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‘Defecting’ Velocity CEO unveils international partnerships

written by Adam Thorn | October 27, 2021
Virgin and Qantas 737s sit side-by-side, as shot by Victor Pody

Virgin Velocity’s new CEO has made his first major announcement since his controversial appointment, revealing that members will now be able to redeem points with international airlines including Etihad, Delta and Singapore Airlines.

Qantas began legal action against Nick Rohrlach in March after the executive first accepted a senior role at Qantas Frequent Flyer, before ultimately taking the top job at Velocity.

Rohrlach was originally planned to begin his new role in May, but the flag carrier won a last-minute injunction to push it back. Virgin consistently denied any wrongdoing in his appointment.

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Nonetheless, Rohrlach’s “first significant announcement in his new role” means Velocity frequent flyer members will be able to earn points and status credits on selected flights with Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and South African Airways.

It comes following Virgin Australia dramatically scaling down its own international operations following its collapse into administration, and subsequent buy out by Bain.

Virgin promised Singapore Airlines would be next to offer members reward seats and more partnerships and destinations would be revealed, “in the coming months”.

“I am thrilled to offer customers an extended network to hundreds of destinations across the world,” said Rohrlach.

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“After being grounded for so long, many of us can’t wait to reunite with family and friends and experience new places – now Velocity Points will once again make it possible.

“Virgin Australia and its airline partners are determined to offer some of the best value fares on the market as we do our part to rebuild the travel industry and the millions of jobs it supports globally.

“As we rebuild and reopen, we look forward to offering even more opportunities to earn and redeem points for our savvy members.”

To coincide with the announcement, Virgin said it would extend its ‘Flexible Flying’ policy for travel on international services operated by Virgin Australia, including Reward Seat bookings made on partner airlines, for travel prior to 31 December 2022.

The long-running battle over Rohrlach – who was also a former chief executive of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar Japan – began in March.

Qantas argued in court that “highly sensitive” information had been shared with Rohrlach during his onboarding process at its own loyalty program, which the airline feared he would share with rival Virgin upon taking up his new position.

A last-minute injunction stopped him from starting his job as planned in May, and meant he had to serve out his gardening leave.

Virgin reacted by issuing a statement saying it “categorically denies allegations that it has been anything but proper and appropriate” and was confident it would be “vindicated”.

“We look forward to welcoming Mr Rohrlach to the Virgin Australia family with open arms and showing him why we are Australia’s most loved airline with a winning team that attracts the very best,” the business said at the time.

Qantas, however, branded the manner of Rohrlach’s defection “an inglorious sequence of events”.

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