Qantas Upgrade Story (NOT!)

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Junior Member
Aug 11, 2004
Against my better judgement, and also against the advice of some respondents to my initial post about using 70,000 QF frequent flyer points to upgrade to business class on a BNE-LAX flight, I decide to try to do so, to join a colleague who was using upgrade credits for a business class seat.

Despite two on-line booking sites showing business class seats as being available for sale (and a seating chart showing 18 business class seats as being available for selection) QF would not confirm an upgrade for me in advance of the 24 hour before departure deadline for doing so.

When the flight departed, there we twelve vacant business class seats in the second main deck business class cabin (two rows of 2x3x2), and my colleage said that the upper deck business class cabin was approximately half full. Of the 66 business class seats on the aircraft, I believe that there were at least 20 free seats on QF175 that day.

One would assume that QF would encourage and make it easy for their frequent flyers to burn points on upgrades, especially when they charge such an exorbitant amount for the "privilege" to do so. My theory that they do not is because to do so would require that Qantas put another one or two flight attendants on the aircraft, thus increasing their costs beyond the "revenue" obtained from redemption of the frequent flyer points.

In retrospect, I am glad that I didn't use the points for the upgrade, as I will now endeavour to eventually use my points for a "free" business class ticket to HKG or SIN. However, I would welcome any feedback as to why QF is so stingy with their upgrades.

To paraphrase Michael West, writer of the "Margin Call" column in the business section of The Australian, I find Qantas to be a"tight-coughd mangy old 'roo" when it comes to allowing points to be used for upgrades.


Aug 27, 2004
LT Gold
As you are a QF Gold FF member, according to the QF FF program rules for upgrades you are able to waitlist for an upgrade between 90 and 14 days prior to travel. Did you join the waitlist for the upgrade in that time? If you did, then given the description you have provided of the business class load, I would have expected the waitlist would have cleared and you would have received the upgrade.

If you were not able to join the waitlist, perhaps because you missed the 14 day deadline for Gold FF members, then you can only receive the upgrade if U seats are released into general inventory. The first use of any U seats released will have been to anyone on the waitlist for an upgrade. Any additional U seats released are available for anyone, including you, for upgrades or full award seats. It is possible that some were released and snapped up by others before you called.

I agree that it would seem beneficial to QF to release more U seats in circumstances where they know they won't be selling all the J/D seats available. However, I am sure QF know what they are doing regarding revenue and award availability.

It is my belief (and I have no inside knowledge on this) that QF does not want to devalue their J product by making too many last minute U seats available. We can see this has happened with most of the US airlines, where it is now very common for their elite FF members to purchase discount economy seats and expect that they can upgrade to business/first class any time they want. This means that they don't actually sell any premium seats, just fill the cabin with upgrades.

QF has managed to stop that happened thus far through two mechanisms; 1) very high points requirements for long-haul upgrades (e.g. your 70,000 points situation) and the greatly restricted earning of upgrade credits; 2) the restriction of U seat availability.

If people flying QF want to sit in business class, then the only way to be assured of that experience is to pay the fare. We can't just rely on expecting upgrades. I know this doesn't help the FF membership much, especially when we see all the empty seats up front.

On my last trip to the USA, I wanted to travel in business class, but my employer would only pay for economy. So I had two options; 1) waitlist for upgrades; 2) pay the difference for bsuiness class. I chose option 2 since even as a Platinum FF member I would not be assured of an upgrade on the trans-Pacific sectors. I bought a OneWorld Explorer RTW ticket and paid the difference out of my own pocket. And I got to sit in business class (and First class on US domestic flights) and scored enough status points to requalify for Platinum for next year.

So in my case, QF's policy worked and I paid them a lot more money than they would have received if I have thought I had a very good chance of an upgrade.

Enjoy the use of the 70K points you saved!
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