As Virgin Australia's backend system switchover continues this Monday, passengers have seen some longer queues at airports, and the booking site has been up and down.
We've been delving into the new systems and have spoken with several frequent flyers who are doing the same, and despite a few bugs the site looks to be staggering to its feet after the computer equivalent of a brain transplant.
Mobile app developer, AusBT contributor and Virgin Australia "Gold, soon to be back to Platinum" Velocity frequent flyer Chris Neugebauer has been keeping a sharp eye on the system during the rollover and shared his observations with us.
Where are my status credits?
But before we delve into the system, a note: don't worry if your Velocity frequent flyer status credits have completely disappeared.
With a half-dozen AusBT readers reporting the problem to us, this is very much a known issue — and Virgin Australia's social media team (on duty all weekend and responding lightning-fast to issues popping up online) has been telling customers: "our team is working on correcting this and your membership level will not be affected."
You might want to save a copy of your most recent Velocity e-statement, though, in case the numbers don't tally when they come back.
And don't forget: Virgin is sweetening the inconvenience with a remarkable offer of earning status credits when you redeem your points for tickets.
Old bookings caught in the crossover
But the switchover is causing some frustrations when dealing with bookings made before the Sabre cutover.
"I can't even do seat selection on my next domestic flights" Neugebauer says. "I presume I have to call up to get seat selections made."
"I did seat selection for a booking in March I made today, but can't for my old bookings."
Disappearing connecting fares
Something the Navitaire-Sabre switchover is supposed to remedy was that the old system wasn't designed for connecting flights, but the new fares which make connecting possible seem to have been overlooked.
The upshot: if you're flying anywhere that doesn't have direct, nonstop flights — you're basically paying for two sets of tickets rather than one.
"Virgin has basically no connecting domestic/shorthaul fares loaded (into the system)" Neugebauer observes. "If you search for Hobart-Melbourne-Sydney, you get the same fares as Hobart-Melbourne plus Melbourne-Sydney."
"It doesn't look like they've designed fares for connecting flights, which is an expensive problem if you can't fly direct," says Neugebauer.
"That's except, curiously, Hobart-Adelaide, which does have a connecting fare. Hobart to the Gold Coast, say, doesn't."
"It means that whilst there's more choice of connecting flights for any given routing than there was with Navitaire, any set of connecting flights is going to be substantially more expensive than it was before. And that's a huge loss for travellers."
Neugebauer hunted for Hobart-Sydney "economy with bags" fares on Qantas and Virgin for an example date in mid-March today. Qantas came out at $179, while Virgin was $226.
"Qantas used to be around $30 more than Virgin on connecting flights like this one," Neugebauer observes.
Those five new fare types in full
Virgin now has five new fare types — Saver Lite, Saver, Flexi, Business Saver, and Business.
"The new Business Saver fare comes out slightly less expensive than the old Business Class fare, and the new Business fare is slightly more expensive than the old Business Class fare," Neugebauer observes.
But business class with a connection will cost nearly twice as much as a direct flight: just as in economy, if you need to connect you'll essentially be charged for two flights, not one.
In terms of the new Saver vs Saver Lite fares, however, Neugebauer reckons there's "approximately $15 difference per flight leg on routes I checked earlier."
The Saver fare includes a bag; Saver Lite doesn't — but if you're connecting, that's a very bad deal.
Checking a bag? Pay for it at the airport, not online
"If you want to fly with baggage, you are effectively paying a $15/sector surcharge, whereas before, you were paying a $15 flat rate for anywhere up to three sectors," observes Neugebauer.
"In fact, here's my hot tip: if you're travelling more than one sector on your trip, it's currently cheaper to buy a Saver Lite and pay your $30/bag at the airport."
How has your experience been, flying or trying to use the website during the changeover? Share your thoughts with us below, or join the numerous Australian Business Traveller readers who keep in touch with us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.