With changes to Velocity’s award chart coming into effect on 1 June 2016, it was time for us to revise where the best redemptions of Velocity points can be found. Thankfully, there are still some good-value opportunities.
This guide is worth reading alongside this piece on the best use of Qantas Points too. Both programs have their own strengths and weaknesses which, in order to get the most from your points, are worth being aware of.
1. Redeem for Premium Economy and Business Class on Virgin Australia-operated flights
Redeeming Velocity points for Virgin Australia-operated flights represents the best value in the following situations:
- When travelling domestically in Business Class with multiple people: I have booked business awards for four out of a total of eight seats in the Business Class cabin of some of Virgin Australia’s domestic flights
- On shorter domestic flights: where peak-time Economy fares are relatively expensive, you can often book a Business Class short-haul domestic redemption for 15,500 points
- Velocity *can* have better award seat availability than Qantas, although that’s no longer a general rule: Virgin has a greater supply of seats, at reduced cost in terms of points and cash, which means a more competitive point-per-point value than their main competitor. They have also priced their award chart at slightly less than Qantas’ for the same flight on the same route. For example, a Business Class seat on a Sydney-Los Angeles flight costs 95,500 Velocity points vs 96,000 Qantas points, but accompanying taxes are also usually a fair bit lower, meaning a lower cash co-payment.
2. Velocity redemptions on most Singapore Airlines flights are now cheaper
In the recent round of changes (the first for Velocity in five years), the pricing for a majority of awards in Table 2 fell, meaning fewer points for redemptions on Singapore Airlines.
|Route||Until 31 May 2016||From 1 June 2016|
|Australia East Coast to Singapore||Economy: 37,500|
|Australia West Coast to Singapore||Economy: 35,000|
|Australia East Coast to London or New York||Economy: 75,000|
|Economy: 75,000 (unchanged)
This provides a useful option for Velocity members to redeem flights on Singapore Airlines using Velocity points because the fuel surcharges and taxes are lower with Velocity when compared to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer Miles program.
However, Velocity members still cannot redeem for First Class Suites on Singapore Airlines A380 services, and must transfer Velocity their points to KrisFlyer to redeem.
3. Transfer your points to KrisFlyer for better award space, First Class redemptions and/or a free stopover
Singapore Airlines releases more saver award space to its own members, so sometimes it is worthwhile to transfer your Velocity points to KrisFlyer. Furthermore, by redeeming your award online, you are eligible for a 15% online discount.
Plus, if you want to save some of your Velocity points, even though Singapore Airlines tends to charge significantly higher fuel surcharges for the same flights redeemed through KrisFlyer, in some cases the points differential may outweigh the taxes and fees differential, depending on your respective points balances.
For example, a Business Class ticket from Sydney to London would cost 139,000 Velocity points plus $85 in taxes if booked through Velocity, but you’d save ~30,000 points by paying ~$400 more in taxes if you transferred Velocity Points over to KrisFlyer.
Whether you use Velocity points or KrisFlyer miles will depend on the specific Singapore Airlines redemption you have in mind, and you’ll need to compare the points and taxes in both Velocity and KrisFlyer to come to the best decision for your situation.
Remember, you cannot redeem Velocity points for First Class travel on Singapore Airlines A380 flights, meaning you have to transfer them to KrisFlyer in order to enjoy the luxury of the First Class Suites on the A380 on services to Sydney, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Zurich, Beijing and Shanghai, amongst others.
The only way to use your Velocity points to book a double bed on a Singapore Airlines flight is by transferring them to KrisFlyer
And if you transfer enough points and book a return ticket on KrisFlyer, you can get another perk, which Virgin does not offer: a free stopover.
For example, given that you have to fly from Australia to New York via Singapore and Frankfurt, if flying on a return ticket, you can request a stopover (a stop in a city for more than 24 hours) in one of those cities for free. Or, if you’re on a one-way saver ticket, you can just buy that stopover for $100 USD.
You could also get a free stopover in Singapore or Moscow on your way to Houston
4. Book easily-attainable US domestic flights with Virgin America
Virgin America is one of the more ‘exclusive’ partners of Virgin Australia, in that there are few other frequent flyer programs that also work with them as a partner.
They operate without a set amount of award seats available set aside for their own Virgin America Elevate members, there is heaps of availability for partner redemptions from Velocity.
Whenever I have called Velocity to ask about availability on Virgin America flights, there are always many seats available on most flights every day in their Economy and First Class cabins (which are priced as Business on the Velocity award chart).
50,000 Qantas points would get you on a fully-flat Business seat on an American Airlines flight from LA to New York, but availability can be notoriously hard to come by.
For essentially the same amount of points (49,500), you can redeem your Velocity points for a seat in Virgin America’s First Class cabin, but with much better availability.
Sure, Virgin America’s network is much more limited in scope, and their business class is not as spacious as American’s, but this is a great win for those who can use it.
Plus, if you fly First Class (or fly Economy and are eligible for Priority Pass access through your American Express card), you can get into the Virgin America Loft at LAX, which is one of the best lounges in the US, for free.
The Virgin America Loft at LAX
5. Plan your points transfers with Velocity’s twice-yearly 15% discount and/or 15% transfer promotions
Velocity are unique in our region in consistently offering the opportunity to book points seats at a significant 15% discount and bonusing points transfers in from credit card programs with an additional 15% bonus, often in parallel.
This is, by far, the optimal time to transfer and book your Velocity reward seats for any of the above redemption opportunities.
On top of the cheaper pricing I explained above, you’ll then be able to gain even more value from your bank’s flexible points program. Here’s to hoping this pattern of offers continues.
6. Fly in Business Class to the South Pacific for 71,000 points return
Virgin Australia flies direct from its two biggest hubs of Sydney and Brisbane to Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga. These flights fall into Zone 3 (1,201-2,400 miles), meaning it costs only 35,500 miles for a one-way Business Class ticket, which is the same as a flight from the East Coast to Perth.
And you’ll save money on the ground being in a cheaper destination than Western Australia.
During select dates, Virgin Australia flies its A330 with fully-flat Business Class beds from Sydney to Nadi, Fiji, where you can wake up to this view
What’s not so good?
There are definitely weak points to Velocity. Specifically, these are:
- A very discouraging and heavy charge of $205 USD per Business Class and $300 USD per First Class sector flown on Etihad, with its new Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge introduced on 18 June 2016, making a return First Class ticket from Australia to Europe via Abu Dhabi $1200 USD more expensive than before. This is in addition to an apparent increase in fuel surcharges on Etihad flights that some of our readers have recently encountered
- Virgin’s limited international network of their own flights means you have to redeem Velocity points for partners for most international travel. With two partner redemption tables, the more expensive partners (Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Air New Zealand, South African and airberlin) are not as affordable
- Velocity have a lack of reasonably-priced redemption partners into Asia, which is why the KrisFlyer transfer option exists, but even so, their partners are lacking, especially into North Asia and China. However, that is set to change with their link-up with Hainan and Qingdao Airlines and a possible launch of their own flights to Beijing and Hong Kong in June 2017
- You cannot mix cabins or carriers on Velocity redemptions
While there are a number of downsides (an increasing number, unfortunately) to the Velocity program, it still offers good value for Business and First Class redemptions across its own network, flying on Virgin Australia operated flights.
It is now cheaper to book seats on Singapore Airlines flights, with the added bonus of being able to transfer points to KrisFlyer when it is favourable in relation to a tax comparison with Velocity, or for First Class or more award seat availability.
Virgin America redemptions also represent good value in terms of great award availability and the low taxes on flights within the US.
And Velocity’s twice-yearly discounts and bonuses are an added incentive to make sure this program does not disappear from your frequent flyer repertoire.