The Virgin Australia Airpass

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Try researching air passes for Australia and South Pacific and what little information you find will be hopelessly out of date and/or too general to be practical.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”:

Eligibility:

  1. You must not be a tax resident of Australia or New Zealand.
  2. You must be outside of Australia and New Zealand at the time of purchase of Virgin Australia Airpass.
  3. Your residential address must be outside of Australia or New Zealand.
  4. The credit card used to purchase the Airpass must not be an Australian or New Zealand card.
  5. 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:

Virgin Australia Airpass 001

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).

Virgin Australia Airpass 002

Virgin Australia Airpass 003

$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.

Shop around:

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.)

Anything else?:

Readers, what are your Virgin Australia Airpass experiences?

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  • Jon

    I dont know what your diamond desk is telling you, but I booked a miles ticket from LAX-SYD-AYQ-SYD-LAX in business, and the AYQ segments are indeed DJ. 🙂 Delta Skymiles… all the way. Don’t give up hope yet. I think that maybe it has to have an international leg attached.

  • Jon – thanks for the info, I was trying to book Perth – Christmas Island roundtrip as a standalone, so you may have the answer of attaching an international leg. SYD-AYQ in the case of Qantas I noticed is codeshare with AA, so maybe Delta has a codeshare on that route as well?

  • ClearedCustoms

    Just a couple months ago I booked $2,500 USD in intra-Aus & NZ airfare for our trip down under next year. Bookings on V-Australia, Qantas, & Air New Zealand, but enough on V-Aus that this would have made a difference. Wish I’d known about the Airpass then! I priced checked V-Aus multi-destination itineraries (no savings) but didn’t investigate further. Arghh.

  • Jon

    The flight is listed as VA 1627 and VA 1630 on the way to AYQ and back … don’t know if that’s code shared or not…

  • Jon

    By the way, tip of that hat to you. I booked an airpass ticket for my partner, saving us $165 🙂 Thanks!

  • @Jon – that is in line with my research and also experience with Delta, some of the domestic flights then are coded DJ and VA, Virgina Australia code-sharing with itself in essence, and it seems Delta can only book ones that are VA, though may show on the ticket as DJ. Never simple with Delta’s partners.

  • V

    I was looking at the Airpass today and it seems that it can not use all flights that are actually available on VA. For instance I have 3 segments I want to fly in first quarter of next year.

    MEL > AKL, AKL>CNS, CNS>SYD

    No problem on the first and last segments. I can not seem to find availability on anything out AKL to either CNS or SYD. I also tried Christchurch, no luck.

    When I go to Matrix airfare search I find multiple possibilies for direct flights on the days I want and with options for times.

    Not sure if this is some issue with the Airpass, or a rules thing with the Airpass or what.

  • @ClearedCustoms – I have been in your shoes many times too, kicking myself over the proverbial ‘guy in the seat next to me getting a cheaper ticket,’ though I never can quite let go, the rationalization I try is that I am going to a wonderful place and better than not going. This trip I had a moment like that in Brisbane Airport seeing a Korean Air crew heading for a flight to Seoul. I realized I might have been able to get my company to pay the Korean Air ticket back to the US from Brisbane instead of Melbourne, rather that using Avios to get me back to Melbourne, but then I would have potentially had to justify what the heck I was doing in Brisbane and why a hotel night there. Easy come, easy go.

  • @V – I had the same experience looking at Perth – Christmas Island – Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Virgin has the flights and regular fares but no Airpass fares. The Airpass terms only state that Airpass fares may not be available, so they may block certain flights. Not ideal, but maybe give Brisbane a try? It is in between CNS and SYD and a relatively cheap reventue ticket or Avios redemption to CNS or SYD.

  • V

    So now the question is do I add an extra flight in from Auckland to Brisbane and then on to Cairns and lose 6+ hours due to extra travel or spend the estimated extra $80 to fly direct.

    Most of that $80 is actually checking a bag for all the flights vs the free 1 bag check with the Airpass. Does anyone know if you are Delta Silver Medallion and Delta Amex card holders if that allows for at least one bag check on VA?

    Also, if I book through VA online can I pre-buy baggage if needed?

    Also, if you book the through VA online (Either Airpass or regular) are you charged in US dollars or Aussie (need to know if I need to call Chase first).

    Lastly, if I book VA online normally (ie not the Airpass), can I get my Skymiles number setup on the flights or do I have to wait until check in Australia?

    Thanks very much for the help!

  • @V – hard to speak for each person’s value of time versus cash, an $80 difference alone is probably a stretch for most people to be willing to have that extra stop (extra flight at risk of delay) and time.

    From what I could find there are no Delta benefits of any kind when booking a ticket directly with Virgin Australia and flying them, other than the ability to earn miles. No priority boarding, nothing like that.

    If you book with VA online for a regular ticket you can pay luggage online and get a discount. This can be done online or through the call center up to 1 hour before departure per their website. Study the details because there are differences among Australia domestic, international short haul and international long haul.

    An Airpass booking does not allow advance luggage purchase so anything beyond the allowance will be paid at the airport at those higher rates.

    You are charged in AU dollars.

    Yes, regular tickets allow you to enter Delta SkyMiles number or a number of several other partners, it is on the ‘Guest details’ page.

  • V

    Thanks!!!

  • Any Idea if you can same day buy up to first class? We have this pass booked already for next month. I am trying to figure out a way to get in the lounge and pay to upgrade to first/business class on the pass.

  • @Trey – my guess is no, I do not see anything on the website, in the terms or at the airport when I checked in, that said, it does not hurt to ask since nearly everything is for sale. Worth it to try emailing or calling the. Please let us know how it goes.

  • Sean

    They don’t this product anymore?

    At Virgin Australia we seek to deliver consistent, industry standard practices, and to lay the foundations to grow our business into the future.

    On the weekend of 11-13 January 2013 we introduced our new Sabre booking and check-in system. This transformation was critical in realising our vision of becoming a single integrated airline with a seamless travel experience across our global airline network.

    This change has resulted in a decision by Virgin Australia to remove our Airpass product for sale via the Virgin Australia website, effective 11 January 2013.

    All existing Airpass bookings will be migrated to our new system. For any changes or amendments to existing bookings please contact our Guest Contact Centre on +61 7 3296 2296 (if calling from overseas) or on 136 789 (if calling from within Australia).

    We thank you for your support, and we look forward to providing you with new and exciting product offerings in the near future.

    For information on our new booking system and features, please read about our Sabre System Changes.

  • @Sean – thank you for this, this is is disappointing, I was hoping to use it to get out to Christmas and Cocos Islands.

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