Virgin Australia rewards frequently flying pets

Virgin Australia has become the latest to introduce a scheme that will reward pets through frequent flier programmes.

The airlines will offer pet cats and dogs travelling on its domestic flights to collect points for their owners, and will also offer discounts on future flights. The animals travel in hold, but will have the benefit of earning participating Virgin Australia club members a minimum of 300 points.

‘Virgin Australia flies almost 30,000 pets each year around Australia,’ said Neil Thompson, chief of Virgin Australia’s Velocity club, ‘and a large proportion is owned by Velocity members, so we know how important their companions are to them.’

This is Australia’s first frequent flier programme for pets and will extend the current family benefits such as the ability to pool points and status credits to pets.

The scheme comes after Virgin Atlantic launched its Flying Paws scheme in 2005, which entitles each canine and feline passenger to a welcome onboard pet pack and a 1,000 bonus air miles to a pet owner’s Flying Club account. Dogs would receive a Virgin Atlantic t-shirt and a glossy dog tag, while cats have a toy mouse and a collar tag. Each will also receive a pet passport with a record of their flights and points, which they can redeem for gifts such as dog bowls or bonus miles for their owner.

A few US-based airlines already offer loyalty points to pets. JetBlue’s JetPaws programme rewards owners with 300 TrueBlue points on each flight.

Virgin Australia has also launched a ‘Velocity Pet Ambassador’ campaign to enlist five pets to represent the programme. Winning owners will be rewarded 10,000 Velocity points each. So far a thousand entries have been received.

Loyalty schemes for animals are a move towards catering for pets within the travel industry. Recently luxury holiday for dogs was launched, by the Paw Seasons, a canine hotel costing £47,000. In Britain, Best Western and Travelodge both offer customised beds for dogs and cats not wanting to leave their owners’ side.

Etihad Airways Acquires Stock in Virgin Australia

Etihad Airways, a UAE-based national airline, is acquiring a part of the equity holdings of Virgin Australia Holdings, the holding company for Virgin Australia airline.

The airline has recently acquired a stake of 3.96 percent in Virgin Australia Holdings for an undisclosed amount. The airline currently operates a code share service, including 24 flights a week, between Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and Australia, with Virgin Australia, and hopes to expand its relationship with the area following the recent acquisition.

In a statement the airline has said, ‘Etihad Airways believes that this equity investment in Virgin Australia’s domestic operations significantly strengthens the 10-year strategic partnership forged by the two carriers in August 2010.

It will enrich the commercial benefits which the alliance already provides for both airlines as well as increasing the benefits to Australian consumers and visitors to Australia.’

Recently, Etihad has leased a Virgin Australia B777-300ER aircraft to use on its route between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia.

Virgin Australia, previously known as Virgin Blue, is part owned by Virgin Group with a 26 percent interest, and Air New Zealand with a 20 percent interest.

The airline is reporting that it has been operating its flights to Australia since March 2007, carrying around 2.2 million passengers to date on its routes to Sydney Melbourne, and Brisbane, from Abu Dhabi.

Previously, Etihad Airways had acquired a 2.99 percent holding in the Irish airline, Aer Lingus, and a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin, the second largest air carrier in Germany.