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Singapore & Virgin Australia Launch Point Conversion Option

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Last week, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia enhanced their partnership by launching a new feature that enables KrisFlyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer members to convert points and miles between the two programs. This new (and pretty unique) conversion capability offers frequent flyers greater access to upgrades and award seats across the combined network of the two airlines.

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You can now swap Singapore Airlines miles for Virgin Australia points.

Velocity Frequent Flyer members can now transfer points to Singapore Airlines at 1.35:1, opening the door to award bookings and flight upgrades across the Star Alliance. KrisFlyer members can transfer miles to Virgin Australia at the same 1.35:1 ratio, allowing travelers to indirectly earn Velocity points with Singapore partners like Thai Airways, United, Air Canada and Lufthansa by crediting points to KrisFlyer and then sending them to Velocity. Using the 1.35:1 conversion rate, 10,000 Velocity points become 7,407 KrisFlyer miles, and vice versa.

Aside from the transfer option, Virgin Australia is touting a seamless booking process thanks to a major upgrade to their online booking capability. This will allow members to redeem flights with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir online via the Velocity Frequent Flyer website.

Rules

While it doesn’t pertain specifically to this new transfer option, one very important rule is that Velocity Frequent Flyer membership is only open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, or Pacific Islands. That makes this new capability more or less a theoretical exercise for flyers based elsewhere, but thanks to the copycat tendencies of the airline industry it still interests me, as I could envision other airline partners adopting similar conversion options.

Here are the other rules for transferring between Singapore and Virgin Australia:

  • You must convert at least 5,000 points or miles, with no limit on the number of points that can be converted.
  • No fees apply when moving points between the two airlines.
  • Status and elite credits aren’t interchangeable.
  • Eligible members of both programs will continue to enjoy the same benefits when travelling with either airline, such as lounge access and priority check-in.
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The conversion option creates opportunities for upgrades and partner awards.

Advantages of Converting

Given that you sacrifice about 25% of your points/miles in the conversion process, I think there’s not much value in this new capability. However, there are a few scenarios where it might make sense.

Velocity members can already redeem points for flights with Singapore Airlines, but they can’t use them to upgrade to business class or to book award travel with most Star Alliance carriers. Velocity points also can’t be redeemed for flights in SQ’s luxurious Suites Class on the Airbus A380, or the new First class on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER fleet.

By converting Velocity points into KrisFlyer miles, you could now use those points for upgrades, premium classes, or to book award flights across all of the Star Alliance partners. That adds flexibility to Virgin Australia points, which can be useful despite the conversion penalty.

In the other direction, Krisflyer miles also can’t be used to upgrade to business class on Virgin Australia, so converting makes that an option. Also, KrisFlyer miles expire three years from the month in which they’re earned, while Velocity points stick around as long as there’s activity in your account at least once every 36 months. If you can’t find a use for Krisflyer miles that are expiring soon, converting them will salvage at least some of the value.

Utimately, changing points between programs probably isn’t worthwhile thanks to the poor conversion rate.

Bottom Line

Virgin Australia tends to have pretty hefty fuel surcharges on award flights, and since it has fewer partners to work with, I see little incentive to convert Krisflyer miles to Velocity Frequent Flyer points. Converting in the other direction is more appealing, but there are better ways to earn Krisflyer miles now that Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards (as well as Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest).

What do you think of this new conversion option?

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