Qantas Frequent Flyer has announced the largest overhaul in the loyalty program’s history. There are significant changes to reward flight pricing, with an increase in the amount of points required for flights in premium cabins and upgrades – including for round-the-world awards. But carrier charges and the amount of points required for some Economy reward flights are being reduced.
The ability to redeem Qantas points for selected flights on Air New Zealand, Air France, KLM and Bangkok Airways is being added. Qantas has also announced a lifetime Platinum tier and the introduction of a “Points Club” to reward frequent buyers.
Some of the Qantas Frequent Flyer changes have already come into effect today, while the changes to premium cabin reward and upgrade prices will apply to bookings made from 18 September 2019.
This article takes a detailed look at the 2019 Qantas Frequent Flyer changes and what they mean for you.
Changes to Classic Flight Reward and upgrade prices
Qantas will increase the number of points required to book Classic Flight Reward seats on Qantas and partner airlines in Premium Economy, Business and First Class. For example, a Qantas Business reward seat from Sydney to Los Angeles will increase from 96,000 Qantas points to 108,400 Qantas points, one-way.
To compensate for this, the airline says it will increase the number of award seats available in premium cabins to key Qantas destinations including London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Singapore. (As premium cabin award availability to London is currently almost non-existent, this would not be difficult.) The new rates come into effect on 18 September 2019.
We remain sceptical to see just how many additional award seats Qantas releases on popular international routes, but hope to be pleasantly surprised.
The good news is that the number of points required for some international Economy reward flights will decrease. Taking the Sydney-Los Angeles route as an example once again, Classic Flight Reward seats will drop from 45,000 Qantas points to 41,900 Qantas points each way. The new Economy class pricing has already come into effect from today.
The number of points required to upgrade a Qantas flight is also increasing for upgrades requested from 18 September 2019. For example, it will soon cost you 54,500 Qantas points (up from 50,000 points) to upgrade from an Economy Saver fare to Business on flights between Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and Singapore.
The changes to reward flight pricing also apply to flights on Qantas’ partner airlines. Economy redemptions on partner airlines have become slightly cheaper overall, while Premium Economy, Business and First class seats will soon cost more Qantas points. But Qantas does not control the supply of partner airline award seats, and there will be no changes to carrier charges on partner airlines, including on Emirates. So this represents an outright devaluation of premium cabin redemptions on partner airlines.
Reduced Qantas carrier charges
In further good news, Qantas will reduce the carrier charges payable when redeeming points for some Qantas-operated flights. These are the extra Qantas-imposed surcharges that need to be paid when redeeming points for a reward seat and do not apply to commercial airfares. Although Qantas has not got rid of these sneaky surcharges altogether, they are now up to 50% lower on some routes. For example, the carrier charges payable on a return Economy class redemption from Sydney to Los Angeles have been reduced from $240 to $120. But there are no changes to these charges on domestic and short-haul international flights. (There is a full list of the new rates posted on AFF.)
The reduction to Economy carrier charges has already taken effect, while reduced carrier charges for Classic Flight Rewards in premium cabins will apply from 18 September 2019 (the same date that the number of points increases).
If you currently have a Qantas Classic Flight Reward booked in Economy class, you might actually be able to save both points and money by cancelling it and re-booking. There is a 6,000-point fee to cancel international reward flight bookings. (Of course, there is a chance that the flights you’ve booked may no longer be available as reward seats so this could be risky!)
Changes to Qantas Oneworld Awards
The popular Qantas Oneworld Award, which can be used to fly around the world, is here to stay. But there are changes to Oneworld Award pricing for itineraries of up to 35,000 miles with up to 5 stopovers. The new, slightly lower Economy rate applies from today. But the increased prices for Premium Economy, Business and First Class will apply to bookings made from – you guessed it – 18 September 2019.
Here are the old vs new Oneworld Award prices:
|Old pricing||New pricing|
|Economy||140,000 Qantas points||132,400 Qantas points|
|Premium Economy||210,000 Qantas points||249,600 Qantas points|
|Business||280,000 Qantas points||318,000 Qantas points|
|First||420,000 Qantas points||455,000 Qantas points|
Premium cabin bookings that are ticketed prior to 17 September 2019 will still be made at existing rates.
New frequent flyer partnerships
Earlier this year, Qantas added the ability for frequent flyers to redeem points to fly with China Airlines on direct flights between Australia and Taipei. Qantas today announced that it will also open up points-based bookings on selected Air New Zealand, Air France, KLM and Bangkok Airways flights.
This is great news. However, before you get too excited, note that for some airlines, only routes on which Qantas codeshares will be eligible. This means you’ll only be able to redeem Qantas points to fly on:
- Selected Air New Zealand domestic routes (not trans-Tasman or any other international routes)
- Selected Bangkok Airways routes within Thailand and south-east Asia
You will be able to redeem Qantas points across the entire Air France and KLM networks.
Lifetime Platinum status
Qantas also announced that it will launch lifetime Platinum status from September 2019. However, the number of status credits required to attain this tier is outrageous and unachievable for most frequent flyers.
Qantas currently offers lifetime Silver status upon reaching 7,000 lifetime status credits, and lifetime Gold at 14,000 status credits. Logically, one would expect lifetime Platinum to come in at 28,000 status credits. But, nope… Qantas is asking for a whopping 75,000 status credits!
Given that British Airways offers lifetime Executive Club Gold (Oneworld Emerald, which is equivalent to Qantas Platinum) at 35,000 tier points, ultra-frequent flyers would be far better off aiming for that.
Qantas Points Club
Over the years, Qantas Frequent Flyer has slowly shifted from being a program to reward frequent flyers to one that rewards frequent buyers. So it’s no surprise that Qantas will introduce a new “Points Club” later this year to reward high-spending members for non-flight activity.
The Qantas Points Club will have two “status” tiers based on the number of points earned annually by members. The first of these thresholds will be unlocked by earning at least 150,000 Qantas points on the ground (that’s right, flights do not count) each year. Benefits will include lounge access and bonus status credits.
This will make it easier for Qantas Frequent Flyer members to attain a higher status tier without actually flying – a move that is likely to prove controversial among AFF members.
Our take on the 2019 Qantas Frequent Flyer changes
The Qantas Frequent Flyer changes announced today are significant. But there is likely yet more to come. Watch this space over the coming months…
Qantas claims that it is investing $25 million over the next year in implementing these changes, which it says will “improve how members are recognised and rewarded as well as how they earn and redeem points”. This represents 1.6% of Qantas Loyalty’s revenue in the last financial year. Qantas says that it expects to offset this cost with increased program engagement within 1 year.
Overall, the 2019 Qantas Frequent Flyer changes are not as bad as we expected. There are some real “enhancements” here, including the introduction of new partner airlines. Qantas’ excessive carrier charges and lack of award availability are two of the largest complaints among Qantas Frequent Flyer members, so it’s good to see Qantas taking some steps to address this – successfully or otherwise.
The increased number of points required for premium cabin reward flights and upgrades is bad news for Qantas Frequent Flyer members. It remains to be seen whether the promised increase in award availability and reduction in carrier charges is enough to compensate for this. On this point, Qantas says that “while the points required for business class seats on international and domestic flights will increase slightly, it is the first increase in 15 years and the product has improved a lot in that time”.
After these Qantas Frequent Flyer changes, other Oneworld frequent flyer programs such as Asia Miles could offer much better overall value if you want to redeem your points for premium cabin flights on Oneworld airlines.
The announcement of lifetime Platinum status is unfortunately a bit of a fizzer. Qantas has set the bar so high that, for even very frequent flyers, it’s barely worth aiming for.
Rest assured, Australian Frequent Flyer will bring you plenty of articles with tips and expert advice about how you can make the most of your points to book premium cabin reward flights before the price increases on 18 September 2019! If you haven’t already, make sure you’re receiving the Frequent Flyer Gazette or follow Australian Frequent Flyer on Facebook to ensure you don’t miss out on updates.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas FF announcement 20 June – “biggest overhaul” in program history