After being absent from New Zealand’s skies for almost 1,000 days, Virgin Australia is flying across the ditch once again. From this week, Virgin Australia is back in Queenstown, with non-stop flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

With Virgin Australia using its workhorse Boeing 737 jets, all flights to and from Queenstown offer eight Business Class seats. For a little extra wiggle room, 30 Economy X seats provide travellers with extra space on board. The rest of the cabin is given over to Economy Class, with 138 standard seats.

Tea, coffee and water are complimentary in Economy X and regular Economy, although all other food and drink choices are by purchase only. Business Class offers inclusive meals, snacks and refreshments.

Virgin Australia’s Queenstown flight schedule

From both Sydney and Brisbane, Virgin Australia’s flights run daily to and from Queenstown. Out of Melbourne, there’ll be four flights per week from 3 November 2022. But during the summer peak, Melbourne also gets daily flights between 12 December 2022 and 29 January 2023.

Here’s how the airline’s schedule shapes up.

RouteFlight numberDeparture timeArrival timeFlight duration
Sydney to QueenstownVA1619:50 am2:50 pm3 hrs
Queenstown to SydneyVA1623:40 pm5:00 pm3 hrs 20 mins
Melbourne to QueenstownVA1438:25 am1:35 pm3 hrs 10 mins
Queenstown to MelbourneVA1462:30 pm4:05 pm3 hrs 35 mins
Brisbane to QueenstownVA1159:35 am4:05 pm3 hrs 30 mins
Queenstown to BrisbaneVA1184:55 pm5:40 pm3 hrs 45 mins
All flight times indicated above are local times at both the departure and arrival cities.

Outside of the summer peak, flights between Melbourne and Queenstown run on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Australians and New Zealanders have a close bond and we are proud to be creating a new gateway between the countries for friends and family to visit each other, businesses to flourish and holiday-makers to seek adventure with more choice and great value airfares.

Value, choice and great service are at the heart of Virgin Australia, and we look forward to bringing these values to Queenstown with our expanded network.

– Jayne Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia Group CEO, 2 November 2022

Lounge access for Virgin Australia’s Queenstown flights

Unfortunately, Virgin Australia doesn’t have any arrangements for international lounge access. This affects not only Business Class passengers but also Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers as well.

But the right credit card or lounge membership could get you into a lounge all the same. Here are some of those options.



  • Marhaba Lounge is open to Priority Pass. Available every day before VA143.
  • American Express Lounge, with entry via eligible Amex cards. Opens at 7 am daily, giving around an hour of lounge time before VA143 boards.
  • Plaza Premium Lounge welcomes Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders at no charge. Also opens at 7 am daily.

Unfortunately, The House lounge at Melbourne Airport doesn’t currently open earlier than 8:30 am. With Virgin Australia’s Queenstown flight departing at 8:25 am, that doesn’t quite line up.


  • Plaza Premium Lounge is open to Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders at no fee. Opening hours don’t align with VA115 on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The lounge’s 6:30 am opening time on Fridays and Sundays provides for a leisurely visit. On the other days, an 8 am opening gives more of a pit stop ahead of the 9:35 am Queenstown flight.


  • Manaia Lounge. Now in partnership with Plaza Premium, the lounge is open to Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders. But unlike most other Plaza Premium lounges, this location still accepts Priority Pass. Opening hours match up with Virgin Australia’s flights to Sydney and Melbourne. Those bound for Brisbane may find the lounge closing an hour before boarding.
Ad – Scroll down to continue reading.Minimum spend, terms & conditions apply.

Earning points on Virgin Australia’s Queenstown flights

As on Virgin Australia’s domestic flights, its Queenstown services provide a simple five Velocity Points per dollar spent as a starter. That applies when travelling on all paid tickets, whether in Economy Class or Business Class.

Economy X seat in Virgin Australia Economy Class
Unfortunately, there are no Velocity Points awarded on the additional premium charged for Economy X – only on the base fare price.

But for Silver, Gold and Platinum members of Velocity, choosing the right fare can provide even greater rewards. That’s because Virgin Australia’s lead-in Economy Lite airfares are excluded from Velocity’s usual ‘status bonus’.

Tiered Velocity members need to book an Economy Choice, Flex fare, or Business Class to earn that status bonus. The higher your tier, the greater the incentive to ‘buy up’ for even greater rewards. As a refresher, the Velocity status bonus provides:

  • 50% more Velocity Points for Velocity Silver.
  • 75% more Velocity Points for Velocity Gold.
  • 100% more points for Velocity Platinum.

On dates that we’ve searched for Queenstown, the price difference between Virgin Australia’s Economy Lite and Economy Choice fares seems to be around $30, one-way. That difference alone adds free checked baggage and complimentary seat selection. It also enables fee-free flight changes more than 14 days before departure, although a fare difference may still apply.

Economy Choice may also be a savvier pick for members striving to retain their tier than Economy Lite. That’s because Economy Lite fares don’t earn ‘eligible sectors’, either. Without them, you won’t be able to retain your tier regardless of how many Status Credits you pile up. Each year, you’ll need:

  • Two eligible sectors to earn or retain Velocity Silver.
  • Four eligible sectors to earn or retain Velocity Gold.
  • Eight eligible sectors to earn or retain Velocity Platinum.

On flights to and from Queenstown, Economy Choice also delivers twice as many Status Credits as Economy Lite. That’s 30 Status Credits per one-way flight in Economy Choice, versus 15 Status Credits in Economy Lite.

Booking flights using Velocity Points

Virgin Australia is currently running a short sale to celebrate its return to Queenstown. Until 11:59 pm on Sunday 6 November, return Economy Lite fares can be had from just $409 out of Melbourne. From Brisbane, return fares begin at $519, while from Sydney, a round-trip ticket starts at $539.

Outside of sale periods, booking these flights using Velocity Points can be a great-value choice. But it pays to check the paid fare prices as well, to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

From all three cities, a one-way journey in Economy Class costs 17,800 Velocity Points. In Business Class, it’s 35,500 Velocity Points each way. Taxes, fees and carrier charges are also payable and vary by route. From Brisbane to Queenstown, that’s $177.82 in either cabin, one-way.

Virgin Australia booking page for Brisbane to Queenstown
Make sure you’re booking a ‘Reward’ flight when spending your points.

But with Economy Choice fares selling from $326.82 outright on many of the same dates, that would mean using 17,800 Velocity Points to ‘save’ just $149. That’s a return of only 0.84 cents per Velocity Point: far below how we currently value Velocity Points, being 1.90 cents each.

Booking Business Class instead works out to be much more palatable on paper. That’s because Business Class airfares tend to cost several times that of Economy Class but only require twice as many Velocity Points.

From Brisbane to Queenstown, a Business Class seat can be had for $900.52 one-way. Or when booking using 35,500 Velocity Points, there’s just the $177.82 to pay on the side in taxes and fees. That’s a $722.70 cash saving by spending those points, or a return of 2.04 cents per point spent.

Of course, reward seats don’t earn Status Credits or eligible sectors, which may be worth considering when striving to earn or retain status.

Summing up

Virgin Australia’s international network is slowly being rebuilt, with today’s return of flights to Queenstown. There’s also decent reward seat availability when booking for travel in 2023, with Business Class and Economy Class seats available on many departures.

Even for travel throughout November and December 2022, most weeks still have at least a few reward seats. Generally, these are in Economy Class, but getting a spot in Business Class isn’t impossible.

But Virgin Australia is unlikely to return to other New Zealand ports like Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington in the short term.

In a recent interview with Point Hacks, Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO Nick Rohrlach confirmed the airline’s focus was on premium leisure destinations, and on routes popular with those visiting friends and relatives. Routes like Auckland tend to have more of a skew towards business travel, which continues to rebuild.

Also read: Under new CEO Nick Rohrlach, Velocity Frequent Flyer is just warming up.

All images are courtesy of Virgin Australia. Point Hacks’ Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Sciberras, is visiting Queenstown as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Stay up to date with the latest news, reviews and guides by subscribing to Point Hacks’ email newsletter.
Virgin Australia returns to New Zealand with direct Queenstown flights was last modified: August 24th, 2023 by Chris Chamberlin