The Oneworld alliance is currently working on a new “upgrade award” system that would allow frequent flyers with any Oneworld airline to upgrade on flights across the entire alliance. This would open many more opportunities to redeem your Qantas points for upgrades. But there are also some concerns that this could lead to even more competition for upgrades on Qantas flights.
It’s not yet clear how this would work exactly, but one possibility is that alliance-wide upgrades will only be possible within 24 hours before departure.
Under the proposal, discount Economy tickets and sale fares would not be eligible for upgrades.
In a recent survey sent to selected frequent flyers, the new Oneworld upgrade award proposition was explained as follows:
oneworld is developing a new upgrade proposition that will allow the frequent flyer members across all oneworld member airlines to use their miles/points for upgrades to the next available cabin e.g. from Economy to Premium Economy, Economy to Business (for flights without Premium Economy), Premium Economy to Business & Business to First class.
This ‘Upgrade Award’ could be available across all 13 member airlines.
Within the Oneworld alliance, it’s already possible to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles to upgrade on British Airways or Iberia, and vice versa. But this benefit is restricted to upgrades across those three airlines only. It is not currently possible to redeem Qantas points to upgrade on other Oneworld partner airlines (except for a couple of LATAM Airlines codeshare flights).
Virgin Australia recently introduced the ability to upgrade on Delta flights using Velocity points.
Star Alliance Upgrade Awards
The Oneworld upgrade award model could resemble the current system used by Star Alliance airlines.
Currently, it is possible to upgrade across the entire Star Alliance network of airlines, using miles with any Star Alliance frequent flyer program. However, there are some limitations.
With Star Alliance, only the most expensive, flexible fare classes are eligible to be upgraded. And even if you’ve bought an eligible ticket, upgrades are subject to award availability. But if there is an award seat available in the higher class of travel on your flight, it is possible for the upgrade to be confirmed instantly.
With Star Alliance upgrade awards, the value proposition is often questionable because the number of points required for a Business upgrade is only slightly lower than the cost of an outright reward seat in Business class. Given the high cost of purchasing an upgradable fare, it would make more sense just to book an outright Business class award if there is availability.
In practice, this benefit is most useful to corporate travellers whose employers pay for flexible Economy tickets.
Would Oneworld upgrade awards be a good thing?
For frequent flyers, more ways to redeem points in the air and the ability to upgrade on more airlines is undoubtedly a good thing. But could this lead to even more competition for upgrades on Qantas flights – which are already often in short supply?
It will all depend on how the system is implemented. If upgrades are subject to award availability, this will make it very difficult for frequent flyers with other Oneworld airlines to upgrade on Qantas international flights because Qantas rarely releases premium cabin award seats close to the departure date anyway. While this could also defeat the purpose of the Oneworld upgrade award benefit, it would at least protect Qantas upgrade space for the airline’s own frequent flyers.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: QF survey on a new OW benefit