Executive Traveller forme Australia
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Qantas Club and Business Class airport lounges to reopen from July - Executive Traveller
Qantas lounges will begin to swing open their doors next month, but a very different experience awaits.
Qantas will begin soaring back into Australian skies this month, but its airport lounges won't be opening until July – and even then, it'll be a slow process. A Qantas spokesman confirmed to Executive Traveller that domestic Qantas Club and Qantas Business lounges are expected to gradually open from July, as the airline ramps up to meet school holiday demand and towards 40% of its pre-pandemic flying capacity. Even then, unlocking those lounge doors – which swung shut in late March – will be a staggered affair based on how many eligible travellers are booking flights on Qantas and in some cases Jetstar, which in turn could hinge on states such as Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania unbolting their border lockdown. “We are gradually adding flights in June as demand levels increase (and) we can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. In cities with both a Qantas Club and a Qantas Business lounge, only one of those might open at first and roll out the welcome mat for all lounge-worthy passengers – although where the invitation-only Qantas Chairmans lounges fit into this remains to be seen. Visitors will notice many changes to the loungescape, beginning with more space between seating to comply with social distancing requirements and avoid passengers clustering too close together. The Qantas spokesman told Executive Traveller that furniture in the lounges will be moved around, along with "other temporary changes to facilitate physical distancing." However, this will also mean a reduction in actual lounge capacity and the need to place limits on the number of passengers allowed into a lounge – which could see some lounges declared 'full' even with relatively low numbers, and other lounge-eligible passengers turned away. Hand-sanitising stations will be placed near the entry and dotted around the lounge, while self-serve buffets will be replaced by pre-packaged meals and snacks. Those measures are all part of Qantas' broader FlyWell program which encompasses a range of health measures on the ground and in the air, including issuing passengers with face masks and sanitiser wipes, and adopting sequential boarding and disembarking – although middle seats won't be blocked from sale. Also read: What to expect when flying domestically during the coronavirus era
Virgin Australia unfreezes Velocity Frequent Flyer points - Executive Traveller
The program's four-week ban on members using their points is starting to lift, with domestic flights the first cab off the rank.
Velocity Frequent Flyer members can once again spend their hard-earned Velocity Points on Virgin Australia domestic flights, after a previous four-week ban. With these bookings back online, reward seats are now available on some of Virgin Australia’s “most popular domestic routes” for travel on and from September 1 2020 – in time for the school holiday break between terms 3 and 4. These include around 20 return routes between most Australian capital cities and several regional destinations in Queensland and Western Australia, although all reward flights to and from the Northern Territory and Tasmania remain unavailable for now. “We’re hopeful that domestic travel restrictions and State and Territory border lockdowns ease by September and for many of us, a local holiday and catching up with interstate family and friends will be well over-due,” a Velocity spokesperson tells Executive Traveller. “We look forward to sharing more offers with our members as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and travel resumes more broadly,” the spokesperson added. The move marks the first stage of the program’s ‘unfreezing’, after a blanket four-week ban on members using points in any way, although many of those restrictions are still in effect. Read: Virgin Australia freezes Velocity Frequent Flyer points As domestic travel restrictions ease over time and flight schedules become more certain, Velocity Frequent Flyer will grow the list of domestic routes on which members can spend their points. "As more redemption destinations become available, we’ll let you know," Velocity confirms. Reward seats may also be unlocked on flights departing before September, if those same restrictions are lifted earlier than expected. "We’ll continue to review the timing for redemption bookings and let you know if we are able to resume these for travel prior to 1 September 2020," says Velocity. In any case, the number of Velocity Points needed to book a flight has not changed. One-way domestic reward flights begin at 7,800 Velocity Points in economy class and 15,500 Velocity Points in business class, plus taxes, fees and charges. These rates apply to short hops like Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane or the Gold Coast; Melbourne to Adelaide or Canberra; Brisbane to Mackay or Rockhampton, and more – all routes that are currently open for reward bookings. As before, longer flights such as between Melbourne and Brisbane, or from the east coast across to Perth, require more points. For a full list of available routes, visit the Velocity website. Free flight changes and cancellations on reward bookings Even though many Australian states and territories are outlining their plans to unwind various community and travel restrictions over the coming months, those plans rely on keeping the coronavirus under control, and may be delayed if issues arise. As such, Velocity Frequent Flyer confirms it will waive all change fees and cancellation fees on Virgin Australia reward bookings made before September 1 2020 for travel after that date, to provide increased flexibility. This includes changes and cancellations made voluntarily by the passenger, for any reason – even if borders are open and travel restrictions don’t present an issue – provided that change or cancellation is processed before September 1 2020. Where travel plans are cancelled before that date, either by the passenger or by Virgin Australia, the traveller will receive a full refund of the Velocity Points used towards the affected flight, without being charged a cancellation fee. A refund will also be given for the taxes, fees and charges paid for the ticket, except for any booking fees or credit card fees, which are normally non-refundable. Cancellations usually attract a fee of $35 or 4,500 Velocity Points per passenger per booking on domestic itineraries booked using points. Other uses for Velocity Points remain frozen For the time being, upgrades to business class on Virgin Australia flights are not available using Velocity Points, even for travel from September 2020, Velocity has confirmed to Executive Traveller. Reward bookings on Virgin Australia international flights and with partner airlines also remain suspended, as does the ability to convert Velocity Points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. These transfers were restricted in early April – weeks before the broader Velocity program was locked down – which Velocity expects to the case until "flight schedules return to normal". The ability to exchange Velocity Points for merchandise via the Velocity Store similarly remains blocked, but Executive Traveller understands that plans are in place to bring this back online soon. At the time of publishing, the ability to convert credit card points into Velocity Frequent Flyer points remained unavailable, but this may change as Velocity ramps up reward options for members. Read: Banks pull down the shutters on Virgin Australia Velocity