Qantas boarding passes are as ubiquitous in the hands of Australian frequent flyers as “currently in” pin drops are in the Instagram bios of amateur travel bloggers.
Given Qantas’ penchant for taking over the news (see, in the last few months alone, The Points Plane, the re-assignment of the A330 and the frequent flyer overhaul) this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
However, Virgin Australia — once an airline for backpackers; now a bona fide competitor — has long been creeping on Qantas’ market.
While Qantas is unlikely to drop the ‘cultural capital’ mantle for the foreseeable future, many travellers are switching to Virgin enticed by the 220+ destinations on offer, its wider range of tickets, its (slightly) more varied fleet, its friendly service and its less-trumpeted-but-equally-awesome frequent flyer program.
They also have a partnership with AMEX which gives savvy flyers the chance to earn 100,000 bonus Velocity Points (available until the 15th July only) and comparable Skytrax rankings to Qantas.
Plus: it’s always a bit of a thrill to be ~different~. But maybe that’s just us. To get the inside scoop we scraped the depths the travel industry, trawling Finder, Simple Flying, TripAdvisor, AusBT, Reddit and Traveller for the reasons people switch from Qantas to Virgin.
Here they are:
Virgin Australia Flies To More Destinations
With 200+ destinations on its hit list, Virgin Australia helps you earn Velocity Points when travelling to the obscure regions of Africa, Asia & The Pacific, Europe, The Americas and The Middle East. While Qantas will also fly you to each of the aforementioned regions, Finder reports that it only has 70+ destinations on its list.
While Qantas’ range of Oneworld partners somewhat makes up for this, relying on this as a method to earn points comes with a whole other set of problems, as one of our correspondents recently discovered, spending 15 hours in the worst seat on Emirates’ A380 Business Class.
Virgin Australia Is (Slightly) Cheaper
This varies case by case, however, in general, Economy tends to be cheaper on Virgin. For example, a Virgin flight from Sydney to Melbourne on a Thursday morning (for the purpose of this comparison, the 18th July) at 6am will cost you $229 — 30% cheaper than the $321 Qantas alternative for the same route on the same day.
Virgin Australia Has A More Flexible Frequent Flyer Program
Although you might earn slightly more points per trip (and have a slightly easier time redeeming your points for flights) on Qantas, “Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program is more flexible when it comes to collecting points, point expiry and sharing points,” (Finder).
As one frequent flyer puts it: “I switched from Qantas to Virgin Australia after Virgin got ‘serious’ about business travel and took advantage of their status match promotion on my Qantas Platinum card, so I could try them out with full Velocity Platinum privileges.”
“Once the new business class was rolled out across most of the (Virgin) fleet I was pretty happy and definitely wanted to show my support of the new ‘challenger’ (plus) its cheaper fares didn’t hurt.”
Also — while Qantas’ recent frequent flyer overhaul just made ‘points bought’ Economy seats cheaper (and easier to access) its business class seats now require even more points than before.
The Virgin Australia Flight Attendants Are Younger
While one snooty-beyond-his-years ABT commenter complained, “I’m 23 years old, and many Virgin crew are around my age. I’ve found the service to be decidedly subpar and aloof from the majority of these crew members. Experience counts,” a TripAdvisor thread dedicated to the topic suggested the exact opposite, with passengers making the following observations.
- “I’ve flown both and the service on VA far outweighs anything I have experienced on Qantas.”
- “I gave up with Qantas years ago.”
- “Virgin have an excellent record with service/on time etc.”
- “I certainly will not fly domestically on a carrier that has flight attendants older than my workplace boss.”
With Virgin Australia, You Know Exactly What You Are Sitting Yourself Into (Especially With Business Class)
As Australian Business Traveller pointed out, in an article entitled, Why I Switched From Qantas To Virgin, “Regardless of which plane you’re on you pretty much know what (seat) you are going to get.” While Qantas has improved its fleet in recent years, Virgin is still ahead in terms of ‘seat quality consistency’ across jets.
Virgin Australia Converts Don’t Like Lounging About
While Qantas still has superior airline lounges, those who switched to Virgin say they aren’t too fussed about this aspect of the flight.
“I don’t ask for much from a domestic airport lounge,” (ABT).
They also said that “it’s refreshing being an airline customer who is made to feel wanted, rather than expected to fly just because its the national carrier,” (ABT).
The conclusion? Switching from Qantas to Virgin is a bit like switching from iPhone to Android: you might feel dirty at first — but once you get your head around it you’ll be insufferable.