There is great news for anyone planning a trip to or around Australia and New Zealand, as the Avios / Virgin Australia partnership is now live.
As of this week, you can now earn and spend Avios on Virgin Australia flights.
The deal has been struck with Qatar Airways, not British Airways, so you will need to have a Qatar Privilege Club account to take advantage of this.
As well as opening up flights across Australia and New Zealand, you can also travel internationally on Virgin Australia to Bali, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
What have Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia agreed?
Qatar Airways – which adopted Avios as its loyalty currency earlier this year – and Virgin Australia have signed a wide ranging agreement. Benefits include:
- You can earn Avios (in Qatar Privilege Club) when you fly with Virgin Australia
- You can spend Avios (in Qatar Privillege Club) on Virgin Australia flights
- If you have Qatar Airways elite status you can use Virgin Australia lounges
- If you have Virgin Australia elite status you can use Qatar Airways lounges
- Other elite benefits (extra baggage allowance, priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage delivery) will be offered on a reciprocal basis
How does this fit with Qantas and its oneworld alliance membership?
That’s a good question.
Qatar Airways and Qantas are, of course, both members of the oneworld alliance. You can already redeem Avios via Qatar Privilege Club (and of course British Airways Executive Club) for flights on Qantas and – whilst not bookable online on ba.com – QantasLink.
It is odd that there are no apparent competition concerns about Qatar Airways having partnerships with both Qantas and Virgin Australia. However, you can only earn status points in Qatar Privilege Club if your Virgin Australia flight has a QR flight number. Only Qantas flights earn Qatar Privilege Club status points under their own flight code.
Virgin Australia also has an existing partnership with Etihad, dating back to when Etihad was a shareholder in the airline. This deal appears to be continuing for now. It also works with Air Canada amongst others.
What makes the deal more palatable, politically, is that Qantas has a very close partnership with Emirates, which of course is not in the oneworld alliance. This is why you can earn British Airways Avios and tier points when flying Emirates as long as you book under a Qantas flight number.
At the end of the day, these bilateral deals are becoming more important than the airline alliances. Delta Air Lines, for example, has taken equity stakes in a number of airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, without making them join the SkyTeam alliance.
It is very possible that we have passed ‘peak’ airline alliance. One thing you didn’t see during coronavirus was a mad rush by the major unalligned airlines (Etihad, Emirates etc) to seek shelter by joining an alliance. If a global pandemic that devastates the industry isn’t going to convert the hold-outs, it isn’t clear what will.
How can I earn and spend Avios on Virgin Australia?
Before you can do anything, you will need to open a Qatar Privilege Club account and link it to your British Airways account via the instructions in this article.
This will allow you to:
- move Avios from British Airways Executive Club to Qatar Privilege Club, in order to book Virgin Australia redemptions
- move Avios from Qatar Privilege Club to British Airways Executive Club, in order to move Avios earned from flying Virgin Australia into your BA account
Transfers are 1:1 in both directions, and are instantaneous.
Earning Avios from Virgin Australia flights
This page of the Qatar Airways website shows the Avios earning rate for Virgin Australia flights. You need to look under the ‘Airlines’ tab and not the ‘oneworld’ tab.
You will earn Avios regardless of whether your Virgin Australia flight has a Qatar Airways or Virgin Australia flight number.
The earning rate is, by booking class:
- Business (J, C, D) – 150% of miles flown
- Economy Flex (Y, B, W, H, K, L) – 100% of miles flown
- Economy Choice (R, E, O, N, V, P, Q, T, I, S) – 50% of miles flown
- Economy Lite (M) – 25% of miles flown
- Groups (G) – 50% of miles flown
- Ineligible (X, Z, U)
Spending Avios on Virgin Australia flights
This page of the Qatar Airways website shows the Avios redemption rates for Virgin Australia flights. You need to look under the ‘Airlines’ tab and not the ‘oneworld’ tab.
Unfortunately, Qatar Airways Privilege Club is not the best programme in the world when it comes to booking redemptions on partners. Instead of booking online, you need to log in to your account and complete the partner award request form.
There is no way of checking availability before making a request. The best way to guess would be to create a Virgin Velocity account and search on the Virgin Australia site to see what reward availability the airline offers to its own members.
Qatar Airways has a standard distance based redemption chart for all of its airline partners:
In an annoying quirk, you cannot book reward travel on Qatar Airways partner airlines if your booking includes an infant (under 2 years old).
Getting Virgin Australia into the Avios fold is a great result. It’s just a shame that virtually no UK Avios collectors, apart from HfP readers, will ever find out that this is now an option.
You can find out more about the new Virgin Australia Avios partnership on the Qatar Airways website here.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.