Upgrade guide for Virgin Australia.
29 Jun 2016
If you normally travel in premium economy or on Virgin Australia's economy Flexi fares, business class upgrades are one of the best ways to use your Velocity Frequent Flyer points.
Upgrades are available on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights with business class – cheaper economy Saver tickets need the most points to upgrade, while Flexi fares and premium economy bookings can be upgraded for less.
When it comes to upgrades, there are three types of economy fares.
- Saver Lite are the cheapest tickets, now sold only on trans-Tasman flights and can't be upgraded using points.
- Saver fares are the de facto economy ticket and can be upgraded using points on domestic flights only.
- Flexi fares are the most expensive and allow domestic andinternational upgrades by both points and Platinum upgrade certificates (more on that later).
For example, a business class upgrade from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Perth will cost you 9,900 Velocity points on a Flexi fare, but 30,000 points on a Saver ticket.
Taking a longer trip to Los Angeles or Abu Dhabi? You’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points from an economy Flexi fare or base-level premium economy saver ticket, or just 25,000 points if you’re on a flexible premium economy ticket.
Upgrades aren’t available when travelling on Virgin’s partner airlines – including Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air New Zealand – even if you're booked on a codeshare service with a VA flight number. But in its favour, Virgin Australia offers confirmed upgrades as soon as you've requested them: provided there are upgrades available on your flight, rather than waiting until closer to departure as happens with Qantas.
Here's what you need to know to turn those spare Virgin Australia Velocity points into a business class seat on your next domestic or international trip with Virgin Australia.
Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Saver fares
If you're travelling on a Saver fare, upgrades with Velocity points can be requested from the time of booking up until three hours before departure via the Virgin Australia website or over the phone (13 18 75), and if an upgrade isn't available at that time, you can add your request to a waitlist for consideration closer to departure.
Requests can also be made in Virgin Australia's lounges between two hours and 40 minutes before departure for guests who already have access, or at the Virgin Australia priority check-in desks in Hobart where the airline currently has no lounge.
Note that Velocity Platinum members aren't bound by that two-hour rule, instead able to request an in-lounge upgrade from the moment they arrive, rather than a set two hours before the flight.
Combined, that makes Virgin's domestic upgrade policy particularly generous, as in addition to scoring upgrades for yourself, you can also use points to bump-up colleagues, friends and family members whether they're travelling with you or in their lonesome.
On shorter flights like Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane, the asking price is 10,000 points per passenger, per flight: equal to the number of points needed for a similar upgrade on Qantas.
That’s not bad value when you consider the typically low cost of your Saver fare, plus the benefit of lounge access if you’re not already a Velocity Gold or Platinum member.
But on those longer treks across to Perth, the number of points needed for an upgrade to business class is nearly the same as simply booking a confirmed business class seat at the onset.
Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Flexi fares Reflecting the higher price of Virgin Australia's domestic Flexi fares compared to their Saver counterparts, the number of points needed to upgrade from these is significantly less.
Book a Flexi fare and you could be sitting in business class on the airline’s short hops for just 4,900 points on routes like Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Canberra.
Like Saver fares, confirmed upgrades can be requested online or over the phone until three hours before your flight, or at the airport for frequent flyers and paid-up Virgin Australia Lounge members.
Using Virgin Australia upgrade certificates
Velocity Platinum members receive four free upgrade certificates each year which can turn a Flexi fare into a business class seat at no charge.
They’re valid anywhere on the Virgin Australia domestic and 'short-haul international' network, and are put to best use on those longer flights between Perth and the east coast, particularly those served by Airbus A330s.
Not only will you get the most airtime for your free upgrade, but you'll also find the airline's latest 'The Business' seats on those A330 aircraft, with international-grade fully-flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat.
Internationally, you could upgrade to destinations like New Zealand, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, but not on longer routes such as to Los Angeles.
International business class upgrades on shorter Virgin Australia flights Heading to New Zealand, Fiji or any of Virgin Australia’s other destinations closer to home?
You can use your points to upgrade to business class if you’ve splurged for a Flexi fare, but not if you’re travelling on a Saver or Saver Lite ticket.
And as Virgin Australia doesn’t have any international lounges of its own – instead using those of airline partners such as Air New Zealand and Etihad – international upgrades can only be requested over the phone, again until three hours prior to departure.
Like domestic flights, your points can be used to upgrade anyone on short international flights, whether you're travelling together or not, and can be waitlisted if an upgrade isn't immediately available.
Between Sydney to Auckland you’re looking at 9,900 points for a stint in business class, or the same number of points on those longer Sydney-Nadi (Fiji) flights which fall into the same distance band.
International business class upgrades to Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi
While Velocity members at all status levels can move up to business class on domestic and short international flights, upgrades to 'The Business' on flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi – the airline’s two Boeing 777 destinations – are solely the domain of the Gold and Platinum frequent flyer.
Unlike Qantas which doesn’t process any international upgrades until closer to departure, Gold and Platinum flyers enjoy confirmed upgrades on all flights where available, but can again waitlist if an upgrade isn't immediately available.
These top-tier members can also upgrade other travellers to The Business on Abu Dhabi or Los Angeles flights, but only when travelling together. (If a family member holds their own Velocity Gold or Platinum card but the points are in your account, you could always transfer your points across and have them request their own upgrade.)
Wherever you're headed, also keep in mind that not all business class seats can be snapped up with points – Virgin Australia intentionally keeps a number of these available to fare-paying passengers, while long-haul international upgrades can also only be processed over the phone, not online.
How many points you'll need varies based on your fare type, but on most upgradeable tickets (that's economy Flexi and Premium Saver), you’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points in each direction to both Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.
Passengers on the most expensive premium economy tickets require only 25,000 points, however.
Bidding for a Virgin Australia upgrade
Don’t have enough points or upgrade certificates to relax at the pointy end? There’s one last hope – UpgradeMe PremiumBid. Travellers can bid for a better seat in the next-best cabin – domestically, that’s business class, and internationally, that's either premium economy or business, depending on the route.
As a bonus, upgrade bids are accepted from all paid travellers on flights to Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles – unlike points upgrades to these destinations which are restricted to Gold and Platinum members. On these longer flights, you’ll need to be sitting in premium economy for a chance at business class, as economy passengers can only bid for premium economy.
To see what an upgrade could cost on your next booking, visit the UpgradeMe Premium Bid page on the Velocity website. Here, you can enter how much you’d be willing to pay for a business class seat, and lock that figure in – along with your credit card details – up to 72 hours before the flight departs.
Within 24 hours of wheels-up, the airline will assess your bid, and choose to either accept or decline your offer.
If your offer has been approved, your credit card will automatically be charged with your bid amount – and if not, or if your card payment is declined, you’ll keep your original seat.
Our final tips…
The number of points and status credits you’ll earn will match your original fare, so if you’ve shuffled from economy to business class, your frequent flyer bounty would be as if you’d actually flown in economy.
Whether by points, certificates or PremiumBid, upgrades aren’t available when travelling on most frequent flyer award tickets – so if you've already forked over Velocity points for the booking, make sure you're happy with the class that you've selected.
The only exceptions to this rule are Velocity Any Seat bookings, where travellers can upgrade using points or PremiumBid as if they were travelling on a regular (paid) fare.
Source: Australian Business Traveller