Virgin Australia has hit back at criticisms of frequent flyer programs by The Australian Consumer Association magazine Choice, saying the consumer association had taken a "very selective" view of the facts.
In what has become its annual sledging of Australia's frequent flyer schemes, Choice claimed that most passengers would be better off just buying the cheapest flights on offer. It also claimed said that an entry-level member of Virgin Australia's Velocity Rewards program would need to take 13 discount economy return trips between Sydney or Melbourne and Los Angeles to earn enough points to pay for the same trip with points.
"The review is misleading as it focuses on worst-case scenario examples, despite the fact that Virgin Australia recently relaunched its Velocity Frequent Flyer program and has reduced the number of points you need to redeem flights, and included a whole range of new features that provide members with excellent value," Virgin Australia spokesman Emma Copeman told Australian Business Traveller.
Copeman says Virgin it also has the best reward seat availability in the Asia Pacific, so members can find flights when they want them, whereas Choice reiterated the claim that it's difficult to get seats using frequent flyer points.
The article also mentions short expiry dates for frequent flyer points such as one year, while Virgin Australia is quick to point out that its Velocity program scheme preserves points for three years.
"We also send our members reminders in the lead up to their points’ expiry to ensure they have the opportunity to extend them" Copeman says. "If a member flies with us just once within the 36 month period, the member’s entire point balance will have its expiry extended for another 36 months."
Virgin also disputes that its frequent flyer scheme is poor value.
"We have flights from 6900 Frequent Flyer points, which means that if you fly Economy Class to London return with our partner Etihad Airways (which earns you over 20,000 points), you would easily have enough points for two flights between Melbourne and Sydney," says Copeman.
"With our co-branded credit card with American Express, you get 1.5 points for every dollar spent – considering on average Australians spend over $1000 per month on their credit cards, within a year they would easily have enough points for two flights between Melbourne and Sydney."