgrade
Don’t have enough points or upgrade certificates to relax at the pointy end? There’s one last hope – UpgradeMe Premium Bid.
Travellers can bid for a better seat in the next-best cabin – domestically, that’s business class, and internationally, that's either premium economy or business, depending on the route.
As a bonus, upgrade bids are accepted from all paid travellers on flights to Hong Kong and Los Angeles – unlike points upgrades to these destinations which are restricted to Gold and Platinum members.
On these longer flights, you’ll need to be sitting in premium economy for a chance at business class, as economy passengers can only bid for premium economy.
To see what an upgrade could cost on your next booking, visit the UpgradeMe Premium Bid page on the Velocity website. Here, you can enter how much you’d be willing to pay for a business class seat and lock that figure in – along with your credit card details – up to 26 hours before the flight departs.
By 24 hours before wheels-up, the airline will assess your bid and choose to either accept or decline your offer.
If your offer has been approved, your credit card will be automatically charged with your bid amount – and if not, or if your card payment is declined, you’ll keep your original seat at no further charge.
Our final tips…
The number of points and status credits you’ll earn on upgraded flights will be as per your original purchased fare, so if you’ve shuffled from economy to business class, your frequent flyer bounty would be as though you actually flew in economy.
Whether by points, certificates or Premium Bid, upgrades aren’t available on flights which were originally booked using frequent flyer points – so if you've already forked over Velocity points to secure your seat, make sure you're happy with the cabin you've selected.
The only exceptions to this rule are Velocity Any Seat bookings, where travellers can upgrade using points or Premium Bid as if they were travelling on a regular (paid) fare.