Virgin Australia is boosting its loyalty programme for the looming battle with Air New Zealand, effectively giving away flights on domestic Australian routes for qualifying passengers.

Virgin said today that members of its Velocity Programme will get ''mega-bonus'' points for flying across the Tasman.

Bonus points on a return economy fare will earn 6000 bonus points - enough for a one-way flight between Sydney and Melbourne when added to the usual number earned. Those travelling in business class will earn 12,000 bonus points.

The new points system comes in on October 28, the day after a seven-year partnership with Air New Zealand comes to an end. The New Zealand carrier in April surprised its partner by not renewing the deal, saying it preferred to go its own way and raising concerns about product inconsistency.


Virgin has countered, saying food and other services it provided across the Tasman was ''held back'' by the alliance. Since the bust up Air New Zealand has announced more transtasman flights and has done a domestic code-share with rival Qantas.

Virgin has announced more services across the Tasman, including Melbourne-Queenstown and a seasonal service between Auckland and Newcastle. It has also announced all-inclusive fares with full meals and bags for all economy passengers.

Last week it launched new deals for small and medium-size businesses.

The Tasman represents just five to six per cent of Virgin's network and it has left open the possibility of using its low-cost Tigerair across the Tasman.

The bonus points offer is limited to flights booked between today and October 3. The points would be earned on travel between November 12 and October 9 next year.

To receive the bonus, members must activate the offer prior to booking their flight. Membership of the Velocity programme is free to join.