Virgin set make Velocity fully Virgin owned again

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Loyalty programs are a cash cow for airlines to the point that some airlines sell a stake or the whole cow for a quick profit hit. Those who have taken the gamble tend to not seen it pay off and more often than not find themselves paying for it, or in the case of Air Canada creating a whole new competing loyalty program.

In 2014 Virgin sold part of its Velocity business to Affinity Equity Partners (AEP). Since the sale the program it has grown to be the third biggest loyalty program in Australia behind Qantas and Woolworths. Virgin now has sellers remorse and has enter an agreement to buy back the 35 per cent of its Velocity program it sold to AEP for $700 million. This is more than double what they sold it for to the group five years earlier.

Virgin has experienced some rocky annual results of late but the shining star of their company has been the Velocity division which saw earnings (before interest and tax) up 12 per cent to $122.2 million.

Personally I think this is a smart move by Virgin which in the end after a initial financial hit see the company not only in a stronger position financially but increase value with its customers for years to come!

VIRGIN OFFERS FIRST DOUBLE STATUS PROMOTION FOR 2019

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Fancy a double status promotion?! I certainly do and it looks like the first of the big Australian airlines has taken fire in the first round of DSC promos for 2019. Today Virgin cheekily released a teaser on their social page with the statement “In two days, we’re going to help you soar twice as fast. Watch this space (and your inbox!)”.

Whilst the offer is not yet active, what is known about the upcoming double status promotion is that if you register and book between 1 February to 12 February 2019, you will receive double Velocity status credits when you travel on any Virgin Australia marketed and operated flight before 28 December 2019

These promotions are a great way for those who are always falling shy of the next tier to get over the line. It’s anticipated that Qantas will soon be releasing the first of their double status credit promotions in February/ March but it looks like Virgin has beaten them to the punch. Well played Virgin, well played!

Comments

Will you be taking advantage of the Velocity DSC promotion? Keen to hear your thoughts.

Etihad and Flybuys partnership to end this month

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Etihad has been going down a very sad and slippery slope the last year or two. After so much gloss and grandeur, the shine is really taking a beating on the airline. Like I have stated in the past and continue to say, Etihad to me wowed as a new kid on the block. Their premium product I felt was one of the best out there in aviation market.  Fast forward and Etihad is cutting and slashing like crazy to get itself back in the black. The latest cut is the Flybuys and Etihad Guest partnership with the three year old relationship set to dissolve on 31 July 2018.

The news comes after cardholders who had experienced issues being unable to convert their Flybuys points into Etihad Guest miles since December 2017. At the time the two claims it was down to ‘technical issue’.

From July 31 2018 linked members will no longer be able to redeem their Flybuys points for Etihad Guest Miles, collect Flybuys points via the Flybuys-Etihad booking portal or link their Flybuys and Etihad Guest memberships.

All outstanding Tier Miles from Flybuys will be credited to a traveller’s Etihad Guest account by the end of August 2018.

I’m not sure this is one of the smartest moves by Etihad as it had the potential to reach out to new audiences but then again I am not across the logistics of the partnership and whether the cost was worth the reward for Etihad at the end of the day.

 

 

JOHN BORGHETTI TO LEAVE VA

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This week’s best kept secret in the aviation sector goes to the resignation of Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti. The catch is he won’t be stepping away effective immediately but will stay for another two years, with his contract expiring 1 January 2020.

The early announcement was made so that Virgin was given ample time to headhunt a new leader and allow a smooth transition.

Having spent 45 years in the aviation industry, Mr Borghetti was appointed as Virgin CEO on 8 May 2010. Previously he was Qantas’s executive general manager for six years but made the move to Virgin after he lost the CEO leadership opportunity to rival Alan Joyce.

The news whilst somewhat surprising is not at all unexpected. Virgin in recent years has struggled turning a profit with the company posting a loss of $220 million for the full year ended 30 June 2017.

In addition the loss of key partnerships has hit the company hard with the Air New Zealand divorce and Qantas-Air New Zealand partnership announced recently in its place being the final straw in his downfall.

It will be interesting to see where Virgin heads from here. It is a very tough act for anyone to navigate and I will give Borghetti some kudos where it is due as it would not have been easy. That said Virgin does need a strong and decisive future, something that has not been evident lately with the company in a confusing budget/ premium model mindset.

Whatever the case the next couple of years will be key to Virgin’s future.

 Comments

What do you think of John Borghetti’s resignation? Do you think he acted in the best interests of the company or was this a poor decision at a time when they needed him most?

DELTA ‘DELTA ONE’ 777-200LR LOS ANGELES-MELB: REVIEW

Flight: DL41, Los Angeles – Melbourne (27 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Delta Skymiles/ Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: Daily
Duration: STD: 10:25pm (-7) ATD: 10.58pm (-7) Delayed 33 mins, STA: 6:35am (+10)      ATA: 7:00am (+10) Delayed 25mins

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Delta Airlines operates the 777-200LR between Sydney and Los Angeles. On this route the aircraft features the older Delta One product, which is unfortunately the first gen lie flat seat introduced by Delta in Business Class. The plane is laid out identically to the Delta 777-200ERs. It features 37 full flat seats in Delta One (aka Business Class), 36 Delta Comfort+ seats (think economy with an additional 4” of leg room and more recline) as well as 218 seats down the back in economy.

This particular seat is in a herringbone arrangement and is split into two cabins of 26 between the first two doors with an additional 11 seats behind door two, in front of Comfort+. I was sat located in the second cabin in 11A. Delta recently announced plans to refresh their 777 fleet which will see introduced to the planes the new Delta One Suites currently found on the A350.

The Airport

Delta operates out of Terminal 3 and 2 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Sky Club in T2 used to be Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge in a previous life and with some minor updates by Delta after the great LAX move. That said it still feels relatively modern and fresh. Arriving from a connecting US domestic flight, I found the showers and freshened up before getting a small bite to eat and some tea prior to boarding the long journey home.

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There was no wait for a shower and afterwards, plenty of available seating despite it being peak hour for flights. There were a variety of chairs grouped in 2 and 4,  solo chairs and bench seating. Snacks, salads and a small selection of hot foods were available as well as self-pour wines and spirits. The selection was sadly not outstanding, but then again on US standards it was fairly good.

The Seat

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I had originally assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin, however my seat assignment didn’t stick and I was bumped out to 11A. Whilst it was not a big deal, I did prefer to be in the forward cabin as the location of the second cabin is directly in front of Comfort+ which can attract some noise. In all honesty though, the setup of a herringbone seat means you face inwards into the aisles and the sidewalls of the seats aren’t particularly high. This meant that whenever I turned my head slightly to the right, I could see at least 5-6 people in my line of sight. The light coming from Comfort+ would also shine into the Delta One cabin as their meal service timing differed from ours and could prove a problem for those who are light sensitive when sleeping.

Waiting at my seat were Westin Heavenly bedding a pillows, a Tumi amenity kit featuring Kiehls moisturises. Noise cancelling headphones were also found at my seat, but I used my own Beats Studios instead during the flight. During the boarding process, I ordered a glass of champagne. I was also provided menus and pyjamas shortly before push back.

As mentioned, the seat is quite exposed and while in the upright position, I am able to see a number of passengers (and vice versa). In bed mode though, it is quite comfortable owing to the fact that it is exposed. You can see most of the passenger across from the aisle, but others are limited by the shield around your seat. A combination of exhaustion and comfortable bedding ensured I slept well over 8 hours. Sadly there is no turn down service (unlike Qantas or Virgin Australia trans-pacific).

Entertain me

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Being one of the oldest Delta One products out there, the age is really starting to show. The screen at my seat was slow, low resolution and small. Indeed, there was limited content found with roughly 20-30 movies and similar number of TV show episodes available. Music was even more limited, so I ended up listening to music from my iPhone. BYO entertainment if you don’t want to be bored during the 13+hour flights between SYD and LAX. I was not impressed and didn’t bother to show anything other than the moving maps as there was genuinely nothing that appealed to me or that I hadn’t watched.

Wifi streaming is available along with internet. As with all Delta flights, messaging is free on board (limited to certain apps and excludes pictures and videos), while doing anything else requires payment. From what I could ascertain, there were patches along the route where the internet would cut out or become incredibly slow (which makes sense as coverage along the pacific can be patchy).

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Once in the air, there was a short wait before the dinner service began. The late evening departure means that many passengers choose to sleep rather than eat. Whilst I had been up very early that morning (and on East Coast time too!), the flight allowed for plenty of time to sleep so I pushed through and had dinner. US airlines aren’t particularly well known for their service, but I have often found that while the flight attendants can be very casual and relaxed about the service, being nice and engaging them in conversation often does wonders in creating a positive experience. Indeed, chatting to the flight attendant working my aisle, she became very animated and ensured I had everything I needed throughout the flight. Top marks to her.

When the dinner/supper service did begin, it started with another glass of champagne and with some nuts as the table was set. Shortly after, my salad, appetiser and soup were all served on one tray. The only choice for dinner was the mains. I ended up going with the chicken (baked with a crust and served with asparagus). The salad and soup dish was taken away after I was done and the main dish replacing them on the same tray. As my appetiser dish and bread dish were left on the tray, general display of food looked tardy but I appreciate it was done so that the meal service could be completed earlier. The meal was finished with the option of cake, cheese or ice cream sundae. I went with the ice cream topped off with caramel sauce and nuts.

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I had some chips and banana as a snack two hours prior to breakfast from the assorted snacks laid out in the galley, but did not order anything from the snack menu.

Just over an hour prior to landing, the breakfast service began. Options ranged from French toast and omelette to muesli and yoghurt. I went with the French toast which sounded much better on the menu that it looked. Whilst fine, I found the portion small and rather uninspired. It was served with some sad looking pieces of mandarin and grapefruit. Flight attendants came around with croissant, bread and carrot cake muffins. I went with the muffins and they were seriously delicious. Overall I found the food offerings rather small in serving and lacklustre in appearance/taste.

Verdict

Delta has a reputation of being the best US based airline. Certainly there were lots of things that have brought it on par with its international competitors. However I couldn’t help but feel that everything was a decade behind. The seats had seen better days, the entertainment system a couple of generations old and the food and beverage service was hardly delightful.

I got a great sleep during the flight for about half the flight and for business class, that’s one factor you’re paying the privilege for. It’s a shame that the other half of the flight was completely unmemorable/ slightly disappointing.

I believe that once the new seat is installed, it would provide a welcome upgrade  in terms of experience for the business class passenger. I can only hope that this flows onto their food and beverage service too. Combined, Delta will truly once and for all shake off that daggy American stereotype (as long as the competition hasn’t moved on again in the meantime).

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About the writer

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I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA BUSINESS CLASS 777-300ER MELB-LOS ANGELES: REVIEW

Flight: VA23, Melbourne – Los Angeles (15 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: 5 flights weekly
Duration: STD: 11:35am (+10) ATD: 11.35am (+10) On time, STA: 9:00am (-7) ATA: 9:08am (-7) Delayed 9mins

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Virgin Australia operates five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft exclusively for their long-haul fleet, with that type of aircraft predominantly flying from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles. All five aircraft have an identical three class configuration which features 37 of Virgin’s medium/long-haul business class product dubbed ‘The Business’, a 24 seat Premium Economy product and 278 Economy seats (75 of those are dubbed ‘Economy X’ which feature an additional 2” of legroom). ‘The Business’ features the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat which is my personal favourite when it comes to Business Class seats.

 

The Airport

Melbourne Airport’s international terminal was recently refurbished last year. It’s bright, modern and airy terminal and is by far the nicest terminal at Melbourne. I was connecting from Auckland so passed through international to international transfer which was fast and painless.

Virgin Australia has a myriad of lounge access rules depending on which class, airline and frequent flyer status. As they rely heavily on partners for international flights, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily they do have a webpage which allows you to select the way you are eligible to access a lounge (status or class), and then scroll down to your departing airport.

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For my flight to Los Angeles in Business, I was entitled to use the Etihad First and Business Class lounge. Breakfast was currently being serviced with a range of hot and cold options. My goal was to get a shower before my long flight. I found the shower well-appointed but was slightly disappointed by the water pressure which could have been improved.

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Other amenities that I enjoyed during my brief stay was the wifi which was fast, plus not to mention the nice views of the tarmac, with single seats line up along the windows.

 

The Seat

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I assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin. There are two cabins, the main forward one with roughly 7 rows (24 seats) and smaller rear cabin (13 seats). I was greeted by the Flight Attendant working my aisle shortly after boarding and I ordered a glass of the Champagne Ayala Millésimé 2007 Vintage. This was served with the menu of the meals for later in the flight.

The seat itself was set up with two pillows which would later be used when set up as a bed, noise cancelling head phones and a bottle of water. I found it to be pretty lacking in storage with shallow or narrow spaces rather than a usable large space. The tray table pops out from under the entertainment screen but wasn’t intrusive or impeded on my knees which can sometimes happen on other business class seats.

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Later in the flight, there was turn down service available with some padding placed over the seat and pillow cases put over the seat pillows. The finishes are beautiful and the shell provides just the right amount of privacy without being claustrophobic. Pyjamas were also offered before take-off along with an amenity kit containing little goodies like moisturisers from Hunter Lab. The medium pyjamas that were provided sat pretty large on me and the amenity kit was mostly forgettable.

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Entertain me

Inflight entertainment was offered on this flight courtesy of a beautiful HD screen. Fixed to the shell of the seat in front, I did not experience any issues seeing the screen in any reclined position. The surface of the screen was quite shiny, however with window blinds down, it was bright and clear. Content was reasonable with a fair number of new releases and some classics. Other than that there was not particularly a lot of choice, particularly when it came to TV shows and Music. I had a number of shows downloaded on my laptop (usual power points and USB ports available) so I can imagine I would have been a bit short of choice had I not had brought my own content to watch.

Wifi is not currently available on Virgin Australia international flights, however there are plans to equip these planes with wifi soon.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Virgin Australia isn’t particularly well known for its food when it comes to those down the back (I have a running joke with some friends about domestic economy catering – think tiny muesli bars, Lindt balls or protein balls). One area I can’t fault them however, is that they consistently do Business class meals very, very well.

Lunch and breakfast were offered on this flight. Service began roughly an hour into take off with tables set, drinks and some nibbles (olives and cheesy biscuits). I had a smoked duck starter followed by pan seared salmon on a bed of soba noodles and finished off the meal with both the burnt butter caramel ice cream and churros (oops!). The meal was well paced, with only the churros taking longer to serve than the rest. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and cleaned it up too quickly that I forgot to take a photo of the main!

During the flight, I was hungry after about a six hour nap and asked for a snack. I was offered the prawn toast with corn salsa and jalapeno mayonnaise. It offering was delicious.

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About an hour and a half before landing, breakfast was served. Virgin Australia has guests fill out a breakfast form around take off with the breakfast card, including drinks and all food, which means that the flight attendants don’t need to wake you up prematurely before the meal if you are asleep. I had chosen the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, baby spinach and goats fetta. This was served with a croissant, some fresh fruit and a fruit smoothie. Again, top marks for presentation and freshness of the food.

 

Verdict

Virgin Australia really gets it right when it comes to ‘The Business’. The seat is well designed, comfortable and private. The food is on point – being fresh, tasty and well presented. Service was casual yet attentive and the whole flight was relaxed and enjoyable. A far bigger inflight entertainment selection and more useable storage would be welcome improvements in what was an overly enjoyable flight experience. It is a shame their international network is so small, as they a formidable force when it comes to international business class.

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About the writer

26853377_10159979448035061_1168249417_o.jpg

I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.