Huge change to points from today
As struggling Qantas and Virgin Australia suspend international flights due to coronavirus, their customers' frequent flyer accounts have been given an unexpected but welcome boost.
Qantas, which announced 20,000 staff would be temporarily stood down amid flight suspensions today, said today it was extending frequent flyers' status for another 12 months.
Meanwhile loyal Virgin Australia's Velocity members have been gifted with a 12-month status credit extension and extra status points - all for free.
The gestures are likely designed to keep customers loyal despite unprecedented global travel restrictions and a massive downturn in domestic and international flying caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The impacts of coronavirus are unprecedented and continue to evolve on a daily basis. Among the many impacts, we know your travel plans have been affected," Qantas said on a web page explaining the 12-month status extension, which kicks in from today.
"We appreciate the need for flexibility during this time and the importance of preserving the travel benefits that you've earned through your loyalty to us."
Virgin Australia is also giving Velocity customers a 12-month extension of their status credits, in addition to a bonus top-up of status credits over the next three months, to make up for what they're missing out during a downtown in travel.
That will be 210 status credits for Platinum members, 105 for Gold members, 60 for Silver members.
"We know that in the current environment with travel restrictions and reduced flights, it may be challenging to maintain your status," the airline said in an email to eligible customers.
"To help those of you who may be impacted, we will be gifting Status Credits to all of our current Silver, Gold, and Platinum Velocity Frequent Flyer members to help you maintain your membership."
The gift to frequent flyers comes during a horror week for Australian airlines.
Qantas announced today it was grounding its entire international fleet and slashing domestic flights by 60 per cent until May at least as it and its subsidiary Jetstar reel from the impact of the pandemic.
That will involve the temporary standing down of about 20,000 Qantas staff - about two-thirds of its workforce.
"With the Federal Government now recommending against all overseas travel from Australia, regularly scheduled international flights will continue until late March to assist with repatriation and will then be suspended until at least the end of May 2020," Qantas said this morning.
Yesterday, Virgin Australia said all international travel would be suspended from March 30 to June 14 and domestic capacity across Virgin and Tigerair would be cut by 50 per cent.
"We have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry, which has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians," Virgin Australia managing director Paul Scurrah said in a release to the ASX on Wednesday.
The federal government has announced a $715 million lifeline to help the Australia's ailing airlines during the pandemic, which includes waiving fuel excise, air service charges and regional security fees.