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Velocity vs Etihad Guest for Australian travellers

Velocity vs Etihad Guest for Australian travellers

Introduction

If you're travelling regularly on Virgin Australia and Etihad services, you may be wondering whether it is better to credit your flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer or Etihad Guest. Well, in this analysis we break down the key differences between the two programs looking at how to acquire status in each program, how to earn points/miles and a summary of any other benefits to consider when making a decision.

Achieving Gold status

As codeshare partners, flights taken with Virgin Australia and Etihad can earn status and points with either Velocity Frequent Flyer or Etihad Guest. The way in which status is achieved differs between each program. Status in Velocity Frequent Flyer is obtained by earning Status Credits. Status Credits are awarded based on the fare purchased and a distance category (there are 8 distance categories). Status in Etihad Guest is based on Tier Miles which is calculated as the actual number of miles flown, with bonuses applied for Business and First Class fares. This subtle difference actually makes a material difference to the amount of flying it takes to achieve status in each program.

Number of flights required to reach Velocity or Etihad Gold

Velocity Gold takes 500 Status Credits to initially qualify in a 12 month period and can be retained with only 400 Status Credits in subsequent years. Etihad Gold takes 50,000 Tier Miles to initially quality in a 12 month period and can be retained by earning 40,000 Tier Miles in subsequent years.

The following table lists the number of return flights from Brisbane to four sample destinations to reach Velocity or Etihad Gold, depending on which program you are crediting to. For example, it takes 50 discount return economy flights on Virgin Australia from Brisbane to Sydney to reach Velocity Gold, but, if crediting flights to Etihad Guest, it would take 54 discount return economy flights.

Departing
Brisbane to
Return Economy
Flights for
Velocity Gold
Return Economy
Flights for
Etihad Gold
Return Business
Flights for
Velocity Gold
Return Business
Flights for
Etihad Gold
Sydney 50 53.8 6.3 35.8
Melbourne 25 28.6 4.2 19.1
Abu Dhabi 6.3 3.3 1.6 2.2
London 2.9 2.3 0.9 1.5

The table shows that for travellers predominately taking domestic Economy flights, Velocity Gold can be achieved with less flying than with Etihad Guest. The difference is even more pronounced for those travelling frequently in domestic Business Class, with 4 return Brisbane to Melbourne Business Class trips required to reach Velocity Gold compared with 19 of the same trips to reach Etihad Guest Gold. For those travelling in long haul Economy, it is actually easier to reach Etihad Guest Gold than with Velocity. For example, it would take over 6 return Economy flights from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi to reach Velocity Gold but the same flights credited to Etihad Guest would see Gold status in just over 3 return trips. In long haul Business Class, the numbers are similar but Velocity offers a quicker path to status with a single return Business Class flight from Brisbane to London giving Velocity Gold status.

If your primary goal is achieving status, it's worth reviewing the routes you fly to determine which program would yield the highest status tier. For every category except long haul Economy, I would recommend Virgin Australia as the easiest program to reach Gold status with.

Earning points and miles

Velocity Points are the currency of Velocity Frequent Flyer. Velocity Points are awarded based on the fare paid (5 points per dollar) for domestic flights and on miles flown and fare type for international flights. Etihad Guest Miles are the currency of Etihad Guest. Etihad Guest Miles are awarded based on miles flown and fare type.

Domestic points earning examples

For Virgin Australia domestic flights, the difference between the points/miles earn rate for Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest is fairly substantial due to the way Velocity awards points for domestic flights. With Velocity, points are awarded based on spend, and even when purchasing the cheapest fare available, this generally results in a much higher points yield. For Virgin Australia domestic discount Economy flights, Etihad Guest Miles are earned at a rate of 0.5 Etihad Guest Miles per mile flown.

The following table compares points earned under Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest for three example domestic flights on Virgin Australia.

Return
Brisbane to
Economy
Price
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Price
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Sydney $198 990 465 $1458 7290 1395
Melbourne $298 1490 874 $1920 9600 2622
Perth $450 2250 2240 $3998 19990 22458

For domestic flights, Velocity is the clear winner in terms of points earn. Velocity earns more points for all examples with only Brisbane to Perth offering comparable earn rates. For short economy trips, you'll generally see about double points earned on Velocity compared to Etihad. For short Business Class flights, the difference is very noticeable. A trip from Brisbane to Sydney up the front will yield 7,290 Velocity Points but only 1,395 Etihad Guest Miles.

For travellers who frequently fly domestically on short Virgin Australia flights, I would definitely recommend crediting these flights to Velocity Frequent Flyer for the maximum amount of points. For longer domestic Economy flights, the difference is less, especially if you've scored a cheap fight.

International points earning examples

The points earn rate for international flights with Virgin Australia and Etihad are nearly identical between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest, as demonstrated by the following earn table:

Airline Fare Class Velocity Points Etihad Guest Miles
Virgin Economy Discount E, N, V, Q, T, U, S, M 50% 50%
Virgin Economy Elevate L 50% 100%
Virgin Economy Y, B, H, K 100% 100%
Virgin Premium Economy W, R, O 125% 125%
Virgin Business Discount D, I 200% 150%
Virgin Business J, C 200% 200%
Etihad Economy Breaking Deals E, T 25% 25%
Etihad Economy Saver V, U, G 50% 50%
Etihad Economy Value K, M, Q, L 75% 75%
Etihad Economy Freedom Y, B, H 100% 100%
Etihad Business Breaking Deals Z 115% 115%
Etihad Business Saver W 130% 130%
Etihad Business Freedom J, C, D 175% 175%
Etihad First Freedom F, A, R 250% 250%
Etihad The Residence P 400% 400%

The only differences between the points/miles earn rate for international flights are:

  • Virgin Australia Economy Elevate fares earn 50% points (50% = 0.5 points per mile) with Velocity Frequent Flyer compared to Etihad Guest's 100%
  • Virgin Australia Discount Business fares earn 200% points with Velocity Frequent Flyer compared to Etihad Guest's 150%

The following table shows three example return flights from Brisbane to demonstrate the points/miles earned by each program for international flights:

Return
Brisbane to
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Auckland 1,427 1,427 5,708 4,281
Abu Dhabi 3,743 3,743 29,944 22,458
London 5,447 5,447 43,580 32,685

The table is based on discount Economy and discount Business Class flights. The points and miles earned for all three Economy flights are the same between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest. For the Business Class fares, Velocity has a higher earn rate for discount Business Class fares of 200% compared to Etihad's 150%, which is the reason for the difference.

For international Economy flyers, I would recommend either program for points earn. For those travelling on discounted Business Class fares, Velocity offers a better points earn rate than Etihad Guest.

Redeeming points and miles

Velocity Points can be redeemed for flights with Virgin Australia and Etihad based on the program's redemption points tables. Etihad Guest Miles can  be redeemed for travel on Virgin Australia flights based on the program's redemption table. Redeeming Etihad Guest Miles for Etihad flights is not based on a table and varies by route. A mileage calculator is available.

The following table shows three example redemptions:

One way
Brisbane to
Economy
Velocity Points
Economy
Etihad Miles
Business
Velocity Points
Business
Etihad Miles
Sydney 7,800 6,900 15,500 13,800
Queenstown 17,800 10,900 35,500 21,800
London 75,000 82,114 139,000 162,534

Etihad offers better value for shorter Economy and Business Class redemptions, but Velocity wins on long haul Economy and Business Class. First Class with Etihad also takes less Velocity Points than Etihad Guest Miles.

Other benefits to consider

Aside from the rate at which status and points are earned in the two programs, there are a few other benefits to consider that may weigh in on the selection of a preferred program. This includes the option of using your points or miles to upgrade cabin class and airline priority benefits.

Upgrading with points

It is worth remembering that only Velocity Points can be used to upgrade Virgin Australia flights and only Etihad Guest Miles can be used to upgrade Etihad flights. Generally speaking, I find upgrades to offer fairly poor value. It usually requires purchasing a more expensive flexible economy ticket and most airlines won't confirm upgrades until much closer to departure. For some people, especially those travelling for work, upgrades can make a lot of sense and this is important to remember when picking your preferred program.

Those travelling frequently to the United States, Fiji, New Zealand, Indonesia or other Virgin Australia destinations wishing to take advantage of upgrades would benefit from keeping a healthy balance of Velocity Points.

Likewise, those travelling frequently to Europe or other Etihad destinations wishing to upgrade their tickets will need a solid balance of Etihad Guest Miles.

Priority check-in

Priority check-in is a published benefit of Velocity Gold and Platinum members when travelling on Etihad flights however in the past when I've used this I haven't seen any signs specifically mentioning Velocity and when I've inquired with the check-in staff they've said it's only for Etihad Guest members, although they've been happy to serve me.

I've heard similar stories before in regards to lounge access. Generally airlines tend to treat their own frequent flyers better ahead of their partners. If benefits like priority checkin, seating and lounge access are important, you may have a better experience by aligning your loyalty program with the airline you travel with the most.

Having said this, I have had good status recognition inflight with Etihad staff when flying with my Velocity status and have never had any problems entering their lounges, including the Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

Summary

Both Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest are solid frequent flyer programs for Australian travellers to consider. Overall, both programs offer similar benefits that are valuable to frequent flyers.

Travellers who frequently travel domestically in Australia will likely get more value from Velocity Frequent Flyer than Etihad Guest with less flying required for Gold status and more points earned from flights.

Travellers who are frequently travelling long haul on Etihad's network, with limited domestic travel, would probably benefit from crediting their travel to Etihad Guest. It takes less flying on long haul economy flights to reach Etihad Guest Gold and the miles can be used for flight upgrades.

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