If you've booked a Virgin Australia flight that ended up being cancelled, there's a good chance you'll hold either a Travel Credit or a Conditional Credit – both of which will soon be replaced by what the airline terms Future Flight Credits.
Outstanding Travel Credits and Conditional Credits will be reissued as Future Flight Credits under new airline owners Bain Capital.
The concept is the same – a credit voucher for the amount of money you spent on tickets, which can be used for to book a future Virgin Australia flight – but there's more to this than just a change of names.
While Travel Credits and Conditional Credits could previously can be applied towards any Virgin Australia airfare, the use of Future Flight Credits will be far more restrictive.
Only a certain number of seats on any given flight will be set aside for purchasing with your Future Flight Credit, meaning there's no guarantee you'll even be able to get on the flight you want.
Here's what you need to know about Virgin Australia's new Future Flight Credits.
What are Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits?
Virgin Australia's Future Flight Credits will ultimately replace both the airline's existing Travel Credits, and Conditional Credits.
(Travel Credits are those issued prior to the airline's entry into Voluntary Administration, while Conditional Credits are those supplied during the Administration period.)
Once the airline is brought out of Administration and is under the ownership of its buyer Bain Capital, all those outstanding credits – which the airline's appointed administrator Deloitte lists as "net $394 million" – will become Future Flight Credits.
Like Travel Credits and Conditional Credits, Future Flight Credits can be used to book travel with Virgin Australia.
Virgin Australia expects that Future Flight Credits will become available for use from September 23 2020, although this date may change depending on the outcome of the Administration process.
A spokesperson for the airline tells Executive Traveller that "further information around their use will be provided to customers following the second creditors’ meeting," scheduled for September 4 2020.
How can you use a Virgin Australia Future Flight Credit?
Future Flight Credits will operate a little differently to Virgin Australia's previous credits.
While they'll still have a cash value, you won't simply be able to use that value towards any booking on any flight, anywhere on the Virgin Australia network.
The airline confirms that "bookings using the Future Flight Credit will be subject to seat availability within the fare class reserved for Future Flight credits on the selected flight."
This means that some flights may not be available for booking using a Future Flight Credit, and that availability may be limited, restricting the number of people who can use a Future Flight Credit on a single flight.
It remains to be seen whether the availability for Future Flight Credit holders will align with a certain class of paid airfare, with Velocity Reward Seat availability, or be controlled in another way.
Can you book business class using a Virgin Australia Future Flight Credit?
Virgin Australia's new owners are yet to share the full Terms and Conditions relating to Future Flight Credits, including which flights can (and cannot) be booked using a Future Flight Credit.
Recognising that many Future Flight Credit holders will have that credit from a cancelled premium economy or business class booking, Executive Traveller expects that business class bookings would be accepted using those credits, but the airline will share more detail in September.
Which Virgin Australia flights can you book using a Future Flight Credit?
Future Flight Credits will be accepted for bookings on eligible flights operated by Virgin Australia.
Those 'eligible flights' will be determined by the availability of the fare type Virgin Australia uses for Future Flight Credit holders, which, as above, has not yet been confirmed.
At first, Future Flight Credits will be valid only for travel within Australia, reflecting the airline's short-term positioning as a domestic carrier.
They will also be valid for use on "any future services we operate as travel market recovers and restrictions ease," the airline advises, which could include trans-Tasman flights.
Are there any flights you can’t book using a Future Flight Credit?
While Future Flight Credits can be used to book eligible Virgin Australia flights, they can't be used for bookings on Virgin Australia's partner airlines, such as Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Even on flights operated by Virgin Australia, some services may have no seats open for booking by Future Flight Credit holders, in which case, the only way to book a ticket would be to spend new money, and save the Future Flight Credit for another time.
It's likely that flights at peak times, such as during school holiday periods and other busy travel dates, may have fewer seats available to Future Flight Credit holders.
Do Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits expire?
Yes, unused Virgin Australia's Future Flight Credits will expire. Once your Future Flight Credit has been issued, you'll have until July 31 2022 to use it up.
Because Virgin Australia accepts bookings up to 11 months in advance, this means all Future Flight Credits can be used for travel up until June 30 2023, provided final bookings are made by July 31 2022.
It's not yet known whether the airline will accept flight changes and cancellations after July 31 2022 for bookings made using Future Flight Credits, but if in doubt, aim to use your credit before then.
Can you extend the expiry of an unused Future Flight Credit?
All Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits will expire on July 31 2022, and it's not currently possible to extend the expiry date of any unused credits.
However, as above, you can use your credits to travel until mid-2023 by making your final bookings by the end of July 2022: giving you 11 months past the fixed expiry date in which you can fly.
Future Flight Credits for those who booked to Tokyo, Los Angeles
As those holding Future Flight Credits are customers from flights that had previously been cancelled, this will include travellers who'd booked onto Virgin Australia's longer international routes to Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Because international flights are typically more expensive than a quick domestic hop – particularly in premium economy and business class – by nature, the value of those Future Flight Credits may be quite high.
It's not yet known whether holders of Future Flight Credits from these international services will be provided with the option for a refund, or given extra time to spend their credits.
This, of course, would recognise that the service these customers purchased was long-haul international travel – which Virgin Australia has decided not to offer in the short term, even if international travel restrictions ease – as opposed to short-haul travel, on which Future Flight Credits could be used.
Further detail on this is expected in September.
Tips for using Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits
Because capacity controls will be in place for those making bookings using Future Flight Credits, travellers could apply many of the same strategies they'd normally use to make flight bookings using frequent flyer points, which are also subject to capacity controls.
For example, as flights at the most popular times may be in high demand, being flexible with the dates and times you can travel may help you to find an appropriate flight for your journey.
If you're only able to travel during school holiday periods or other busy times of the year, try to book those flights as early as you can.
This could help maximise your chances of not only finding a seat open for booking using a Future Flight Credit, but also giving you a choice between a range of flights, some of which may be more suitable than others.
Can I get a cash refund, instead of a Future Flight Credit?
For the time being, Virgin Australia is not offering cash refunds on flights booked on or before April 20 2020.
Bookings made after that date – during the Voluntary Administration process – aren't subject to the same prohibition, but are subject to the fare rules that were in place at the time of the booking, which generally did not provide the option of obtaining a refund.
As such, customers are unlikely to secure a cash refund on a cancelled flight, so will have been provided with the appropriate type of 'credit' instead.
It's unlikely that Future Flight Credits can be voided and a cash refund issued, but it never hurts to ask: particularly for those with credits stemming from higher-priced trips to the likes of Tokyo, Los Angeles, and other international destinations.