Virgin frequent flyer research: 43% want toasters over travel?

By John Walton, November 29 2011
Virgin frequent flyer research: 43% want toasters over travel?

Virgin Australia has shared the results of research into what Australians say they want from a frequent flyer program, and to be honest, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

There are some interesting findings: that while than nine million Australians are members of a frequent flyer scheme, some 80 percent of these "are unsure as to exactly how many frequent flyer points they have".

Among passengers who redeem points for flights, 71 percent prefer to use them for longer international flights, with 19 percent favouring shorter flights. (We imagine that spare ten percent is a "don't know".)

A full 14 percent of people surveyed preferred to earn status credits over points, with 71 percent more eager for points.

The poll also reports that "when faced with different payment options, as many as 61% of frequent flyer scheme members are more likely to pay with a credit card in order to earn points." 

We'll breeze past some totally unsurprising 'news' that pooling points and status credits with family members and being able to book guaranteed reward seats were the "most appealing ways to improve frequent flyer schemes". How lucky that a survey commissioned by Virgin Australia happened to single out a few unique features of its own Velocity scheme!

What stood out for us, and we imagine it'll also shock most frequent flyers, is the observation that 43 percent of people surveyed said that non-flight rewards -- retail purchases like toasters, luggage, gadgets and assorted other items -- are the most appealing aspect of their frequent flyer scheme, while only 50 percent said that flight rewards were the most important for them.

We imagine that's because Virgin Australia "canvassed the opinions of a broad cross-section of Australians". (The research was carried out on 6 October 2011, with a reasonable sample size of 1510 respondents aged 18-64 across Australia.)

That methodology would mean that no extra weight was given to the opinions of someone flying in business class between Sydney and Perth several times a week than to a grandmother from Dubbo who flew to London once for Christmas.

Frequent travellers know that trading your points for products is appalling value -- and we use the term 'value' advisedly here.

In fairness, this is true for just about every frequent flyer program. As we explain in the article What is a Qantas frequent flyer point worth?, a Qantas Frequent Flyer point can be worth as much as 1.3 cents if you make an award booking for a flight or as little as 0.3 cents if you go shopping at the Qantas Frequent Flyer store.

The best value for just about every frequent flyer program out there -- including Velocity -- is upgrades from economy to business class. And Velocity's upgrades are pretty good value, even if you only have a few thousand Velocity points.

If you were tempted to cash in 9,500 Velocity points on this $50 toaster then think again, even if the lure of a removable crumb tray and variable browning control prove difficult to resist. 

Just about the same amount of Velocity points (9,900) would get you a one-way upgrade from full-fare economy (a frequent business traveller fare) to business class on a Perth-Sydney one-way flight.

That's over five hundred dollars' worth of value in an upgrade. Take a look at what we thought of the business class flight and service from Perth to Sydney. It's miles better than a toaster.

Don't forget: you can pool points and status credits from your and your family's future flights and transfer existing point balances too, making that upgrade within reach even if you don't have the 9,000 points in your own account.

What do you reckon, frequent flyers? Toasters or upgrades? Long flights or short? And points or status credits?

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.

12 Jul 2011

Total posts 75

Nothing like a few loaded questions to get the desired answers from your respondents. Good on you Virgin!


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Yeah, as if Virgin would pay for a survey which didn't put Velocity in its best light. Myself, I am in the 'status and points' group - I rate both equally. But it'd be interesting if there was some relationship and equation between the two, so that as you approached the renewal date for your membership you could opt to take a flight and instead of say 2000 points you would get 200 status credits, and once you were safely into Platinum territory and were earning more status credits than you needed you could turn the next flight's 200 credits into 2000 points!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 244

Velocity points are best used for Reward seats in peak periods. Sad that they pick material over experience of travelling.

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