Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer and loyalty program Velocity is offering its members the opportunity to access unique events across sport, music and the theatre through a new entertainment hub.
The airline has partnered with TEG Live (the company behind ticket seller Ticketek) for Velocity Live, where members can earn points for buying tickets, secure upgraded seats or win behind-the-scenes experiences with the likes of musician Keith Urban, who helped launch the initiative in Sydney on Thursday.
While benefits such as ticket pre-sales and special offers are already available through various credit card or bank programs, Velocity chief executive Karl Schuster says Velocity Live was a tailored offering to its members rather than simply a place to buy tickets.
“It’s about curating experiences. It is not about being a channel to distribute tickets,” Schuster told Australian Aviation in an interview on the sidelines of the official launch.
“We want to continually innovate to keep our program relevant, interesting, developing, exciting and engaging for our members and it is this kind of thing that does that.
“We’re the only airline who has got a relationship with an entertainment group TEG Live. It is an exclusive relationship.”
The official launch of Velocity Live featured about 250 invited guests comprising some elite members of Velocity, music industry representatives, airline staff and media, among others.
During the afternoon, they were treated to a two-hour concert where Urban performed songs off his latest album Ripcord. The award-winning artist also chatted with EMI Music Australia managing director John O’Donnell about his distinguished career and offered insights on some of the songs on the album.
Schuster said this was the type of event, which had a backstage or behind-the-scenes feel, Velocity Live was trying to offer the frequent flyer program’s more than six million members.
“It is about creating unique value add for our members through this partnership with Ticketek,” he said.
“We’ve got over six million members. They’ve told me they want to engage more with the program in different ways and we know that entertainment is a really emotional experience so by doing this we are kind of fulfilling that need that I have heard from our members.
“If you are going to create and build loyalty, you can only do it by connecting on an emotional level with your members and there is nothing more exciting or emotional than a private concert.”
Urban said he was thrilled to be asked to be involved with the launch of Velocity Live, describing it as “a bit of a no-brainer”.
“It has been really good for me to be involved with Velocity,” Urban told reporters.
“The live experience, playing live, is what I have always done as a kid.
“I love the fact that there can be access given to people that wouldn’t otherwise get it.”
This latest initiative comes as both Virgin and Qantas have sought new opportunities for members of their respective frequent flyer programs to earn and redeem points, such as through health insurance, home mortgages and even ordering home delivery for dinner online.
Meanwhile, Schuster defended recent changes to Virgin’s recently-introduced new fare structure, where some benefits previously offered to elite members were no longer available on the cheapest domestic economy tickets.
The airline has rebranded its fares with names such as Go, Go Plus, Getaway, Elevate and Freedom, each of which have different levels of flexibility and inclusions. There are also new fare categories for premium economy and business class tickets.
The nine new fare categories, which collectively Virgin has branded “Fares for you”, came into effect for tickets booked after September 7.
For example, the most restrictive and lowest priced Getaway domestic fare do not earn silver, gold and platinum Velocity members bonus points, while gold and platinum members have lost the ability to “Fly Ahead” (catch an earlier flight) if they arrive at the airport early.
There were also plans for all travellers, including elite Velocity members, to pay to select their seat at any point between the time they booked their ticket until when checkin opens 48 hours before departure when on a Getaway domestic fare. However, seat selection fees were dropped until a “technology fix” was in place to exempt gold and platinum members for seat selection fees.
Schuster said the new fares had brought in more fare options for travellers, which he described as a “really good thing”.
Further, he said there was “always an economic trade-off” between the price of the ticket and the level of benefits frequent flyers received.
“We haven’t diluted anything, what we have done is introduce greater variety to the market,” Schuster said.
“It’s designed to introduce new pricing into the marketplace and we calibrate the rewards against the different fare types.
“Depending on the fare class you get different kinds of rewards.”
In terms of the initial impact “Fares for You” had on pricing, an initial comparison for domestic fares on three routes in early September showed Getaway and Elevate prices were roughly in line with, or a little above, where Saver fares were previously, while Freedom has been pegged at where Flexi prices were at.