Frequent flyers love perks like airport lounge access, priority boarding and a greater chance of getting a points-based upgrade. But Virgin Australia has another benefit that’s much-loved among the airline’s high flyers – Fly Ahead. It’s your ticket to free same-day flight changes.

Fly Ahead has many uses. For some, it means getting home sooner when the day wraps up earlier than expected – or if the trek to the airport gets you to the terminal sooner than planned. For others, it could mean getting a head start on the business day to make an early meeting.

The benefit isn’t without its complexities – and it doesn’t always work. But whether you’re flying for business or leisure, here’s what you need to know to make Virgin Australia Fly Ahead work for you.

Virgin Australia Fly Ahead: the basics

The rules for Fly Ahead can differ. Policies depend on where you’re flying, your status and the type of ticket you hold. But to get started, here are some basics.

Fly Ahead is available to Velocity Gold, Velocity Platinum and Virgin Australia Beyond members when flying domestically. The benefits can also be extended to up to three companions travelling on the same booking as the elite member.

Generally, Fly Ahead requests need to be made at the airport check-in counter when travelling with checked luggage. This is so that your suitcase can be tagged for the correct flight and travel with you – and not have to be retrieved behind the scenes and retagged. Those flying with only a cabin bag can also ask for a Fly Ahead at the lounge service counter or an airport service desk.

Some airport check-in kiosks may also offer a Fly Ahead. But it’s fair to say that travellers eligible for Fly Ahead are less likely to use those kiosks given the full-service experience available via the priority check-in lane. If you do use a kiosk for Fly Ahead and have a checked bag, you’ll need to process the Fly Ahead before tagging and leaving your suitcase.

Regardless of your tier, Fly Ahead doesn’t always work. For one thing, there have to be enough seats available on the earlier flight to be able to move. Virgin Australia won’t ‘oversell’ a flight to accommodate your request – nor will they displace any other traveller to squeeze you on. The airline also won’t usually move you into the last available seat. So, just because a flight is still on sale with seats available doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to move ahead.

You’ll also need to process your request while check-in for the new flight is still open. This means you can’t switch to a service that’s departing less than 30 minutes from when you make your request. You also can’t have your travel rerouted to travel earlier, such as moving from a one-stop itinerary to a non-stop service or vice versa.

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Fly Ahead for Velocity Gold members

To request a Fly Ahead as a Velocity Gold member, you must be travelling on one of the following fare types.

  • Economy Flex
  • Economy Reward
  • Business
  • Business Reward
  • Business Upgrade (from Economy Choice or Flex)

Changes made to Fly Ahead in recent years have made the perk no longer available on the airline’s mid-range Economy Choice fares. To get around that, travellers could first upgrade to Business and then request a Fly Ahead. But Fly Ahead relies on there being available seats on the new flight in the same cabin. With only eight seats in Business to begin with, it can be harder to secure a Fly Ahead at the pointy end compared to Economy.

Fly Ahead isn’t available when booked on Economy Lite fares or group bookings, regardless of the underlying fare type. When flying on an eligible fare, Velocity Gold members can make their Fly Ahead request at the airport.

Fly Ahead for Velocity Platinum members

Velocity Platinum cardholders get a little more flexibility with Fly Ahead. The same is true of Virgin Australia Beyond members. This includes being able to Fly Ahead on cheaper tickets – and getting ‘first dibs’ on that earlier seat. These travellers can request a Fly Ahead on the following tickets:

  • Economy Choice
  • Economy Flex
  • Economy Reward
  • Business
  • Business Reward
  • Business Upgrade (from Economy Choice or Flex)

The addition of Economy Choice into the fare mix makes for a noticeable improvement above the perks of Velocity Gold. Economy Choice is Virgin Australia’s more affordable Economy fare. It’s priced a little above Economy Lite – which only includes cabin baggage and doesn’t earn Eligible Sectors – but it’s the fare type that more travellers would be booking.

Members at these higher tiers also don’t need to wait until they’ve arrived at the airport before asking for an earlier flight. At any time on the day of departure, Platinum and Beyond members can call Virgin Australia and Fly Ahead over the phone.

Call centre staff don’t have as much flexibility with Fly Ahead as at the airport. But on most domestic routes, the phone teams can move travellers ahead onto the next-earliest flight if there are seats available. Exclusively on flights between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the new flight can be up to two hours before the original departure time. Depending on schedules, this means being able to Fly Ahead on a service several flights sooner than the one booked.

My experiences

My Fly Ahead experiences have been mixed during my time toggling between Velocity Gold and Platinum. With Velocity Platinum status, I loved being able to switch flights over the phone. It helped me plan my day better, knowing exactly when I’d depart. Being able to lodge that request early also meant beating any travellers who’d ask for the same flight later in the day at the airport itself.

As a Gold member, Fly Ahead isn’t quite as useful to me. I’m rarely booked on Economy Flex tickets. This means it’s only beneficial – personally, anyway – when travelling on reward seats or in Business. Even then, I find that airport staff sometimes don’t know the rules as well as the ‘premium’ agents I’d become accustomed to getting when phoning ahead as Platinum.

My last attempt to Fly Ahead from Brisbane to Melbourne was met with much resistance at the Brisbane lounge. Apparently, the ‘cheat sheet’ provided to airport staff doesn’t list Economy Reward as an eligible fare type. Yet, the Virgin Australia website clearly lists these fares as eligible for Velocity Gold and above. After showing that page to staff, the Fly Ahead was approved.

But it shouldn’t be that difficult, so I later raised the issue with Virgin Australia’s head office. The airline confirmed that Economy Reward (and Business Reward) flights remain eligible for Fly Ahead. Virgin Australia also advised that steps were being taken to ensure airport frontline teams are aware of this benefit for those flying on points.

Have you used asked for a Fly Ahead lately? Leave a comment below and let us know how it went.

Also read: Travel tip: Velocity Platinum gets you into Etihad’s new First Class Lounge

Imagery courtesy of Virgin Australia.

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Virgin Australia Fly Ahead gets you an earlier flight for free was last modified: July 5th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin