UPDATE | Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer members can now earn frequent flyer points and status credits when travelling with Alitalia, Italy's flag-carrying airline.
Velocity Gold and Platinum members also gain access to selected Alitalia airport lounges in New York and across Italy in Catania, Rome, Milan, Naples and Venice.
On the table too are priority boarding and check-in privileges for Gold and Platinum members, along with a boosted baggage allowance for Silver members and above of one additional bag.
The number of points earned on Alitalia (AZ) flights is as follows, with the most points earned on business class, premium economy and full-fare economy tickets, and the fewest points earned on discounted fares:
Travellers who book Virgin Australia codeshare flights with Alitalia on a VA flight number will earn points at the usual Virgin Australia rates, including bonuses for Silver, Gold and Platinum members not offered on direct Alitalia bookings:
Velocity members can also now use their points to book reward flights with Alitalia in business class, premium economy and economy over the phone, but not currently via the Virgin Australia website.
The number of points needed is generously the same as for Virgin Australia flights of the same distance, with Abu Dhabi-Rome setting you back 49,500 Velocity points in business class, one-way:
That makes Alitalia an attractive reward option in conjunction with a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, avoiding the new fee levied on Etihad Airways reward bookings and the higher number of points needed for the same.
In return, all members of Alitalia's own MilleMiglia program can now earn and redeem miles on Virgin Australia flights, with all miles earned considered 'qualifying miles' for the purpose of earning or retaining your status level with Alitalia.
Freccia Alata Club, Freccia Alata Plus Club and Freccia Alata Plus Per Sempre MilleMiglia cardholders also gain access to Virgin Australia's own lounges when flying domestically within Australia from today.
PREVIOUS, April 11 2016 | Virgin Australia will add Italian flag-carrier Alitalia to its growing network of international partner airlines this week, less than a month after Alitalia’s tie-in with Qantas came to a close.
Kicking things off are Virgin Australia codeshares on Alitalia flights from Abu Dhabi to both Rome and Milan on sale from Friday April 15 2016 for travel from late July onwards, which are expected to allow Velocity Frequent Flyer members to earn both frequent flyer points and status credits as though they were flying on a Virgin Australia aircraft.
Also on the horizon: a broader frequent flyer pairing between the two airlines for points and perks – the details of which are yet to be announced but are tipped to be generous by industry standards.
“Like Virgin Australia, Alitalia has a commitment to superior customer service and a young fleet,” said Virgin Australia Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton.
“We will continue to work closely with other international carriers to give our customers access to more destinations, more flights and more convenient schedules, as well as increased benefits for Velocity members,” she added.
Virgin's ‘The Business’, Alitalia ‘Magnifica Class’
Virgin Australia’s fleet of long-haul Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is currently being refitted with the airline’s newest business class seats, dubbed ‘The Business’, which Australia’s east-west flyers may have already experienced to or from Perth.
AusBT review: Virgin Australia 'The Business', Sydney-Perth
During the refit, the airline’s Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights are on pause – a gap largely covered by partner Etihad Airways – with The Business expected to appear on Virgin Australia’s Abu Dhabi flights from “mid-year”.
From there, passengers will board either an Alitalia Airbus A330 or Boeing 777-200 to Italy, both of which offer business class travellers fully-flat beds with direct aisle access from every ‘Magnifica Class’ seat…
… in a layout that frequent jetsetters will recognise as the fully-flat Sogerma Solstys seat offered on Etihad’s own A330s and Boeing 777s, and found on many other airlines including Asiana, Hong Kong Airlines and Thai Airways in Australian skies.
Couples travelling together aren’t forgotten either with the centre pairs of seats in every second row allowing for easy conversation…
… but with a privacy divider that can be raised if you find yourself here on your lonesome.
If your budget doesn't stretch to business class, there are also three rows of ‘Classica Plus’ premium economy seats separating business class and economy on both Alitalia aircraft types...
... set in a 2-3-2 layout with 20% more legroom than regular economy and a 120-degree recline, noise-isolating headphones and amenity kits provided, a selection of Italian wines in the air and priority check-in privileges on the ground.
Virgin Australia + Alitalia flight schedules
In the first stage of the partnership, VA codeshares on Alitalia flights can only be bought in conjunction with Virgin Australia-operated flights to and from Abu Dhabi – that's with 'Virgin' painted on the tail, not Etihad flights booked with a VA flight number.
That means you won't be able to fly with Alitalia under a VA flight number until at least late July, when Virgin Australia resumes flying its own aircraft to Abu Dhabi.
Once that occurs, Rome-bound guests could jump on Virgin's VA29 service from Sydney to Abu Dhabi to touch down at 11:05pm, with Alitalia’s Rome flight wheels-up at 2:25am after a leisurely transit in the UAE.
To Milan, however, you'd experience a lengthy overnight transit until Alitalia's daily flight pushes back at 8:45am the following morning, but it's a better deal on the return with Alitalia's Milan-Abu Dhabi service getting you in at 6:15am ahead of Virgin Australia’s 10:45am VA30 flight to Sydney.
From Rome, you’ll reach Abu Dhabi at 7:10pm ahead of an overnight transit and a 10:45am Virgin Australia departure the next day.
Alternately, these overnight stays can be avoided by flying between Abu Dhabi and Italy on Etihad Airways, an existing partner of Virgin Australia which flies on the same routes but with a more connection-friendly schedule.
A previous version of this article stated that Virgin Australia guests could pair Etihad VA codeshare flights with Alitalia VA codeshare flights as part of a single journey to minimise connection times, but which Virgin Australia has clarified is not currently the case. Guests can only book Alitalia VA codeshare flights in conjunction with Virgin Australia-operated flights.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT