Nobody wants to fly to Europe in Economy, but few can afford a full-price Business class ticket. That’s where frequent flyer points can come in very handy!
Qantas points can be used to upgrade an Economy seat to Premium Economy or Business class. You can also use Qantas points to book an outright Classic Flight Reward seat in Business class. Unfortunately, both options are much easier said than done. Upgrades are not guaranteed and reward seats can be hard to find. But one method is clearly much better.
Upgrading international flights with Qantas points
You can use Qantas points to upgrade international flights. But you must be booked on a flight that is marketed and operated by Qantas. In other words, it must be a “QF” flight on a Qantas aircraft. Flights on partner airlines including Emirates cannot be upgraded with Qantas points. You also need to make sure you’ve booked an eligible fare class. International Economy “Sale” fares are ineligible to be upgraded using Qantas points!
The main problem with Qantas point upgrades on international flights is that they are never guaranteed. You’ll only find out if you were successful a few days before the flight. Priority in the Qantas upgrade queue is given to frequent flyers with the highest Qantas status. So if you have Bronze or Silver status, the chances of success are low.
If you do plan to request a points upgrade, try to travel during off-peak periods. Travelling during the middle of the week and outside of school holidays can help.
Booking an outright Business reward seat
If you don’t want to take a risk (and have enough points), booking an outright Classic Flight Reward seat in Business class to London is a better option. Like upgrades, reward seat availability is limited. But at least you’ll know what’s available at the time of booking. Once you’ve booked your seat, you’ll be guaranteed a Business class seat without worrying about the Qantas upgrade lottery!
The main disadvantage of this method is that you won’t earn any points or status credits on Classic Flight Reward bookings. That’s something to consider if the 18,600 Qantas points and 190 status credits earned for a return Qantas Economy flight from Melbourne or Sydney to London are important to you.
When redeeming points for award flights, you’ll need to be flexible with dates and airlines. But you’ll likely find reward seats if you search well in advance. Reward seats are progressively released 10-12 months in advance. In the case of flights from Melbourne to Europe, it’s rare to find Qantas Business class award availability. But you may find seats in Business class to London with Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines or Emirates.
Booking a Business reward seat is better value than upgrading
In most cases, it’s much better value to book an outright Business class reward seat anyway.
It costs $2,300 to book a return Economy fare from Melbourne to London in the upgradeable “Saver” category. Then, assuming the upgrade actually clears, it will cost an additional 240,000 Qantas points to upgrade to Business class in both directions.
Yet, it costs 256,000 Qantas points – only 16,000 more points – and around $1,595 in taxes & carrier charges to book a return Emirates Business reward ticket from Melbourne to London. And a Cathay Pacific reward seat in Business class to London costs 278,000 Qantas points plus $893 in charges, round-trip.
For this reason, it only ever makes sense to buy an Economy ticket and upgrade if:
- You don’t have enough points for an outright reward seat
- There are no outright reward seats available
- You want to earn points & status credits for your flight
By the way, it costs only slightly more points – 280,000 Qantas points, in fact – to book an entire round-the-world trip in Business class!
Join the discussion (and read lots of other tips!) on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas FF rewards upgrade