Virgin has matched Qantas’ offer to allow Velocity members to switch to the flag carrier’s own frequent flyer scheme.
The recently reborn airline’s proposals are even more generous, with Qantas Gold members being able to swap schemes by simply booking one flight, rather than accumulating 100 points or five return economy trips between Sydney and Melbourne.
Virgin said that Qantas Gold status passengers wanting to switch to its own Velocity scheme simply need to fill out an expression of interest.
They will immediately be granted a three-month trial membership – including lounge access, priority boarding and preferential seating – and will only have to book one “eligible flight” and earn 80 credits to continue Gold membership for a year.
Meanwhile, existing Gold and Platinum members will be granted a one-year status extension if they simply book one eligible flight before the end of March next year.
Those members will gain an additional 5,000 bonus points when they take two eligible flights in the same time frame, and seating upgrades when they book three.
Virgin also confirmed on Monday that Melbourne and Sydney lounges will reopen on 15 December and Gold Coast, Perth and Adelaide rooms will reopen early next year.
New chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka teased the business was happy to offer “a more compelling loyalty offer than what is currently in market”.
“We know we have a compelling offer for business and leisure travellers who are emerging from COVID-19 with less discretionary spend, but who still want lounges, preferential seating, priority boarding, checked baggage, and all the comforts a mid-market carrier can offer their guests without the price tag,” said Hrdlicka.
“Importantly, we know we can offer something no one else can, and that’s our fabulous people, who deliver our service with a smile no matter what seat number is on your ticket.”
Qantas claimed its initial offer was the first of its kind for a flag carrier.
To qualify, top-tier members of Velocity – and 15 other schemes – 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.
The tit-for-tat loyalty switch offers come as Qantas attempts to maintain its larger post-COVID market share of 70 per cent, 10 per cent higher than before the pandemic.
“The first thing we have to say is that obviously, the market has changed through this year,” said the business’ chief executive, Alan Joyce. “Our major competitor, Virgin, has handed back a lot of aircraft, A330s, ATRs and some of their 737s so they are going to be significantly smaller than they were before COVID.
“We’ve also seen a significant move of demand towards Qantas. We mentioned the 25 corporate accounts that have moved across to us in the last year. I haven’t seen anything of that scale, ever. So we know the corporate market is moving for Qantas.
“And we can see with Jetstar, certainly with Tiger removed from the market, that the low-cost market is moving towards Jetstar, too. So we also believe that there’s been a big strategic advantage for Qantas by having a bigger network of more frequencies.
“And that is very important from the research into our corporate customers. It is our intention to maintain those advantages and a result of all of that means we think our market share will be about 70 per cent. That is sustainable going forward.”