Virgin Australia will revamp its line-up of economy, premium economy and business class fares from September 7 2016, expanding to nine ticket categories which will be marketed under the 'Fares For You’ banner.
The airline will also begin charging seat selection fees to travellers on lower-priced fares, including Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, from the same date.
Restrictions on the popular 'Fly Ahead' perk are too being introduced for the airline's high flyers, with tier bonuses for Silver members and above also axed from the cheap seats and new restrictions placed on some flight upgrades.
Here’s what’s changing and how it affects you.
Domestic fares rebranded, new fare types introduced
Guests flying in domestic and international business class currently see a single Business fare when booking. From next month this will be joined by Business Saver, offering a lower price but with less flexibility on flight changes and cancellations.
Domestic economy fares are reinvented under the Getaway, Elevate and Freedom banners.
Those will all continue to include checked baggage, inflight snacks and access to inflight entertainment, with Freedom positioned as the new fully-flexible ticket while Elevate fares offer a little flexibility for changes in your travel plans.
Five new trans-Tasman fares
In addition to Business Saver arriving for business class flyers, the current array of economy Seat, Seat+Bag, Saver and Flexi fares across the pond are replaced by Go, Go Plus, Getaway and Freedom.
Go fares will include beverages but exclude checked baggage – much like the old Seat tickets – with Go Plus offering a checked bag; Getaway adds food, and Freedom gives you the whole shebang.
Premium Saver fares will remain available on Virgin Australia codeshare flights operated by Air New Zealand, while the full-price Premium Economy fares will now be known just as Premium.
New carry-on only international fares
As across the Tasman, Go fares which exclude checked luggage will also be sold en route to all other Virgin Australia short-haul international destinations, including on flights to Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The other Go Plus, Getaway and Freedom choices will also replace the current fare structures on these routes, while Business Saver again joins Business at the pointy end.
More new fares on Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi flights
Saver and Flexi fares are also out on Virgin Australia’s longer flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, replaced by Getaway, Elevate and Freedom fares to mirror the airline’s new domestic ticket types.
Business Saver again joins Business to offer more variety in business class, while the existing Premium Saver and Premium fares remain.
New seat selection fees on discounted seats
Choosing your seat before you fly may now cost a pretty penny – even if your wallet holds a Silver, Gold or Platinum Velocity frequent flyer card.
While Virgin hasn't yet revealed how much seat selection will cost, that surcharge will kick in when choosing your seat more than 48 hours before departure on all international Go fares (including to New Zealand), and also on Go Plus fares, except across the Tasman.
It will also apply before check-in opens if you're booked on a Getaway fare on all domestic and some international flights (including to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi), with the exception of Getaway fares between Australia and New Zealand where no fee apples.
Velocity Platinum, Gold still get front row seats
However, Platinum and Gold members of the Velocity scheme will continue to be automatically seated in the front of the economy cabin – including the prized Row 3 for Platinums – under the new fare scheme.
They'll need pay the as-yet-unrevealed seat selection fee only to nominate a specific seat within that block.
'Fly Ahead' discontinued on cheap tickets
Velocity Gold and Platinum members may no longer switch to an earlier flight in the Virgin Australia lounge when booked on the least-expensive domestic economy tickets.
Selecting a domestic Getaway fare will see you confined to your original flight, unless you pay a flight change fee and any fare difference, as you would for a regular flight change.
Gold and Platinum travellers on the higher-priced Elevate, Freedom, Business Saver and Business domestic fares may continue to request a 'Fly Ahead', but as Virgin Australia notes, "fees may apply":
[Click the image above to enlarge it.]
Changes to Silver, Gold, Platinum tier bonuses
Silver, Gold and Platinum Velocity frequent flyers currently earn a 'tier bonus' on Virgin Australia flights: that's 50% more points at the Silver level, 75% more points for Gold members and 100% – or double points – for Platinum cardholders.
But from September 7, flying on a domestic Getaway fare also means no tier bonus: or in other words, top-tier Platinum members will earn no more points than a Red-level member taking their first Virgin Australia flight.
Members will continue to earn tier bonuses on Getaway fares to all international destinations and on all other fare types.
Upgrading with points, Platinum certificates
When it comes to upgrades into Virgin Australia business class, Freedom fares are the new Flexi, and are what you'll need to book if hoping to use one of the free upgrade certificates given to Platinum members each year.
Gold and Platinum travellers wishing to use points for business class or premium economy upgrades from economy on flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi will also need to book a Freedom fare – or be flying on a paid premium economy ticket.
AusBT review: Virgin Australia The Business, Sydney-Los Angeles
On domestic flights, upgrades using points will continue to be possible from all tickets, with Getaway and Elevate fares treated as 'discount economy' and Freedom fares as 'flexible economy' in terms of how many points are required.
Upgrades using points won't be offered on trans-Tasman and short-haul Go fares, although it's understood that points upgrades will be extended to 'discount economy' fares in these markets for the first time, being available from Go Plus, Getaway and Elevate fares.
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