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Two of the most important things in my life are my French bulldog, Miles, and maximizing the miles and points that I earn traveling. Miles has already logged in quite a bit of travel including a few transcontinentals and would be well on his way to elite status with American Airlines if he had his own frequent flyer account. So I’m always on the lookout for new airline loyalty programs for travel pets, and this past week,  Virgin Australia is the latest carrier to launch an incentive to take your four-legged sidekick away with you.

Virgin Australia Flying Paws
Virgin Australia now allows your pet to earn Velocity frequent flyer miles when they fly with you.

Under the new pet plan, members of the airline’s Velocity frequent flyer program can earn 300 points every time their dog or cat flies on the Virgin Australia domestic network for a maximum of two pets per booking. Plus, Silver, Gold and Platinum members earn a 50%, 75% and 100% Points bonus respectively on top of the base Points earned.

Points will not be earned for unaccompanied pets, the international transportation of pets or service dogs that travel in the cabin of the Virgin Australia flight.

Here is how the points will add up per leg:

Earn 300 points for the first pet carrier if you are a Red member.
Earn 300 points for the first pet carrier if you are a Red member.

One pet carrier:

  • Red members: 300
  • Silver members: 450
  • Gold members: 525
  • Platinum members: 600

Two pet carriers:

  • Red members: 600
  • Silver members: 900
  • Gold members: 1,050
  • Platinum members: 1,200
This is the first loyalty program for pets Down Under.

The cost per pet per flight sector (segment) depends on the size of the animal and is paid at check-in. Here’s the cost breakdown:

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 2.38.46 PM

Small pets of 0-10 kg cost $55 AUD
Medium pets of 11-20 kg cost $75 AUD
Large pets of 21-30 kg cost $100 AUD
Extra large pets of 31-65 kg (max) cost $100 AUD plus $4 per kilogram over 30 kg

Current family benefits such as the ability to pool points and status credits will now be extended to pets, proving once and for all that they are part of the pack. With almost 30,000 pets traveling around Australia each year, according to a CNN report, paws add up to points.

Virgin Australia Miles Table
The Virgin Australia Points Table.

The minimum amount of Velocity points needed for a reward flight starts at 6,900, but considering the long distances Virgin Australia flies – they quickly add up. On domestic Virgin Australia flights, you earn 5 Velocity Rewards points per dollar spent plus elite bonuses. So let’s say you booked a $200 roundtrip ticket with your small pet, which would bring the total airfare to $310. Instead of earning 1,000 base points, you’d be earning a total of 1,600. So you’re paying about 50% more and getting 60% more miles. The break even point will vary by the size of your pet and number of flights segments flown, but you can do the math for yourself to see if bringing your four-legged friend is worth the expense to you.

Virgin Australia has also launched a search for five new Velocity Pet Ambassadors to represent the program, so if your dog or cat has what it takes to be the face of the airline, you can enter here (the one in the middle looks a lot like Miles!).

Australian Immigration
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has regulations on bringing pets into Australia.

This is good news for domestic travelers in Australia but there is a growing number of US airlines offering similar services though, such as JetBlue’s JetPaws program, which allows members to earn 300 TrueBlue points on each flight segment when traveling with your pet – and even has a cool line of pet travel accessories. Virgin Atlantic has a Flying Paws program that allows furry friends to earn between 1,000 and 2,000 Flying Club miles.

I have always wanted to go to Australia, and though Miles won’t be coming with me, hopefully I’ll have plenty of pets to hang out with on my flights around the country while I’m Down Under.

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