Domestic Reward Flights Can Still Be Great Value
While international travel is unavailable, redeeming points to places like Broome (WA) is still excellent value

Many of us save up frequent flyer points to redeem for international travel. But with Australia’s international borders remaining closed for a while longer, and domestic travel resuming, now could be a good time to burn some points for domestic reward flights within Australia instead.

Sure, redeeming points for a flight to Melbourne or Perth might not be as “fun” as redeeming points to London or New York. But the value of domestic reward flight redemptions is often just as good as international redemptions – if not better! That’s especially the case at the moment, with domestic airfares currently quite expensive but award availability plentiful.

If you’ve got frequent flyer points sitting in your Qantas Frequent Flyer or Virgin Australia Velocity account, and you’re planning some domestic travel, there’s no shame in redeeming your points. Here’s why…

The value of Australian domestic flight redemptions

An easy way to calculate the value of a frequent flyer point is to compare the value of the reward with the cost of the redemption.

For example, it costs $199 to book a Qantas Red-eDeal ticket from Melbourne to Sydney. Alternatively, you could redeem 8,000 Qantas points + $31 to book an Economy ticket on the same flight.

Qantas Melbourne-Sydney fares on 23 December 2020 (the $153 fare is Avalon-Sydney with Jetstar - the lowest Qantas fare is $199).
Qantas Melbourne-Sydney fares on 23 December 2020 (the $153 fare is Avalon-Sydney with Jetstar – the lowest Qantas fare is $199).

After accounting for the $31 in taxes & carrier charges, you’re effectively getting $168 in value for 8,000 points. That’s a redemption value of 2.1 cents per Qantas point.

If we look at Business Class, the value of redeeming points is even higher. Rather than paying a $922 airfare you could book a Business Classic Reward seat for 18,400 Qantas points + $31. In this example, we calculate a redemption value of 4.84 cents per Qantas point.

It’s a similar story on routes like Hobart-Canberra. When redeeming Qantas points for an Economy ticket, you’re similarly getting 2.1 cents per point worth of value. In Business class, it’s 4.5 cents per point.

Qantas Hobart-Canberra fares on 5 February 2021
Qantas Hobart-Canberra fares on 5 February 2021

This compares favourably with the value you would often get when redeeming Qantas points for many international reward flights.

Sure, you might get slightly better value when redeeming a long-haul Business or First Class flight to Los Angeles – or a Oneworld Classic Flight Reward. But in the absence of those options, domestic reward bookings are worth considering. You’ll certainly get much better value from your Qantas points than you would redeeming for a gift card or a television at a value of around half a cent per point!

Velocity reward seat bookings

It’s a similar story with domestic Velocity redemptions for Virgin Australia flights. Velcoity Frequent Flyer still continues to block all international reward seat bookings. But you can at least redeem your Velocity points for selected Virgin Australia domestic flights. And there’s certainly some good value to be found there.

Taking the Canberra-Brisbane route as an example, it would currently cost you at least $215 for an Economy class ticket or $499 to book in Business Class next month.

Virgin Australia Canberra-Brisbane fares on 12 January 2021
Virgin Australia Canberra-Brisbane fares on 12 January 2021

Alternatively you could redeem 7,800 Velocity points + $49.50 for an Economy Reward Seat, or just 3,000 more points for a Business Reward seat. (Velocity Business Reward seats are currently 30% off for travel until the end of January 2021.) That’s a redemption value of 2.1 cents per Velocity point in Economy, or 4.2 cents per point for Business class.

Virgin Australia Canberra-Brisbane reward seat availability on 12 January 2021
Virgin Australia Canberra-Brisbane reward seat availability on 12 January 2021

Award bookings may also be more flexible

In general, another advantage of redeeming points for reward tickets is that you can change or cancel your booking more easily. Instead of paying the usual hefty cancellation fees, you can typically cancel award bookings for just a small points penalty.

In addition, Qantas and Velocity are both currently offering extra flexibility on reward bookings. Qantas is allowing free changes on Classic Flight Reward bookings until 31 March 2021. Meanwhile, Velocity is currently waiving change fees on reward bookings until 31 January 2021.

Regional award bookings offer even better value

Airfares on regional flights are often expensive. But with Qantas & Velocity, the number of points needed for a reward flight is based on the distance flown. That’s why relatively short but expensive regional flights are an excellent use of frequent flyer points.

Here are a few examples…

Qantas Perth-Broome fares on 6 January 2021
Qantas Perth-Broome fares on 6 January 2021

If you live in Perth and would like to fly to Broome, you could get 2.05 cents per point in value for an Economy reward or 4.9 cents per point for Business class.

Qantas Darwin-Alice Springs fares on 17 January 2021
Qantas Darwin-Alice Springs fares on 17 January 2021

Qantas fares from Darwin to Alice Springs are similarly expensive. But instead of paying $360 for an Economy class ticket, you could pay 12,000 Qantas points + $65 and get 2.5 cents of value per Qantas point.

Qantas Brisbane-Mt Isa fares on 28 December 2020
Qantas Brisbane-Mt Isa fares on 28 December 2020

The Brisbane-Mt Isa route is another good use of Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Here you’ll get 2.84 cents per point for an Economy redemption or 4.39 cents per point with a Business Classic Reward.

Arguably the best value domestic reward flight redemption of all is on the Sydney-Lord Howe Island route. The airfares on this route are typically so expensive, and Classic Flight Rewards priced so low, that you can get upwards of 8 cents of value per Qantas point. The catch is that Qantas normally doesn’t release many Classic Flight Reward seats… but Qantas award availability to Lord Howe Island has been surprisingly good lately!

Redeeming Qantas points to Lord Howe Island is excellent value
Redeeming Qantas points to Lord Howe Island is excellent value

So if you’ve got frequent flyer points sitting in your account, and you’re planning some domestic travel in the near future, don’t be afraid to burn those points.

Booking a reward flight to Brisbane may not be as glamorous or exciting as booking a flight to Las Vegas (no offence to Brisbanites!) but the value may be almost as good. Besides, frequent flyer points have no value at all until you use them!

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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