Virgin Australia has announced the permanent closure of its premium Club lounges in Canberra and Perth, as well as the re-opening of lounges in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by March 2022.
Following the closure of all premium lounges in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, Virgin will re-open the doors of its most popular lounges in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by Q1 2022 as travel demand is forecast to improve.
Meanwhile, Canberra and Perth airports will see their premium lounges permanently shut down, with Virgin stating the ventures are “not commercially viable”.
Virgin chief commercial officer Dave Emerson said the closure of Perth and Canberra’s lounges was largely due to “high operating costs and low visions”, and that Virgin customers would still have access to the airline’s domestic lounges.
Emerson said Canberra and Perth are “important” to Virgin and the airline is “investigating alternatives to provide a premium experience for Club members travelling through these cities.”
Virgin said the decision to re-open its premium Club lounges across most major airports was made off the back of feedback from customers of its loyalty programs.
The airline, like rival Qantas, has also shifted attention to better catering to its loyalty program customers, as the COVID pandemic continues to disrupt international and domestic travel.
According to Virgin, an extensive review by the Brisbane-based carrier found that 95 per cent of its Virgin Australia Club – previously dubbed as The Club – members would recommend the premium loyalty to a friend.
“As part of the review, we asked a group of our most frequent flyers what they valued about The Club loyalty program and we’ve been blown away by the passion and enthusiasm,” said Emerson.
Emerson added it will remain a vital part of Virgin’s “business eco-system” in the future to climb back to pre-pandemic levels, expecting demand to increase early next year.
The review began following Virgin Australia’s relaunch in November last year, and Emerson said its Velocity Frequent Flyer has entered new partnerships with 7-Eleven, Youfoodz and Medibank.
The carrier also announced it plans to retire the brand name ‘The Club’ for a name that “reflects the airline’s future direction”.
There will also be an update in eligibility criteria and benefits from joining the loyalty program along with the rebranding.
“As the nation’s vaccination rates increase, so too will our opportunities to travel more freely, and we are working hard to be in prime position for when that day comes,” said Emerson.
Other competing airlines have recently attended to their premium programs in a bid to maintain loyalty during the outbreak.
Qantas last week extended its flyer status for customers until at least June 2023 if at least one flight is booked before the current membership expires.
The move marked the fourth time Qantas extended the program during the pandemic.
Rex, Australia’s regional carrier, still operates its corporate Rex Business Flyer, but plans on launching a general frequent flyer program by 2022 to rival Qantas and Virgin.