Virgin Australia's new system: what flyers this week need to know

By John Walton, January 14 2013

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.

Read more: Virgin Australia replaces Navitaire backend system with Sabre

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.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

Virgin Australia's Sabre system has been cracking me up today. It keeps coming up with an error message or a technical issue and it is really slow. It is the first day, however, but I hope it will improve over the week.

I will admit it the design looks better and more consistent, and the 'Virtual Assistant' at the top right hand corner has been helpful.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

There's also the inconvenience of having to search in both the Economy cabin and Business cabin fare categories if you want to do a comparison for the same flights, as opposed to performing one search which returns all fares for each of the available flights (which is how it worked previously).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 169

I agree with that. I'd prefer it to be all on the one page however maybe with the 4 choices for economy they couldn't fit the business options in. It would be an interesting question for VA. ALl in all though it looks quite good.

* For internationl flights they give the Business options and the Premium Econ options. 

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

I agree! I'd like to be able to say "Show me all fares for Sydney to Brisbane on this date" and be able to compare them side by side.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 89

I've been logging into the www.velocityrewards.com.au web site today to check my flight bookings for later this week.   Every time I click 'My Bookings' in the menu the web page bombs out with a message that simply says "Oops, fatal server error. Contact administrator please or just take it easy. "

I guess I'll just have to "take it easy" ....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Is the change with connecting fares a temporary change in pricing or a longer term strategy?

vic
vic

VA

14 Jan 2013

Total posts 2

Can't look up First Class reward seats on the new system :(:(:(:(

Virgin Australia doesn't offer first class, but hey, I should be able to book with Etihad and other codeshare airlines!...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

You can only search for awards on Etihad and Virgin America, with all other codeshare airlines requiring a call to the Reservations call centre (acording to what the Velocity site now says), but I'm hearing you!

18 Jan 2013

Total posts 1

I have been looking at using my points to fly me and the wife from Brisbane to Paruis via Abu Dhabi for our honeymoon in August.

I have be holding off on the booking till we secured dates to go but had been keeping an eye on it.

Before the switch I could get the 2 of us return for 241,00 + $400 but now its saying it wil take 231,00 + $2000, is this due to now paying more for connecting flights and have I missed out? If so I'm going to be extremely annoyed.

Virgin's booking service is a mess. I booked Velocity rewards online in december and took the flights in January....London to Abu Dhabi was fine---though the system never sent me an eticket and the miles have never left my account. Evaporated with the old system....Sadly Abu Dhabi to Sydney I was told there was no ticket by Ethiad at check in and after two hours on the phone to Velocity who said the booking system had changed and lots of things had got lost ....no one could figure my ticket out and they couldn't get me a new one. Velocity told me to buy a new ticket with Ethiad and they would cover it----ethiad charged me $1500 !!!! --- but now Velocity will not pay. The tell the original $48 payment for the rewards ticket is not in their system so they are not responsible. They refuse to even talk to me. The idea that they would not admit that their booking system lost the ticket in the switchover and offer to pay for a new ticket then refuse to do so.....and I am a Gold member. AVOID THIS AIRLINE !!!!!!


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