Virgin Australia dials back South African airline partnerships

By Chris C., May 10 2018
Virgin Australia dials back South African airline partnerships

Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer partnership with South African Airways will be revised in June to exclude codeshare flights operated by SAA’s partner airlines Airlink and South African Express.

Currently, Velocity members can earn points and status credits on these flights when booked under a South African Airways SA flight number, with Silver members entitled to priority check-in and a boosted baggage allowance, joined by priority boarding and lounge access for Gold and Platinum flyers.

But from June 12 2018, these benefits will cease – as will the ability to book Airlink and South African Express reward flights using Velocity points – although bookings made prior to June 12 will still earn Velocity points and status credits for travel after this date, even though the other benefits may not be available.

This change impacts flight numbers SA8000 through SA8999 operated by Airlink, and flights SA1000 through SA1999 operated by South African Express, but does not affect passengers travelling on South African Airways mainline flights, including between Perth and Johannesburg.

That said, Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders currently don’t receive lounge access in Perth prior to these flights, and this will remain so under these changes.

Instead, Velocity elites enjoy access only to SAA’s own Baobab lounges in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London in South Africa, along with lounges in Lagos (Nigeria), Harare (Zimbabwe) and Lusaka (Zambia) when travelling with South African Airways.

The ability to earn points and status credits when travelling with South African Airways and to redeem points on SAA flights also remains unchanged, as do status benefits afforded to Silver, Gold and Platinum Velocity members when travelling with SAA.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


30 Jun 2016

Total posts 51

I was refused access to the JNB lounge in March and told Airlink flights weren’t allowed access. Was flying on an SAA flight number.

I've got to admit, I breathed a sigh of relief finishing this article, if only because I thought that the dial back would be a complete termination of elite benefits. The last two years have painted a pretty vivid picture for Velocity elites--we've lost AirBerlin, Virgin America, and Air New Zealand, all without replacement. Elite agreements have been forestalled with Air Canada and HNA group, not to mention the cuts to lounge access, and the continuing lack of access to partner contract lounges. So the South African partnership goes forward--that's all very well, but it's loyalty death by a thousand cuts. VA must remember that their domestic proposition to high-value flyers depends on your network of international partners as a viable substitute for QF. This is not what a bespoke alliance looks like, and it does nothing to dispel the growing body of evidence which points to the fact that VA could care less about its best customers. I implore any VA rep who finds this--change your tack.

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 71

SA Star Alliance partners have all received notice about the earning change to Airlink. This is nothing specific to VA.


03 May 2012

Total posts 121

After taking several flights with SAA and Airlink in the last few weeks as a velocity plat it seems that none of the SAA staff know about the partnership. I was refused entry to both the JNB and CPT lounges and also told i can't use the priority check in at JNB because Virgin Australia aren't part of star alliance. Didn't bother trying the priority boarding as i wasn't keen on getting told no and having to return to the back of the line.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 236

Virgin Australia / Atlantic need to join Skyteam and put everyone out of their misery. It makes sense given the Virgin links to Delta. SQ will have to live with it (they need VA for access to Oz). The costs will be high, but unless you're an 'Emirates', you can't afford to be outside the alliance model.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

But 20% shareholder and partner and founding Star alliance member Singapore Airlines wouldn't be happy with that.

Virgin is quite happy taking passenger flows from both Star and skyteam

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 152

Maybe so, but as VA Plat, I'm strategically working my way to QF and SQ status instead. VA status gets less useful by the month. Very disappointing.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 578

SQ wouldn't have to live with it since they are a 20% shareholder and have a say whereas Delta hold a whole 0% of VA shares and has bugger all say.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 323

Though if DL is the party to take either the EY and/or HNA stakes in VA due to the financial situation of both of the mentioned groups, it changes everything.

Saying that, VA join Star Alliance is all but over. Even if JB & co wanted to change their mind.

UA and NZ would use their veto to put an end to any attempts by SQ or any other airline trying to sponsor VA into *A. SkyTeam is VA's only alliance option if JB wanted to move away from his bespoke partnership/virtual alliance policy.

04 May 2015

Total posts 261

You post about other airlines vetoing VA's membership into Star quite a bit. How do you even know how Star's internal policies on joining work?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 323

It's commonly known in past news articles that any sponsorship into Star requires a unanimous vote from all existing members for any potential entrants to join in the future.

It's no secret that NZ and UA has issues with VA for numerous reasons (The infamous VA boardroom bustup between CL and JB in 2016 being one of them). The issues are enough for them to say no and to put an end to it.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

Having not long booked a trip to SA which includes some regional flights.... Bugga!

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