One member is hoping to use their Qantas points to fly in Business Class to Canada next year and seeks advice on the best way to do so.

30th wedding present for me and 70th birthday for my dad… Between us we have 1.2 million qantas ff points and would like to use them to reduce the cost of the fares. We have no special status. Business class fares are a must on the long flights for us all – I will need to assist dad with mum’s care.

Business Class award seats can be as rare as hen’s teeth at the best of times, and this is especially the case on popular long-haul routes to North America during the peak summer season. For this reason, our members recommend beginning the search for award seats as soon as possible. Frequent flyer redemption seats are generally released about a year in advance. So even ten months out, many of the seats may have already been snapped up.

If reward seats are not available on one of Qantas’ direct services to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Vancouver, it may be necessary to get creative with other possible routings. Qantas points do not just have to be used on Qantas flights. They can also be used on Qantas’ many partner airlines including American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Using a combination of these and other partners, it may be possible to find a workable routing via Hong Kong, Tokyo or even Hawaii.

Award seats are also scarce. Search Qantas but also its OneWorld partners. Qantas Australia-LAX business seats are highly sought after and usually go quick. You may have to be creative with routing. For instance, look at flying to Honolulu and then on to Nth America on American; or Qantas/JAL via Japan; Cathay via HKG.

Many available seats can be found by searching on the Qantas website. However, it is important to remember that not all available seats are displayed online. Flights on Japan Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, for example, can be booked using Qantas points but cannot be found on the Qantas website. One method of searching for award flights on these airlines is to join British Airways’ Executive Club program. Members of this program can search for flights on these airlines using the British Airways website. Availability can also be found by calling Qantas directly.

That’s one of the AFF tricks I’ve learned – don’t take the Qantas site at face value. You have to put some time in, but there are ways to find Award seats beyond what the Qantas site tells you.

It is also possible to purchase an Economy or Premium Economy airfare, and then request an upgrade using frequent flyer points. However, this method is risky as upgrades are never guaranteed. An upgrade request could be declined if Business class is full, or if other travellers have priority in the upgrade queue. On Qantas flights, passengers with the highest status have priority on upgrades. This is great for Platinum and Gold frequent flyers, but not so much for passengers with no or low status. It is also important to note that not all fare classes are upgradable. Passengers on “sale” fares are not eligible to upgrade with points at all.

If you want to upgrade with points, as you note, you first have to buy an economy or a Premium Economy seat (not ALL fare classes are up-gradeable!) THEN put in an application for the upgrade. If you don’t have status, the earliest the upgrade will come through is a day or so before the flight. Its a lottery.

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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]