In the dogfight between Australia's airline loyalty schemes, Virgin Australia hopes to narrow the gap against Qantas by boosting the appeal of its top-tier Velocity Platinum level.
But Velocity CEO Karl Schuster has learned the value of playing his frequent flyer cards close to his chest.
“Watch this space,” Schuster tells Australian Business Traveller.
“I can’t give anything away right now but we’re always working at ways to improve our Platinum proposition.”
The scheme’s highest status level already includes some unique features such as free upgrade certificates, guaranteed reward seats for an annual family holiday and matching top-grade status with hotel chains and hire car firms.
Exclusive Platinum events
Virgin Australia’s highest Platinum rung finds itself topped by the Qantas Platinum One tier for ‘very frequent flyers’ – but unlike Qantas’ steady promotion of Platinum One perks, special events and ‘experiences’, Schuster is reticent to pump up the volume on Velocity’s Platinum-only privileges.
“We’re very conscious of doing intimate private things with Platinums,” Schuster says.
“For us it’s more ‘do’ that ‘say’... instead of going out and pounding our chest, I’d rather we just get on with it.”
“We recently held a fantastic dinner with 12 Platinums at Luke Mangan’s Mojo restaurant, but it’s about small groups. We can’t reach everyone – I don't want to elevate everyones expectations and then disappoint them.”
“And we don't do it for publicity. We do it because we want to build our relationship with those Platinums, so I spend a fair amount of time interacting with them.”
The recent launch of the Velocity Live program, which is built around "live experiences and events” for all Velocity members, is also likely to include invitation-only elements for top-tier Platinum members.
This included two dozen Platinum members who attended an intimate performance with Keith Urban at the Velocity Live launch event in Sydney.
But unlike the airline’s ‘points for petrol’ alliance with BP, Velocity Live “isn’t about (member) acquisition,” Schuster explains.
“We’re not doing this to add a big cohort to our base. We’ve gone into it with the idea of adding value for our members first and foremost.”
“If artists the calibre of Keith Urban attract people so they want to join our program, that’s a fantastic by-product, but our position is about adding value for our members.”
"Quality, not quantity"
Velocity has experienced solid growth over the previous 12 months, with the BP partnership seeing as many as 50,000 new members sign up each week.
While this catapulted Velocity’s base to 6 million members, Qantas counts almost 12 million frequent flyers on its books.
But Schuster is less concerned about catching up to his competitor than crafting a frequent flyer program that is more compelling and more rewarding.
It’s a quality vs quantity play, he says.
“Growth and scale is important, it makes you interesting and relevant to partners so part of our strategy is to grow the membership,” Schuster allows.
“But we’re much more about enriching the proposition and creating something that really responds with our members. Quality and engagement are foremost in our thinking, whatever we do.”
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