Update: Virgin Australia has discontinued the Airpass.
Try researching air passes for Australia and South Pacific and what little information you find will be hopelessly out of date and/or too general to be practical. Such as my futile pursuit for the old Qantas Boomerang Pass.
A couple weeks ago my business trip was approved late the night prior to departure and I had an all-night booking frenzy to put together my business trip and add on a week of vacation.
Qantas has an airpass, which I will cover in a future post, but it requires inclusion of the international airfare to Australia on Qantas. Qantas was double the price of Korean Air so my company never would have paid for it.
The Virgin Australia Airpass is simple, extremely simple by air pass standards. Cost savings are meaningful, not epic.
The fine print only shows up when you search for a sample itinerary, look under “fare rules”:
- You must not be a tax resident of Australia or New Zealand.
- You must be outside of Australia and New Zealand at the time of purchase of Virgin Australia Airpass.
- Your residential address must be outside of Australia or New Zealand.
- The credit card used to purchase the Airpass must not be an Australian or New Zealand card.
- You may be required to provide International flight details in support of the above.
In practice, I was never asked to verify international flight details.
The key points:
- Must book a minimum of 3 segments
- Maximum of 8 segments on one pass
- Cannot add segments to a pass
- Changes before you arrive Australia or New Zealand: date, time or routing changes allowed at least 24 hours prior to the flight, fare difference will be applied
- Changes after you arrive Australia or New Zealand: date or time changes allowed at least 24 hours prior to the flight, fare difference will be applied; no routing changes
- No refunds, no cancellations; in case of change, no refunds on fare difference
- May be used for open-jaw or multi-city services
- Valid for twelve months from the date of your first flight on your Virgin Australia Airpass
- Airpass fares are fixed, GST free fares
- Not available for travel on Virgin Samoa flights
- 7kg carry-on baggage and a checked baggage allowance of 1 piece (up to 23kgs per piece)
The baggage allowance is interesting because typical Virgin Australia fares do not include a checked baggage allowance. Additional baggage, however, must be paid at the airport, much higher than the online price open to non-Airpass tickets.
Note that for my international departure from Brisbane, airport security were strictly enforcing 7kg carry-on of all passengers and sent me back to Virgin to check my backpack. This did not happen on any domestic flights and was airport-specific, not airline-specific. A Virgin agent said Brisbane is very strict on international carry-ons.
Enough with the minutiae, cut to the chase:
If you are an international traveler to Australia or New Zealand, and plan to book at least 3 flights, give this a try. Not every flight for which a regular ticket is available has an Airpass fare available, see the below comments for examples.
I booked a 3-segment Airpass of a one-way and a separate open-jaw (Port Arthur-Melbourne, Brisbane-Honiara, Port Moresby-Brisbane). If those 3 flights, involving separate cities and 3 countries, can work, then most any flights should work.
The online booking tool is easy to use. Most flights have Airpass fares. Airpass fares are not necessarily the lowest price, even on Virgin Australia, since the Airpass minimum price is according to geographic zones.
A sample itinerary of Sydney-Ayers Rock, Ayers Rock-Sydney, Sydney-Melbourne in early November prices at $757:
Booking regular tickets, which can only be booked two at a time with regular Virgin Australia, totals $903 (quoted prices in Australia come loaded with all applicable taxes).
$757 is still steep. Welcome to Australia. With saver tickets available the Airpass savings are primarily the tax savings in this case. Other itineraries can save more or less. Add in luggage savings which depends on weight and whether paying for luggage online (for non-Airpass tickets only) or at the airport.
About earning mileage:
The Airpass explicity states that Velocity points cannot be earned on Airpass fares. Nothing was said about partners. There is no way to add a partner frequent flyer number on the Airpass website, but a helpful check-in agent was able to add my Delta SkyMiles number and in accord with their partnership, I earned 100% flown/100% MQMs on my flights.
I booked 3 disparate segments on my Airpass because others flights I did better with British Airways Avios redemptions on Qantas.
I was unable to investigate award redemptions via Virgin Atlantic because the call center was closed and there was no useful information on the website.
I tried Delta and spoke to several Diamond agents and supervisors and the answer came back each time that SkyMiles can only be redeemed for VA-coded flights. Every flight within the region seems to be coded DJ. VA seems to be for trans-Pacific flights only. Another stellar Delta partnership, so much for SkyMiles to Christmas Island. (Update: based on reader comments and further research, there do appear to be some DJ flights that are co-coded VA, such as Sydney-Ayers Rock that can be booked with SkyMiles. I have only found success stories where the trans-Pacific flights are included, please add to the comments if you have successfully booked Australia domestic-only or regional VA/DJ flights without trans-Pacific segments attached.)
Readers, what are your Virgin Australia Airpass experiences?