SMEs account for 97% of all Australian businesses, and the Accelerate program offers a few more tangible benefits than Qantas’ Aquire – including a shortcut to Virgin Australia Gold status, along with flight discounts and travel credits.
To be eligible to participate in Accelerate, you must be an Australian company registered with ASIC and holding an active Australian Business Number (ABN).
Note that travel agents, travel management companies or companies related to the travel industry are ineligible though
There is no cost to join Accelerate, and it’s as easy as filling in an online application through the Virgin Australia website.
What are the benefits?
The following benefits are provided as part of the Accelerate Program:
- Nominate two employees to receive Velocity ‘Pilot Gold’ membership when $2,000 is spent on eligible flights within the first three months
- Fare Advantage Discounts, which are savings of up to 10% (and more during special promotions) off Virgin Australia base fares
- Annual travel credits when your business spends $20,000 or more on eligible flights per year
- Discounted annual membership to Virgin Australia lounges
- All employees travelling on tickets purchased through the Accelerate Program continue to earn Velocity points and Status Credits.
Pilot Gold Program
Pilot Gold is one of the best benefits. If your business spends $2,000 on eligible flights within the first three months, two employees can be chosen to receive Velocity ‘Pilot Gold’ membership.
Pilot Gold is a three-month trial of a ‘lite’ version of Velocity Gold membership, with the following benefits included:
- Priority check-in
- Priority boarding
- Access to 150 lounges worldwide, including Virgin Australia lounges domestically
- Access to premium entry at Sydney and Brisbane lounges, and premium exit at Melbourne lounge
- A 75% points bonus when flying with Virgin Australia or when using one of Virgin Australia’s travel partners
Consider this: Just one Economy return Sydney to Los Angeles flight will see you close to hitting the $2,000 qualifying threshold for Pilot Gold, and if you to treat yourself to Premium Economy, you’d be there in one hit!
So if you…
- Hold an ABN for an ASIC registered company (it seems Sole Traders are not eligible though)
- Spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
Your business will then receive a fast track to Gold Status for two employees.
Handily there are also no requirements in regards to holding an ABN, such as how often you trade under it. Simply holding an ABN is sufficient to apply.
If the Pilot Gold member earn 80 status credits and flies at least one sector on a VA coded flight during the three-month trial period, they are upgraded to full Velocity Gold membership for a further 12 months, with the following additional Velocity Gold benefits becoming accessible:
- Complimentary premium status membership with Virgin Australia’s hotel partners, which includes a choice of either Gold membership in Hilton HHonors or Gold Elite membership in IHG Rewards Club
- Complimentary premium status membership with Virgin Australia’s car rental partners, which includes a choice of either Five Star Rewards membership in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards or Executive membership in Europcar Privilege Program
- Guaranteed Reward Seats for annual family trip anywhere in Australia
- Membership pause for parental leave
- Family Pooling
Earning 80 status credits can be achieved in as little as one return Business Class flight between Sydney and Melbourne, or alternatively 2 return Flexi Fare or 4 return Saver Fare flights.
Fare Advantage Discount
Up to 10% discount off base fares is on offer with Fare Advantage Discounts, with the discount calculated based on the Booking Class of fare purchased, as shown in the table below:
The discounted fares must be for travel on flights with a ‘VA’ flight number operated by either Virgin Australia, Delta Air Lines or Etihad Airways.
Flights operated by other Virgin Australia partner airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, are excluded from these discounts, even if they carry a ‘VA’ flight number.
Annual Travel Credits
Subject to your business spending the minimum amount of $20,000 on eligible flights, Virgin Australia will pay a Travel Credit to your business travel account in the form of a travel voucher. Eligible flights contributing to the $20,000 minimum requirement are those with a ‘VA’ flight number operated by Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Delta Air LInes and Etihad Airways.
The bottom line: the more you spend, the greater the annual travel credit. Calculation of the credit is based on tier levels of expenditure, as shown in the table below:
|Minimum Performance Requirements |
(Flow Expenditure Tiers) (A$)
|Annual Travel Credit %|
|Tier 1 $20,000 +||2.0%|
|Tier 2 $50,000 +||3.0%|
|Tier 3 $100,000 +||3.5%|
|Tier 4 $150,000 +||4.0%|
|Tier 5 $200,000 +||4.5%|
|Tier 6 $250,000 +||5.0%|
For example, if your business spends $50,000 on eligible flights in a given year, the travel credit is $1,500, calculated as $50,000 multiplied by 3.0%.
Discounted Virgin Australia Lounge Membership
The Accelerate Program provides for discounted Virgin Australia Lounge Membership, and is open to all employees. The deal provides for a $190 saving on standard Red Velocity Lounge membership upon joining, and $70 off renewals. The specific rates are:
|Membership/Renewal (including GST)|
|Virgin Australia Accelerate Lounge Rate||$220||$350|
|Standard Virgin Australia Lounge Rate^||$330||$420|
The above is for a Velocity Red Member.
The benefits of Virgin Australia Lounge membership includes:
- Access to all 11 Virgin Australia domestic lounges, and Air New Zealand lounges prior to a Trans-Tasman and domestic New Zealand flights when travelling on Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand (excluding flights between New Zealand and Pacific Islands, Bali and Papua New Guinea).
- All day barista coffee and snacks, and premium wines after 11am
- Business services and complimentary Wi-Fi
- News and entertainment
The Virgin Australia lounge network is growing in size and quality – here’s an overview of the best lounges.
How does Accelerate compare to Qantas’s SME offering?
Qantas’s offering to the SME market is its Aquire Program. While the Accelerate Program employs a ‘discount to fares’ model, the Aquire program employs an ‘additional points earning’ model and sits alongside the Qantas frequent flyer program.
Small businesses can earn 5 Aquire points for every 10 Qantas points earned by business travellers who travel on a QF coded flight operated by Qantas, Emirates or American Airlines. Aquire points can be converted into Qantas points once the following two conditions are met:
- Two or more of the businesses Aquire flyers have travelled on one or more eligible flights; and
- 20,000 pending airline Aquire points (as opposed to accrual of non-flying Aquire points) have been accumulated in the business account
The first point above poses a potential problem for sole traders, given that by definition, their business includes only one employee and therefore one Aquire flyer.
And no, you can’t assign your significant other as an Aquire flyer on your next holiday, as eligible flyers cannot include family members or travel companions, and eligible travel must be business related. This contrasts with Accelerate, where no such restriction exists.
Summing up – Virgin Australia Accelerate Program
The Virgin Australia Accelerate program offers a competitive offering to SMEs and sole traders, delivering benefits that reward ‘road warrior’ employees in a cost effective way for the business, while at the same time, reducing the businesses overall travel expenditure costs.
The Pilot Gold status is easily accessible for any entity with an ABN and who is spending $2,000 on airfare with Virgin, so remember to take advantage of this when makes most sense – time it for when you’ll have subsequent travel to make use of the Gold status and hit the 80 status credits in three months and you’ll get to keep it for another 12.