If you've booked a Virgin Australia flight that ended up being cancelled, there's a good chance you've held either a Travel Credit or a Conditional Credit – both of which have now been replaced by what the airline terms Future Flight Credits.
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 be applied towards any Virgin Australia airfare, the use of Future Flight Credits will be 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 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 have replaced the airline's outstanding Travel Credits, and Conditional Credits.
(Travel Credits here being those issued prior to the airline's entry into Voluntary Administration, while Conditional Credits were those supplied during the Administration period.)
Like Travel Credits and Conditional Credits, Future Flight Credits can be used to book travel with Virgin Australia.
According to documents filed by Virgin Australia's administrators at Deloitte, the airline counts its travel credit balance at "net $394 million", which are now Future Flight Credits.
However, Virgin Australia 'Travel Bank' continues to exist – separate from Future Flight Credits, for certain eligible passengers – which continues to adopt its previous set of rules, by simply being a payment method that can be used towards any commercial Virgin Australia booking.
How can you use a Virgin Australia Future Flight Credit?
Future Flight Credits operate a little differently to Virgin Australia's previous credits, and to those Travel Bank credits as above.
While Future Flight Credits maintain a cash value, you can't simply 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.
Virgin Australia has now confirmed that Future Flight Credits can be used towards certain economy Getaway, Elevate and Freedom fares, and some business class Business Saver tickets.
However, not every fare within each of those categories will be open for booking with a Future Flight Credit – and for business class, you also can't use a Future Flight Credit to book a full-fare 'Business' ticket: only the lower-priced Business Saver fares, where available.
To search for flights where you Future Flight Credit can be used, head to the Virgin Australia website and begin to search for flights as normal: but when the option arises, check the "I would like to use Travel Bank to pay for some or all of my booking" box before submitting your search.
You'll then be prompted to key in your Future Flight Credit 'username', which the airline plans to provide to eligible customers via email, by Friday October 23 2020.
If the flight you originally booked was purchased via travel agency, however, you'll need to speak with your agent to use your credit.
Other ways to use a Virgin Australia Future Flight Credit
In addition to flight bookings, Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits can also be applied towards the payment of many travel extras.
This includes fees to upgrade a standard economy class ticket to Economy X (via the seat selection add-on), or to business class (via 'UpgradeMe' paid upgrades).
Future Flight Credit holders will also be able to purchase Virgin Australia lounge passes using that credit, when the airline's lounge network re-opens.
Other eligible uses include covering any change fees, fare difference and tax difference when changing a booking, as well as purchasing carbon offset credits on flights, booking Unaccompanied Minor tickets, and for "pet travel".
Can you book business class using a Virgin Australia Future Flight Credit?
Yes, business class flights can be booked using Virgin Australia Future Flight Credits.
This includes certain Business Saver tickets, although higher-priced 'Business' fares cannot be booked with a Future Flight Credit.
To search for business class flights that can be booked using your Future Flight Credit, follow the process above.
Which Virgin Australia flights can you book using a Future Flight Credit?
Future Flight Credits will be accepted for bookings on flights operated by Virgin Australia, where the airline decides to make certain Getaway, Elevate, Freedom or Business Saver fares eligible for booking with a Future Flight Credit.
Initially, 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.
As well, you can't use a Future Flight Credit to book a Virgin Australia flight operated by Alliance Airlines.
This means destinations like Gladstone, which Virgin Australia only serves via its codeshare partnership with Alliance Airlines, can't be included as part of a Future Flight Credit booking.
Where routes are instead operated by Virgin Australia (that's a VA flight number, with "Virgin" on the tail), 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.
Where the full value of a Future Flight Credits isn't redeemed in a single booking, it can be used again towards other bookings until its value has been exhausted, or the expiry date above has passed.
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.
Virgin Australia has not offered holders of Future Flight Credits from these international services the option of a cash refund, or given these travellers 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.
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?
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.