Update (November 2020): Qantas has now announced complimentary status extensions for all Qantas Frequent Flyer members residing outside Australia or New Zealand, whose status is due to expire between March-December 2021. There are no further complimentary status extensions for members whose status expires in January or February 2022.
To renew your Qantas Frequent Flyer status, you normally need to earn a minimum number of status credits during your membership year. This year is an exception.
In March 2020, Qantas announced it would extend everyone’s current status for 12 months. Qantas has also promised Status Credit Boost and monthly status credit support supplements to existing frequent flyers, to reduce the number of status credits they’ll need to earn to renew their status again next year. In the context of border closures and reduced flying, this makes sense.
But there’s a bit more to it. In order for Qantas Frequent Flyer members to renew their status in 2021, they will still need to fly the minimum 4 Qantas or Jetstar flight segments. This is a standard annual requirement to earn or renew any Qantas status tier. It’s normally a very reasonable requirement – if you’re not flying with Qantas, why should they give you status? But for Qantas Frequent Flyer members that are not based in Australia, this could be close to impossible this year.
It’s also worth noting that overseas-based members may not be able to take advantage of the various recent initiatives to earn Qantas status credits on the ground. These have included status credits for shopping at Woolworths, filling up at BP or booking luxury hotel packages in Australia and New Zealand.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members based outside of Australia can still earn Qantas status credits by flying on Oneworld airlines. For example, UK-based members can still fly British Airways and US-based members can earn status credits with American Airlines. But the “minimum 4 Qantas or Jetstar segments” rule could be a major sticking point.
Although Qantas Frequent Flyer is primarily aimed at Australians (and, to an extent, New Zealanders) there are many members based overseas – Australian expats, for example. So this could affect a significant number of frequent flyers.
One such frequent flyer is the AFF member tyrolean, based in Germany. Of the recent Qantas Status Boost, this member writes:
For me it has no use. I am based in Europe. I have locked my LTG and dropped from Platinum. The 300SCs bring me closer to LTP-which – but I will never come to that!
I thought again about an upgrade to WP – as LH is quite nasty at the moment and I could switch some traffic back to Oneworld. But no way to make it onto an QF plane in the next future with all the restrictions. So the 4-Segment-Rule for Status-Upgrades is the killer for me. The wish and need to travel to Oz is there, but it won’t be possible in my current status year. Since it is impossible for me to travel with QF at the moment all incentives are useless.
So, if you are based outside of Australia and cannot travel here, what can you do to renew your Qantas Frequent Flyer status in 2021?
Qantas codeshare flights are eligible
Since Australia closed its international border in March, Qantas and Jetstar have not operated scheduled international flights. Qantas last week said that it doesn’t expect international flights to return until at least July 2021, with the “possible exception” of New Zealand – although that now appears some way off as well.
Qantas is still operating domestic flights within Australia, but there are currently no Qantas flights available anywhere outside of Australia.
For the purposes of the “4 Qantas or Jetstar segments” rule, Qantas codeshare flights with a “QF” flight number that are operated by partner airlines do count. But most of those, such as Emirates flights with a “QF” flight number, are only available for booking in conjunction with a ticket to or from Australia.
There are a limited number of Qantas codeshare routes that can be booked without touching Australia. These include Los Angeles-Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui and Auckland-Santiago on LATAM Airlines (although the latter flight is not currently running).
Jetstar flights are also eligible
Otherwise, that just leaves Jetstar. Flights on Jetstar Australia or New Zealand (JQ), Jetstar Asia (3K) or Jetstar Japan (GK) do count as eligible segments, provided you’ve purchased a Jetstar bundle that normally earns Qantas status credits.
Jetstar is still operating domestic flights in New Zealand. So if you live in New Zealand, you can earn status credits (and eligible segments, even without purchasing a bundle) on Jetstar domestic flights.
Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore, is currently operating an extremely limited number of flights to 9 destinations in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, most of these flights are currently only operating once per week, and you may not be able to enter Singapore without being required to quarantine anyway. So, flying with Jetstar Asia may be a very difficult way to undertake a status run unless you happen to live in Singapore and need to travel anyway.
Jetstar Japan meanwhile is still operating flights around Japan on a reduced schedule. But, unless you live in Japan, getting there could also prove to be an insurmountable challenge.
Even if you could theoretically get to New Zealand, Singapore or Japan to undertake a Jetstar status run, it doesn’t exactly seem like a responsible thing to be doing right now. And the options are still extremely limited.
Until recently, you could also earn Qantas status credits on Jetstar Pacific flights in Vietnam. But the Qantas Group recently divested its stake in the airline, which was rebranded as Pacific Airlines. That airline is now a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines and no longer affiliated with Qantas.
Qantas may need to rethink its approach
At a time when Qantas is not operating any international flights, it may need to rethink its approach to overseas-based frequent flyers.
For example, let’s take an overseas member with a membership year ending in March 2020. They would have already had their Qantas status extended until March 2021. But to renew this for a further year, this person would need to take 4 Qantas or Jetstar flights (and earn enough status credits) by 31 March 2021. Meanwhile, Australia’s border remains closed indefinitely and Qantas doesn’t plan to operate any international flights until July 2021. See the problem?
Non-Australian residents were able to benefit from the 12-month status extensions as these were applied universally. But if the “minimum 4 Qantas segments” rule is applied to these members next year, many of those unable to get to Australia – through no fault of their own – will fall through the cracks.