Qantas has made its most audacious pitch yet to woo Virgin Australia customers after announcing that top-tier Velocity members can be fast-tracked to Gold status on the airline’s own frequent flyer scheme.
The airline said the deal, which also applies to 15 international airlines, was the result of a “large number” of enquiries from members of rival plans.
It also comes after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said publicly that Virgin’s new scaled-back strategy would see his airline’s domestic market share increase from 60 to 70 per cent.
The offer, which the business claims is the first of its kind by a national carrier, means transferring members only need to accumulate 100 credits in three months to qualify for Gold rather than the usual 700.
However, they will gain immediate access to lounges and extra baggage while they attempt to hit the lower target, which could be reached by booking as few as five return economy trips between Sydney and Melbourne.
Gold tier benefits include lounge access across Qantas and Oneworld airline lounges globally, preferential seating and priority access to check-in, boarding and upgrade requests.
The airline hopes to have opened 30 of the 35 domestic and regional lounges across its network by early December.
Qantas Loyalty chief executive Olivia Wirth said, “With so much uncertainty in the market, we’ve seen a spike in requests from people wanting us to match their status with other airlines.
“If they are willing to bring their travel across to Qantas, we will fast track them to Gold status.”
While new members will be fast-tracked to ‘Gold’ status, they will have to earn the normal requirements to reach the two higher tiers: Platinum and Platinum One.
In October, Joyce said his airline’s market share was “likely to increase organically from around 60 per cent to around 70 per cent, as our main competitor changes its strategy”.
However, Virgin still hopes to keep its lucrative business-class and frequent flyers by becoming a mid-market ‘hybrid’ airline rather than a budget airline.
Earlier this month, new chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said, “Australia already has a low-cost carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either. Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service.”
“The travel environment is changing and so are our customers’ preferences,” said Hrdlicka. “We know that leisure travellers, small and medium businesses, and many corporates are now emerging from COVID-19 wanting better value.
“They are hungry for flexibility and choice, a trusted brand that resonates with their values, and great prices, along with the premium features they value most.
“Today, we’ve announced a plan that will ultimately give our customers what they value without the big price tag: premium lounges, a new and fresh retail offering onboard, a choice of cabins, better digital technology and a more streamlined check-in experience.”
The airline also reaffirmed its plans to open a domestic lounge network that includes Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast.
It also said business-class would continue, but will first undergo an “end-to-end review” before relaunching next year alongside its premium economy service.
Scurrah’s surprise exit last month was significant because he was synonymous with the airline’s plan to operate as a mid-market ‘hybrid’ rather than reverting back to being a low-cost carrier like predecessor Virgin Blue.
However, Hrdlicka started her first full day in the job by unveiling details of Virgin’s relaunch and strongly insisting it would fill the gap between Jetstar and Qantas.
Bain has resolutely defended the appointment of incoming chief executive Hrdlicka, arguing that she would provide a “different form of leadership” needed to survive, despite a bad relationship with unions.
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