Your guide to the Virgin Australia United Airlines partnership

Your next Virgin Australia reward seat could be even closer with this 2024 double points promo.

By Staff Writers, May 15 2024
Your guide to the Virgin Australia United Airlines partnership

Flying from Australia to the USA? The partnership Virgin Australia and United Airlines has you covered, with direct connections to United’s three major US hubs – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston – which in turn feed into an extensive network reaching only across North and South America.

The alliance includes codeshare flights as well as reciprocal loyalty benefits for members of Virgin’s Velocity Frequent Flyer and United’s MileagePlus programs.

Those perks include earning Velocity points and status credits on UA flights plus access to United Club lounges; in turn, United’s own elite tier members will gain access to Virgin lounges when they head down under.

Other shared benefits for top-tier Velocity and Mileage Plus members include priority check-in, priority boarding, priority baggage delivery and a higher checked baggage allowance, and priority security clearance.

Of course, United’s extensive trans-Pacific network is sure to increase speculation that Virgin won’t resume its own flights to Los Angeles after the long-range Boeing 777 jets were dropped in August 2020 as part of a sweeping ‘rescue, rightsize and reboot’ plan by Virgin’s new owners Bain Capital.

Ready for a rundown on the Virgin Australia-United Airlines partnership? Here’s how it works.

Velocity ‘priority perks’ on United

In most airline partnerships, status benefits are broadly aligned between the equivalent tiers of frequent flyer programs – and in the case of Virgin Australia and United Airlines, this is how those tiers to line up:

  • Velocity Silver = MileagePlus Premier Silver
  • Velocity Gold = MileagePlus Premier Gold
  • Velocity Platinum = MileagePlus Premier Platinum

MileagePlus also offers an ‘above Platinum’ Premier 1K level plus an invitation-only United Global Services tier.

The baseline of ‘priority’ benefits which save both time and trouble during your travels will include priority check-in, priority security clearance (where available), priority boarding and priority baggage delivery (it feels good when your bags roll off the conveyor belt early, doesn’t it!).

Add a higher checked luggage allowance – such as an extra free checked bag – and you can appreciate these are some of the most practical perks going.

Virgin-United codehare flights to the USA

As a starting point, United Airlines’ flights between Australia and the USA carry a VA flight number as part of the codeshare agreement between the two airlines. Your options from down under currently include:

  • Sydney to Los Angeles
  • Sydney to San Francisco
  • Melbourne to San Francisco
  • Melbourne to Los Angeles
  • Brisbane to San Francisco

From those hubs, the length and breadth of the United States is just a single flight away, with onward connections to the likes of New York, Las Vegas, Denver, New Orleans and more.

Velocity access to United lounges

For many if not most frequent flyers, the opportunity to spend time relaxing or working in an airport lounge is one of the most important benefits of status.

Velocity Gold and Velocity Platinum members enjoy entry to United Club lounges at domestic and international airports, though only in conjunction with an International journey, where both flight sectors are booked on a single ticket.

Lounge access is not available where a Velocity member is holding a domestic flight and an international flight on separate tickets.

United Club lounges, such as United’s new United Club in Newark, offer the usual ranks of comfortable seating, fast-flowing WiFi and complimentary light snacks and drinks such as beer, wine and ‘wellness’ mixes – although you’ll usually be expected to put $1 into the tip jar for each free drink served. A separate menu offers premium cocktails, beer, and wine for an additional fee.

However, you can rule out access to United’s Polaris international lounges – unless you’re flying in United business class, of course. The decidedly upmarket Polaris lounges are exclusively for premium cabin passengers. Shiny status alone won’t cut it if you’re sitting at the wrong end of the plane.

United access to Velocity lounges

While United has no lounges in Australia, Velocity Gold and Platinum members booked into United economy or premium economy international flights out of Sydney and Melbourne will be ushered into the Singapore Airlines lounge.

Travellers in United business class will of course be able to choose between the Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines lounges, as both airlines are United’s Star Alliance partners.

United MileagePlus Gold members and above also have access to Virgin Australia’s domestic lounges when travelling on a Virgin Australia operated flight, regardless of whether it's a domestic or international itinerary. 

Read more about Virgin Australia international lounge access here. If domestic travels are on the cards, this is the guide for you.

Earning Velocity points, status credits on United flights

An essential perk of the Virgin/United hookup is earning Velocity points and status credits on United Airlines flights (likewise, United’s MileagePlus members can rack up miles when travelling with Virgin Australia).

On flights between Australia and the USA, travellers will earn up to two Velocity points per mile flown, which will see your balance boosted by between 3,740 points for discount economy and nearly 15,000 points for United Polaris business class.

Beyond Los Angeles or San Francisco and on to your destination, the number of points you’ll earn depends on the fare type booked, with between 0.25 and 1.5 points earned per mile flown.

This same points earn rate applies to Virgin Australia domestic flights in Australia for passengers travelling on a United flight number.

Points bonuses also apply for Silver, Gold and Platinum Velocity Frequent Flyer tiered members, with an additional 50%, 75% and 100% respectively earned depending on the card you hold.

The new partnership will allow travellers to climb status ladders in both Virgin’s Velocity program and United’s MileagePlus scheme.

A one-way United flight between Sydney or Melbourne to the US will earn 45 points for Choice fares, 80 for Flex and 160 in Business. This means for a new member, a single return journey in United Polaris business class will be enough to elevate them from Red to Silver.

Similarly, once you reach the US, the distance travelled on a United domestic or regional sector will determine the status credits earned, ranging from 10 for discount economy up to 80 for a cross-country business class leg to New York.

Using Velocity points to book a United flight

Another welcome win for Virgin’s loyal Velocity members: the ability to use their Velocity points to book seats on United Airlines flights.

Virgin has Velocity-based ‘redemption’ bookings across many of its partner airlines – a roster which includes Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic – and, of course, United.

United Airlines sits on the ‘Virgin Australia’ points redemption table, optimising the value for Velocity members to use their points on flights to the US in this partnership.

This means for a Reward redemption seat on the 7,500-mile (thereabouts) journey between Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles or San Francisco, only 71,700 points are needed for a premium economy seat, or 95,500 to fly up the front in United Polaris business class, plus taxes and any fees.

The same points can also take you onward to New York JFK, with the additional 2,475 miles keeping this fare within Virgin’s 7,000-mile to 8,500-mile redemption window.

Unlike Virgin’s previous partnership with Delta, Velocity upgrades are unavailable on United, even for Platinum members. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 712

"... there is a limited window to activate and book – from now until 11.59pm April 19, for travel until September 30, 2024."

Bit of a sad attempt to match Qantas' announcement on Monday (which sort of seems to have gone down like a lead balloon).  Anybody who books between now and Friday-week was most likely going to do so anyway.  

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 965

I booked a United flight last year and reading the terms on the VA website it said about any booking already booked also would get the bonus points 🥳

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Apr 2024

Total posts 1

I had to sign up to ET just to comment here- we used the United Lounge at SFO ( Velocity Gold). In all my days, it's the saddest lounge I ever experienced. It was like stepping back into the 1980's, like a bad school cafeteria with a trestle table bar for drinks. United are trying to re-position themselves as this 'virgin australia style' new refreshed airline but its terrible to be honest- no sugar coating.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 566

Wish VA spend more afford on developing pax loyalties in their core business ie domestic travel. 

Didn’t manage to take advantage of the domestic promo status credits bonus earlier this year due to fairly short lead time. 

Reluctant to book new flights with QF after their status promo ended, and looks like the QF CFO-CEO is not going to be treating their pax any better. I am waiting for VA DSC but not sure whether it will happen for a while, although I would have thought Bain would try to stimulate booking before attempting a trade sale, regardless whether they found anyone to replace JH


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