Many Australians save up their Qantas Frequent Flyer points in the hope of one day redeeming them for that dream flight in the pointy end of the plane. But redeeming Qantas points for a flight in Business or First Class is often an enormous challenge! The trouble is, Qantas does not release any award seats on some flights – especially on routes to Europe, South America, South Africa and Hawaii.
Qantas is not obliged to release award seats on every flight. Indeed, the Qantas Frequent Flyer terms & conditions state that blackouts may apply to Classic Flight Reward availability. But Qantas is not entirely transparent about this lack of award availability.
Even if you’re willing to pay Qantas’ exorbitant carrier charges on award bookings – which can add up to $540 per flight – it’s a moot point when there is zero award availability! To help you with redeeming Qantas points, we’ve put together this guide to Qantas award availability.
Qantas award seats are released from 353 days before departure
Qantas flights go on sale from exactly 353 days before the date of departure. The initial release of Classic Flight Reward seats also occurs at this time. To be exact, Qantas award seats are released at midnight GMT, which works out to be 10am Brisbane time (or 11am Sydney time during daylight savings).
On popular routes, your best chances of securing a seat are often to book at 10am on the day of release. But reward seats aren’t released on all flights at this time.
Bronze and Silver members can’t access premium awards until 297 days before departure
Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers should have access to award seats on most flights when the initial release occurs 353 days in advance. But if your Qantas Frequent Flyer status is Bronze or Silver, you will not be given access to award seats on any long-haul Qantas international flights in Premium Economy, Business or First Class.
Bronze and Silver members only get access to these premium Qantas award seats around
308 297 days before departure. This means Gold and above frequent flyers have a 56-day head start on accessing these seats. On popular routes, there are often no seats left by the time the flight is opened to Silver and Bronze members.
Let’s look at an example. Here is the availability shown to somebody with Gold Qantas Frequent Flyer status on the Dallas-Sydney route when searching for flights 353 days in advance:
But somebody with Bronze Qantas status sees only Economy reward seats when doing exactly the same search:
It’s a similar story if you’re trying to use points with a partner airline, such as American Airlines AAdvantage miles, to book a Qantas flight. You won’t have access to the initial release of premium award availability either.
If you “only” have Bronze or Silver status, there is one loophole you might be able to use. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can book award flights for family members. So if you happen to have a relative with Qantas status, you could ask them to make the booking for you.
Thankfully, all Qantas Frequent Flyer members have access to the same award availability when booking flights on partner airlines.
Some Qantas flights have no award availability
Ultimately, Qantas controls the supply of award seats. Sometimes the airline chooses to switch off the tap and not release any award seats at all – especially on popular routes and during busy periods like school holidays. If it can, it would rather sell the seats to customers willing to pay for full-price tickets.
Even if you have Platinum One status, you won’t find any Qantas award availability on some flights – even if you check 353 days in advance! In our experience, Qantas does not generally release any Business or First Class award availability on the following routes:
- Sydney-Honolulu (except periods when a Boeing 747 is on the route)
Award seats on the Sydney-Bangkok and Sydney-Santiago routes are also rarely released 353 days in advance. However, we have seen some seats made available closer to the date of departure.
Award availability to Lord Howe Island is also extremely limited. Qantas frequent flyer award seats are sometimes released a few weeks out, but never a year in advance.
Platinum members can request the release of award seats
If you have Platinum or Platinum One status with Qantas Frequent Flyer, you can request the release of additional award seats. If you wish to book a Qantas flight but there is no award availability, call Qantas to place your request. It’s never guaranteed, but there is a chance that additional award seats will be made available to you if paid airfares are available in the following fare classes:
Qantas domestic flights:
- Economy – N class
- Business – D class
Qantas international flights:
- Economy – Q class
- Premium Economy – T class
- Business – I class
- First – A class
Qantas occasionally releases more seats closer to departure
Sometimes Qantas will release additional award seats closer to the date of departure. This is unlikely to happen within a day of the flight, but may occur a few months in advance. It’s most likely to happen on flights during off-peak periods where demand is low.
An easy way to keep track of award seats being released on specific flights is to set Expert Flyer alerts.
Qantas Frequent Flyer terms & conditions allow blackout dates
The Qantas Frequent Flyer terms and conditions do state that “some flights may not have any Classic Flight Reward seats available”. Interestingly, Section 14.1.2 also states:
“From time to time Classic Flight Reward blackouts may apply on particular flights operated by Qantas, oneworld Alliance Airlines and Airline Partners (including Jetstar Airlines). Contact Qantas Loyalty for information on specific Classic Flight Reward blackouts.”
We asked Qantas if there were any Qantas award flight blackouts and were told that there weren’t any. But, although Qantas may not have published blackout dates, you should beware that there are some flights where award seats will never be released – especially in premium cabins.
Some Qantas partner airlines do have award seat blackout dates. For example, Japan Airlines has blackouts on flights between Japan and the United States (including Hawaii and Guam) for a few days around Christmas and New Year.
Qatar Airways has also stopped releasing Business Class award availability to Australia over recent months, although it is not clear if this is an intentional blackout or if Qatar Airways is just being stingy.
If you would like to know whether Qantas award flight blackouts apply to any route/s you’re looking to book, you can call Qantas and ask. The airline is obliged to share this information with Qantas Frequent Flyer members if requested.
What to do if you can’t find Qantas award availability
If you can’t find award availability on a flight you wish to book, don’t forget that you can also redeem Qantas points to fly on around 2 dozen partner airlines. This includes all other Oneworld airlines. Other partners include Emirates, China Eastern, Fiji Airways and El Al. Remember that not all award flights are shown on the Qantas website., so you may need to search elsewhere.
If you’re still stuck, the Award Flight Assist service may be able to help.
For more tips, join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Reward flights unavailable dates?