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Virgin Austalia Launches New Economy Air Fare Options

Virgin Australia has restructured its economy class fare options, introducing a lead in “Economy Lite” fare that excludes a checked-in luggage allowance. The airline says it will now be the sole Australian airline offering fare types running from economy lite to business class.

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Virgin Australia is rejigging its fare structure and ticket types. Photo: Getty Images

Virgin Australia starts charging for checked-in luggage & seats on lead in fare

Virgin Australia’s two pricier economy class ticket types, Elevate and Freedom, are now rebranded Economy Choice and Economy Flex. Both include Virgin Australia’s standard perks, such as seat selection and checked-in luggage. The primary difference between Economy Choice and the more expensive flex fares are the fee-free flight changes allowed on a flex fare.

The Brisbane-based airline is already offering Economy Choice and Economy Flex fare types for sale. Economy Lite fares will go on sale from September 20.

According to Virgin Australia’s website, economy lite fares will be ticketed in the M fare bucket. Economy Choice fares will be ticketed in the Q, V, N, E, T,  and S fare buckets. Economy Flex fares will be ticketed in the L, K, H, B, and Y fare buckets. Business class fares will be ticketed in the D, C, J, and I fare buckets. Up the front of the plane, business saver fares have dropped off the radar at Virgin Australia after business fares were restructured earlier this year.

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Virgin Australia says it will be the only Australian airline offering fare types from rock bottom to premium cabin. Photo: Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia says change is about offering passengers a choice

The new Economy Lite fare sees Virgin Australia begin to charge extra for seat selection and checked-in luggage. With the airline recently dropping complimentary snacks in the economy class cabin, the economy lite fare is similar to the Jetstar low-cost offering.

Virgin Australia would probably disagree with the comparison. They’d note their frequent flyers and lounge members can still access the lounge pre-departure regardless of ticket type. Passengers will still earn frequent flyer points and status credits on Economy Lite fares, albeit at a reduced rate.

While some might say the move towards charging for checked-in luggage will put passengers offside, Virgin Australia disagrees. They say they are responding to what the market wants.

“We discovered that nearly one in every three Virgin Australia customers don’t bring a checked bag when they travel, despite a bag allowance built in to their airfare. On flights between Melbourne, Sydney , and Brisbane, that number is even higher,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson said.

“We’re putting the power back in the hands of our customers by leaving it up to them to choose what they want. If they don’t want a checked bag or seat selection, they won’t have to pay for it .”

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Virgin Australia is axing last-minute fee-free flights changes for Velocity Gold members traveling on Economy Choice fare. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying

It’s always worth reading the fine print

Meanwhile, Executive Traveller has unearthed a change in the fine print that won’t please many of Virgin Australia’s regular passengers. Until now, Velocity Gold members could request a last-minute fee-free flight change on the old (Elevate fare) equivalent of Economy Choice fares.

From November 19, Virgin Australia will start charging an AU$80 fee plus any fare difference for changes made within 14 days of traveling on an Economy Choice ticket.

For Gold Velocity members who travel regularly but on cheaper tickets, the ability to roll into the lounge and nicely ask a VA desk attendant to rejig flight details was a valuable perk and something rival airline Qantas didn’t usually allow their gold grade frequent flyers to do.

Some Gold Velocity members are miffed about the change. Others see it as a way to more clearly differentiate between gold and platinum frequent flyer levels at Virgin Australia.

A year after new owners took control of Virgin Australia, the airline is slowly moving away from its cloning Qantas strategy. Regular Virgin Australia flyers might disagree with some of the decisions Virgin Australia is now making. However, most will agree Virgin Australia needs to create a distinct product offering in the Australian aviation market. The creation of the Economy Lite fare is a step in that direction.

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