Virgin Australia clarifies frequent flyer seat selection under new fares

By David Flynn , August 11 2016
Virgin Australia clarifies frequent flyer seat selection under new fares

Virgin Australia's Platinum and Gold frequent flyers will continue to enjoy free seating in the front rows of economy under the airline's new fare system which takes effect from September 7.

Many of Virgin Australia's top-tier frequent flyers have expressed concern that the new scheme would see them pay to choose a seat when booked onto the least-expensive economy 'Getaway' ticket up to 48 hours before the flight (after 48 hours, advance seat selection is free).

However, a spokesperson for Virgin Australia has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that Platinum and Gold members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer program will be automatically seated in the first rows of the economy cabin.

Velocity Platinums will be assigned a seat in a preferential block from rows 3 through 6.

This of course includes the prized row 3 – the first row behind the business class cabin – with its super-generous legroom, which is set aside for Platinum flyers and members of Virgin's invitation-only The Club.

Gold-grade Velocity members will continue to be allocated a seat from rows 7 through 10 on the 'triangle' routes between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Travellers who wish to nominate a specific seat within that block – such as a window or aisle seat – will still need to pony up the yet-to-be-revealed fee, or wait until 48 hours before the flight to choose their seat for free.

The exact number of rows set aside for Platinum and Gold flyer will be done dynamically depending on the route and the airline's past record of frequent flyer bookings.

For example, a premium-heavy route such as Sydney-Melbourne could have upwards of the first 10 rows set aside for Platinum and Gold members, while predominately leisure routes flights – such as to Ballina, on the NSW north coast – would see fewer top-tier frequent flyers and so reserve only the first two or three rows.

Read moreVirgin Australia overhauls fares, Fly Ahead; introduces seat selection fees 

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 65

No clarification regarding elite members from partner airlines? Velocity Gold/Plat get frequent flyer seating on Air NZ. Guess this is not reciprocated?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 118

Whatever, still a slap in the face to your biggest revenue customers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 124

Still not happy .... Still going to have to pay to select a seat to avoid a middle seat or being in row 3 (the tables don't leave much room for the more, ahem, rotund gentleman!). Sure it's my choice but still irks me as a Plat to have to pay.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Old LCC habits die hard

04 May 2015

Total posts 249

So, if I have to book one of the cheap tickets I'll still be given some kind of seat as a Velocity Platinum member, which may or may not be in row 3, and which may or may not be a middle seat, unless I want to pay more to secure a window or aisle. Really?!

Given that all of the seats outside of row 3 and the exit rows are the same (row 4 isn't really better than row 25, especially with boarding via the rear door), I'd much rather be assigned an aisle seat in row 25 than a middle seat in row 4.

This whole clarification seems pointless too. The worst seat a passenger can get is the middle seat, and even as a Platinum, there's nothing to say I won't just be given a middle seat anyway, just that the row number on my boarding pass will be lower than everybody else who is also jammed into a middle seat. Yippee, can't wait...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

I think it is safe to say they have lost the plot and / or confused the travel literacy of top tier frequent flyers with the occasional holiday maker by implying / suggesting there's some sort of attraction about row 4.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 147

Agreed! Completely underestimated their elite pax travel literacy. Ridiculousness of these changes aside, this is absolutely an utter disgrace from a corporate comms perspective. What a comms blunder.

I've often found the advantage of sitting further forward in the 'frequent flyer zone' is that the travellers around you mostly know the drill – bags are put away quickly, seats are taken with tablets etc. in-hand and ready to go, which sometimes isn't the case with less-experienced flyers who can often only select seats further back. You're also usually served first from the snack cart (which can be handy if turbulence kicks in and it has to be put away, so you can get and eat your snack and then whip out the tablet or whatever before people further back have even been served).

Agree though on legroom: outside of Row 3 and the exit rows, the rest of the rows all 'feel' pretty much the same – I'd not rush to choose Row 4 over Row 5, or Row 5 over Row 6, for instance. Something further forward to get served first, perhaps, but if there's an aisle seat available with a vacant middle further back, I'd choose that for the extra space, rather than an aisle with a 'middle' neighbour further forward.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 118

I'll probably be less disappointed if I didn't get the snack than if I actually got it and remembered how litle you actually got...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Sep 2017

Total posts 30

Hi Chris,


I've sent numerous inquiries about this to VA, but do you know if they plan or going to start blocking row 3 for Platinum and The Club members only? It does not look good when you book a ticket at the last minute, only to be told that you ought to sit in row(s) 4/5, which are not that much different from all the other rows.

Cheers,

Alan

Row 3 is part of the Economy X product now, which Platinum and The Club members can select for free from the time of booking where seats are available, and which all other flyers can now select for a fee, also when seats are available. Seating here is first come, first served.

As a Platinum member, you can also select the exit row seats for free on domestic flights, which have plenty of extra legroom too.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 120

Hey Dean - yes totally agree with you (am also a Platinum member)  Only shining light here is that from 48 hours prior to flight you can change your seat for no cost.  Then again, don't think I will be on VA flight for quite some time due to this epic fail by Virgin so I guess only time will tell

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Exactly.

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Well this makes more sense to me at least. Still a shame not to have free seat selection within that 'block' of seats even if you're Platinum. But it's better than a few days ago!

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

Oh wow, is that it? I don't see what all the fuss is about. Virgin trying to make some more money on lowest yielding tickets. I for one would rather see this airline profitable and keep QF group honest. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 211

I'm not sure that treating your most loyal customers like this is a way to keep the airline profitable or keep QF honest.

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 66

Surely VA are not doing so badly that they need to charge their top tier PAX a seat selection fee to prop up the bottom line?

The negative sentiment generated will surely outweigh the petty cash they will make from this additional charge.

Nothing like LCC charges to entice loyalty :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 331

So you still have to pay to select your seat. Putting their pax in a "block" of seats is not picking your seat.

A free hit for QF if ever there was one. I would have thought an airline that is losing huge amounts of cash would want to be looking at ways to retain their loyal fliers, not turn them to the competetion.

23 Feb 2016

Total posts 34

Company puts me on the lowest fare with VA no extras allowed. You're telling me, as a Platinum who spents $15-20k a year, a non-status pax gets priority over seating because they're willing to shell out a few more dollars on a single one off flight.

Has VA forgotten their most important revenue stream, their loyal customers? If this is true, my travel manager will have no problem changing my flight preferences to QF.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 147

So, if as a Plat Pax I book a ticket in the 'getaway' bucket (because, cheapest flight of the day travel policy) and for whatever reason I'm allocated a seat in row 4 despite there being a seat free in row 3, I have to pay to move my seat prior to 48hr window openning? Is that what I'm reading here?

#yeahno.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 7

Anyone want my 4 free platinum upgrade vouchers? I've got no use for them anymore. I've just ditched Virgin due to these changes and booked several flights today on Qantas. The first of many more. It's been fun while it last Virgin, all the best.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 147

I'm in the same boat. Bye Felicia! 

No looking back now. I moved over from VA to QF two months ago and have gone from Bronze to Silver already. Plat in no time, so hopefully no real 'pain' prior to hitting Gold, then Plat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Aug 2016

Total posts 1

Can I have one ?

In all seriousness tho I wouldn't Mind checking out the VA lounge. I hear it actually quite nice in MEL and very comparable to the Qantas Club.

26 Oct 2015

Total posts 7

Did any one think this could be just another way round credit surcharges and booking fee as they will be losing money in that area so now just sting you with seat fee charge instead.

After all this does take affect 7 days after legislation changes.

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 20

Yes. There will be a cc fee on the seat charge as well

24 Feb 2012

Total posts 46

For those that are interested, I contacted QF when I read about these "enhancements" to see if they would offer some kind of status match. They wanted me to email them my Velocity Platinum Card, last 6 months travel history and a screen shot of my Velocity account. They then contacted me and said they'd offer me a challenge where if I earn 200 status credits in a 3 month period (has to be QF metal only, not partner airlines) they will give me Gold status. I am seriously considering making the switch. Virgin have lost the plot here!

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 20

Make the switch. You get benefits across one world as well

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Feb 2016

Total posts 47

I was also offered this by QF 12 months ago, took it and have not looked back since. I have also believe there is a Platinum challenge, requireing 400 SC in 3 months. May be worth asking about that if you do enough travel with QF.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1146

Totally do it.  200 SCs are very easy to achieve and can be done in a weekend.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

'Clarification' is the first admission your in major damage control. Hope they have the economy size band aid box, they'll be needing it.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 304

Whoever thought this was a good idea, shouldn't be keeping their jobs. It is really sad to see them clarifying this, instead of admiting they stuffed up worse than the census

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

31 Jan 2012

Total posts 108

The seating robtic in the check-in system will look after you via your status and seat preference in your profile one woould guess??

Yaf
Yaf

02 Nov 2012

Total posts 35

The main reason I fly Virgin is because I could pre assign a seat in row 3 on any fare.

After the changes I might as well fly Qantas where I can select my seat when I book my flight for free and also on the cheap fates I still get 100% extra points.

Access to Business and First lounges, much better food (not half a sandwich for lunch which quite often I have been given on Virgin who defend it by saying that is what passengers want)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Dec 2015

Total posts 4

Census or Virgin.  Not sure which is the bigger fail right now... 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

I judge that as comment of the day! But I say Virgins the bigger screw up, simply because we expect government to completely stuff up what should be generally simple to do!

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 92

How insulting. My Platinum card has just been cut in half and points transferred to SQ.The seating clarification is a joke.The seating plan should be totally open for selection by Platinum and Gold members at the time of booking at no cost no matter the fare. It saddens me that the changes impact the most loyal.The airline was slowly loosing the LCC image but has now given the "enhancements" has regressed backwards.With Two new Asian destinations planned for mid next I wish them GOOD LUCK but my $$$$ will now go elsewhere.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Looks like there's gonna be a lot less 'suits' from row 4 back.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

What about for Seniors?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 206

I wonder how long before QF copies this marketing plan

Seems similar to USA style marketing......

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Yes USA style marketing, they will no doubt have Seniors and Military up front without charge.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 206

Oh no pollies???!!!!!

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

The pollies and their Chairman's Lounge cards are all on QF.

Qantas

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 20

Still holding breath watching this train wreck unfold. Stupid, stupid move. How many people inside fought this? Corporate stupidity case study in progress.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Um Brett, Your last name is not 'Godfrey' is it?

How about a return / come back.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

No Brett Godfrey wouldn't have time to post here, he's too busy counting his money on his island.

However he might be thinking that this reminds him of Ansett 15 years ago and smell another opportunity?! 

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Always on the lookout...

11 Aug 2016

Total posts 1

This seems like a major fail from VA. As a Platinum pax, there are few enough real benefits anyway. Being slugged a seat selection fee is lousy. Thanks to other contributors for suggesting a possible status match challenge with QF. Borghetti has done some really good things at VA, but getting (up until now) loyal FF's offside probably isn't the smartest moved. 

Singapore PPS club

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 4

This is still hopeless.  I’m platinum with VA but this has got me seriously thinking about moving back to Qantas. I grabbed a VA status match several years ago because of repeated disappointment with QF international business class service (crew seems to hide after takeoff, no pre dinner drink, very slow service on short flights) and VA’s connection with Singapore was very attractive.  But now I really question the value of platinum on VA.  It’s always annoyed me that, unlike Qantas, VA doesn’t offer platinums access to extra reward seats – we just compete with everyone else.  The QF lounges are way ahead and the domestic product is great.  I want to know exactly which seat I'm going to be in, not just the section of the plane, and I don't want to pay for the privilege.  I’ll miss SQ though!

Air New Zealand - NZ*E

17 May 2015

Total posts 94

As a Air NZ Elite traveller, one of the biggest benefits that I value is that I can choose my seat (within the same booking class) usually an aisle seat, up the frount of the bus, regardless on the type of fare paid. I fly on over 100 flights per year (domestic and international) and approx 80% on Air NZ metal - the bottom line is that I am loyal with my travel budget and in return I get very well looked after.

My personal experiance is that I find VA frustrating, despite the various code share arrangements, I get treated most of the time as if I have no status - especially with seat selection. However, VA FF's are afforded the same privileges that I enjoy on Air NZ metal. Where is the equity?

I have read with interest the comments expressed by the ff's here and in most cases agree and am very sympathetic to their points. This seems a public relations nightmare for VA but the reality is that it will end up being a very expensive mistake as we all know that premium passengers is where airline make their real money.

Consider the following... say 100 premium passengers decide to walk and estimate a 20k annual spend - that's $2m of revenue that's just evaporated... that's not ideal but surviveable. But let's say it's 1500 premium passengers that take their business else where - now the annual is damage is $30m. You get the idea... 

My personal opinion is that VA is playing a very dangerous game of chicken upsetting passengers from the wrong end of the bus and maybe they should re-read the Aesop Fable "The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs" as this is about to get serious.

Yaf
Yaf

02 Nov 2012

Total posts 35

From the comments made here it does appear that it will be 1500 premium passengers who will take the business elsewhere. Might be worth using points before Virgin go under

NZ

13 Aug 2016

Total posts 42

Agreed - really don't understand why VA Plat/Gold get frequent flyer seats on NZ services, if VA doesn't give us the same benfit. 

I've got an VA flight this week across the Tasman on an NZ issued ticket, and I can only get as close at row 16 or pay $30 for an exit row. 

Often on the Tasman Space+ on a320 can be full weeks before depature, maybe if we remove VA Gold/Plat it might help? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 11

Hi all,

As some of you may have seen in my comments on the previous AusBT article on this topic, I wrote an email directly to JB and KS about my dissapointment in these changes. Remarkably, KS wrote back to me almost immediately with an offer to call him directly to discuss the changes.

Although I was quite taken aback by the offer, I just called him this morning. He indicated that, in his view, these changes had not been accurately reported (hence this clarificatory article), and that he hoped the very detailed explanation that will be sent out to Velocity members in the near future. He emphasised that the changes were brought about by the need to keep VA's financial position competitive in a "knife edge market"; as well as to offer greater flexibility to customers. He also specifically mentioned the changes to Fly Forward, which he said were being made as a result of "significant abuse of the system."

I indicated to KS that, while I'm sure almost all top-tier Velocity members fully appreciate the need for VA to adjust its offerings in order to maintain profitability, it seems to be the view of many of us that the particular changes VA have chosen are far from ideal. Specifically, I argued that they are a very sharp change in direction from the innovative "third way" airline model that VA seemed to be aiming for: offering LCC flexibility and affordability, combined with legacy-carrier trust, sophistication and reliability. I also pointed out that, while greater flexibility and choice is welcome, the proposed changes were confusing, ill-targeted (e.g. carry on fares on LH international) and created unnecesary penalties/downgrades for loyal corporate customers who are required to fly on the cheapest available fare.

While my mind wasn't changed by this conversation, I was very impressed and flattered that KS made the effort, particularly as I'm only a lowly Gold member! Just goes to show that it pays to go (politely and constrtuctively) to the top. :)

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2369

Hi Ben: that's really good feedback, and mirrors my own experiences with both Karl and John.

However, while Virgin expresses a view that "these changes had not been accurately reported", I'd point out that AusBT's coverage was by far the most detailed and accurate (as well as our being the first to report these changes) and we could only go on what we'd been briefed and what material was supplied – none of which included the material in yesterday's 'clarification' regarding automatic front-row seating allocation for Velocity Platinum and Gold flyers.

So I'm going to assume Virgin's comments relate to the less-accurate coverage in other media :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 11

Sorry David, I certainly didn't mean to give the impression that I thought AusBT had done a bad job! I was just trying to reflect what KS had said.



I love AusBT, and I will continue to come to you for cracking, accurate analysis of all the big news in travel :)

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2369

No worries Ben, I wasn't correcting you, just reflecting on Virgin's comments from our side of things. Karl's speedy and direct response to you is typical of his hands-on approach and the sort of people on John Borghetti's senior team, and I the very fact that Velocity CEO is engaging with frequent flyers and also is willign to listen to them should be taken as a good sign, regardless of the outcome. :)

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

That is very impressive. Did he alude to any positive changes as part of this shake up? Surely there has to be a sweetener?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 11

No allusion to any sort of sweetener unfortunately. I guess we'll have to see what things look like in the more detailed member communication that KS referred to!

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Karl's (Velocity CEO) comments to Ben back up exactly what I've been saying about 'Fly Ahead', it has been rorted for way too long by people deliberately booking the very last flight for the cheapest fare and then consistently being moved forward to an earlier flight which would have cost them a lot more to book in the first place. 'Fly Ahead' is a great benefit but the abuse of it is to blame for it being removed, but don't forget that is only on the very cheapest fare, if you want the option to 'Fly Ahead' you should simply buy the next fare up.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Sep 2014

Total posts 2

Fly Forward can easily be fixed by placing a time cap i.e. 1-2 hours before the flight you originally booked. That should stop the people that rort the system by booking the last flight out every time who then turn up 5 hours early. 

Seats - no issues wtih them pre-seating us as long as your preference is taken into account and they also look at length of time at a certain status e.g. Platinum for 2 years should trump a new Platinum Member.

Points Earn - this is ridculous. You should be rewarded for your loyalty the higher you go on the tree. As a Platinum Member, knowing that moving forward I only earn the same as a Red member does make me wonder why I should continue being so loyal.

Finally, for the comments that are saying "well, just book a higher fare" - A large number of Corporations have Lowest Logical Fare or Best Fare of the Day Travel Policies that are mandated, so that's just not an option. The fact that VA are not acknowledging what is a reality in the Corporate Market shows how out of touch they actually are with the real world. 

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

Agree on the fly forward a simple 1 or 2 hour rule would have fixed this.

For points earn though QF have never given tier bonuses for any economy domestic short route (up to 750 miles) which is 2/3 of the triangle. This includes the flexi fare. Instead they have a minumum points earn.

They are clearly trying to rip out as much of the cost base for their lead in fares with the hope of pushing people up the brand laddder.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Sep 2014

Total posts 2

The Tier Bonus is what sets them apart from QF (and the Fly Forward) until now. Removing it pretty much levels the programs and makes you now decide whether you want a Muffin versus a Semi-Decent Breakfast for basically the same cost and which lounge you'd like to be sardined in. With the minimum earn on QF, it at least provides some incentive to remain loyal.

Agree, this is all about shaving dollars off their cost base. Their problem however is that with the current reforms they are flagging, they are alienating a large portion of their most loyal and frequent flyers who also happen to be watching their cost base as well. By only rewarding those who have the luxury of paying a premium, their target audience just got a whole lot smaller.

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

For my partner who flies every week, it is the long term goals of lifetime tiering which drives their loyalty which is fair enough. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2015

Total posts 41

Bad decision VA on the seat allocation piece - really stupid to peeve off your Platinum FF base IMO on something as simple as advance seat request. You think we like travelling every week as it is? I'd be a 60/40 split on Saver vs. Flexi fares -  at least give me some sanity by letting me choose in advance an aisle seat regardless of the fare class I am booked in. OK, Bill and Betty Smith on their once every 4 year sojourn to the Gold Coast on cheap tickets who may have no loyalty to your brand can schlep it out in middle seats all they like but this one won't be! I don't love flying that much!

On the Fly Forward piece - I kind of get this bit and have always wondered if it gets rorted beyond being ecomomically viable. I've used it very, very infrequently and have been offered to fly forward by the Lounge staff more times than I have asked to Fly Forward. This on top of VA's overly complex virtual alliance on international carriers and my desire to not eat one more Pretzel and Soy chip mix in my lifetime - it's time to look around..

13 Jul 2016

Total posts 5

Wake up Virgin - the very reason you won Qantas clients is because you offered extra - take it away and we will all go back.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Dec 2015

Total posts 4

I guess with all these Platinums leaving I am more chance to get row 3.... Still like the rest I am dissapointed and I hope that common sense prevails. QANTAS lost me 14 years ago and in most part I have been happy with Virgin and watched them change into the airline they are today. Fingers crossed as there is not a third option.......

Yaf
Yaf

02 Nov 2012

Total posts 35

What a diferrence from the logic of the serviced apartment group who I spend roughly the same amount i spend with Virgin and I get the best available room no matter what price I pay


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