Virgin Australia Velocity polishes the Platinum proposition

By David Flynn, October 11 2016

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.

Discover this month's hottest Virgin Australia Velocity credit card deals

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.

Read: Virgin Australia says Velocity Live is all about the experience

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.”

Also read:

Connect with other business travellers in our Virgin Australia discussion group

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2015

Total posts 30

I think we are all waiting for VA to decide how they want to position their platinum status. Right now if I dropped back down to Gold I don't think I would notice much difference.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Feb 2012

Total posts 31

agree there is very little to differentiate the two then again at the number of status credits and flights required its still far easier to get to meaningful status with VA. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

True. The upgrade vouchers and upgrade deals are next to nothing since you always have pretty affluent miles in your account for spend when you can reach or maintine a plat membership. The upgrade vouchers are even not good on flights to Perth!

27 Sep 2011

Total posts 34

When did they change that? I always used my upgrade vouchers on flights to Perth - and I was platinum for three years with VA but because I worked for government I didn't get points, so they upgrade vouchers were a very nice perk for those longer domestic flights

08 Apr 2011

Total posts 25

I couldn't agree more - VA Plat at the moment gives me a grand total of one perk - access to slight better lounge when on EY at AUH. And that's it. Seriously, why bother? What would really make the difference is much better, wider, lounge access.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

To start with, they should at least give Platinums access to SilverKris Lounges at Changi, instead of Krisflyer Gold lounges which don't even have their own toilets, let along showers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

The velocity program is much easier than the equivalent star alliance programs. Most of the star alliance programs require 50k or 80k status-miles per year to gain the access to the Krisflyer Gold lounges, which is harder than gaining 800 status credits from VA (VA is pretty generous on giving status credits to discounted tickets).

If SQ doesn't allow the star alliance gold members to enter their silverkris lounges at Changi, it is unlikely for SQ to allow VA platinum members into them.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

It's probably more of an SQ issue as they have always been very stingy with almost everything. VA Plat can access Star 1st lounge at LAX run by ANZ yet SQ doesn't give away anything to anyone else.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 300

and that is why I'm not using SQ

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

The Krisflyer Gold Lounge is really sub standard.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2015

Total posts 30

And the staff are really snooty. VA would be better off issuing priority pass membership to Platinum. It would be so useful filling gaps in their lounge network globally and give me solid alternatives in Singapore.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

Actually that is an excellent idea.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

If the staff even know who Virgin Australia are. I had to convince them that they were partnered with Singapore Airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

With the amount of bogans trying to play dumb and sneak in I am not surprised at their attitude, happens at least once every time when I'm heading in. Unfortunately quite an australian specific trait.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

It has been four months since HNA and Nanshan Group chipped in, but the Velocity program is still in lack of the airlines related to the new stakeholders. A funny thing is that if you book flights from Hainan airlines between Melbourne and some cities in China, the code-sharing flights between Melbourne and Sydney (for Hainan's own flight from Sydney to China) are operated by Qantas but not VA. When would the substantial changes happen?

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 300

I know people who are happy with VA Gold and QF Platinum, they reckon there is no really need to have Platinum in VA when you have Gold status.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

The only thing that VA can do is to reduce the privileges for the gold members...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2015

Total posts 30

Nor true. Lots of options. Events, hotel perks being permanent, system wide upgrades, limo transfers or first lounges. VA just needs to decide what fits their needs best.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 319

What about  VA making a Level above Plat and use the Club Lounges for them. Less Cost to the airline and utilises existing facilities 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2343

For what it's worth, there's a discussion over in our Community section on How can Virgin Australia make Velocity Platinum better? ... feel free to zip over there and join in with ideas! 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 42

One of the problems is I made a mistake in selecting the hotel partner and you can never change it - total waste for me now.

24 Feb 2012

Total posts 46

I too made the mistake of selecting the wrong hotel (IHG). Thankfully HHonors always offer status matches so I was able to get diamond status with them anyway. I also scored a status match with SPG. It's worth keeping an eye out for and its worked for me

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 38

I think the best difference between VA Gold and Platinum is at the availability of the Row 3 with extra leg rooms. It's really great that VA is actually thinking about their Platinum members, but as a VA platinum member I'd suggest VA to bring (1) Lifetime 'Silver' and 'Gold' membership, (2) Business/Platinum Lounge in major airports - SYD, MEL, BNE, PER can be a good start. In addition, only in my dream but how about (3) One free alcoholic drinks in cabin if Platinum card presented, (4) One free Valet Parking where available, (5) Birthday Recognition seat upgrade if available, (6) Use points to buy status points... and etc etc.. I have heaps of creative perks ideas.. :P

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Dec 2014

Total posts 55

I agree with the idea of Lifetime Silver and Gold. Although I hope they'd count back a few years - I'd hate to start all over again when I'm half way there on Qantas already. 

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