The Qantas Frequent Flyer program is vying to become a serious alternative to Air New Zealand’s Airpoints program in New Zealand.
As far as airline loyalty programs go, Air New Zealand’s frequent flyer program has a near-monopoly in New Zealand. Airpoints has extensive retail partnerships, including with New World supermarkets, and extensive credit card partnerships with New Zealand banks. The vast majority of point-earning credit cards in New Zealand earn Airpoints dollars, and Amex, Westpac, ANZ and Kiwibank all offer co-branded Airpoints credit cards.
By comparison, Qantas Frequent Flyer has no co-branded credit cards in New Zealand and, until recently, only American Express cardholders had the option to transfer their reward points to Qantas Frequent Flyer (or six other frequent flyer programs, which also include Velocity).
Unfortunately for Kiwis – as many experienced frequent flyers would tell you – the Airpoints program is not particularly competitive. Many overseas frequent flyer programs offer significantly better value than Airpoints, whose “Airpoints Dollars” currency is equivalent to actual dollars.
Such market domination makes it difficult for an overseas loyalty program like Qantas Frequent Flyer to tap into the New Zealand market. But that hasn’t stopped Qantas from trying!
Air New Zealand’s on-board service is generally well-regarded in New Zealand, and its international reputation has traditionally been strong. But the airline’s reputation has been extensively damaged over the past year, particularly in New Zealand, by the airline’s refusal to refund most passengers whose flights were cancelled due to COVID-19. This led to Air New Zealand becoming the most complained about company in New Zealand last year.
Qantas would know this, and it appears to be actively trying to encroach further on Air New Zealand’s territory.
With the trans-Tasman bubble launching, Qantas has just relaunched the status match it ran in late 2020. This time, the Qantas Gold Fast Track offer is available to New Zealand residents as well – including Air New Zealand’s Airpoints Gold & Elite members. Eligible New Zealand residents can apply by 30 April 2021 to receive 3 months of complimentary Qantas Club membership and the opportunity to receive at least a year of Gold status by earning 100 status credits.
New Zealand residents can already earn Qantas points on the ground in New Zealand by booking hotels through Qantas Hotels or booking rental cars through Qantas’ partners. But Qantas Frequent Flyer has just expanded its footprint on the ground in New Zealand significantly, with the launch of a new partnership with AA Smartfuel.
AA Smartfuel is one of New Zealand’s largest loyalty programs. Members can earn fuel discounts by shopping at New Zealand retailers including Countdown supermarkets (which is owned by Woolworths) and Hammer Hardware. Those fuel savings can then be redeemed at the bowser at BP or GAS petrol service stations.
From last month, AA Smartfuel members can also now choose to convert their fuel savings into Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Every 1 cent per litre AA Smartfuel discount can be converted to 15 Qantas points. In practical terms, this means somebody spending NZD200 at Countdown could earn 90 Qantas points. That’s less than you’d earn for an equivalent spend at Woolworths supermarkets in Australia, but it’s a start!
New Zealanders can also earn AA Smartfuel discounts with rewards credit cards from ASB Bank (which is owned by Commonwealth Bank of Australia), meaning there’s now another option to earn Qantas points through New Zealand credit cards.
“This partnership will help the hundreds of thousands of Qantas Frequent Flyers based in New Zealand build their points balances faster and get closer to their dream trip sooner,” current Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said last month.
“New Zealanders share our love of travel and as our second biggest market they also understand the value of Qantas Points. We look forward to giving our New Zealand members more opportunities to earn Qantas Points to enjoy a domestic flight somewhere close to home now, an international flight later, a booking with Qantas Hotels or a gift from the Qantas Rewards Store,” Wirth added.
Qantas Frequent Flyer is already the de-facto loyalty program of Jetstar, which is effectively New Zealand’s second airline. Since 2015, New Zealand has been the only market where all Jetstar domestic flights automatically earn Qantas points. Jetstar customers can earn a minimum of 400 Qantas points per Jetstar domestic flight in New Zealand (although they still need to purchase a bundle to earn status credits).
“New Zealand already has the biggest population of Qantas Frequent Flyer members outside Australia, so we want to expand the offering to these loyal customers as well as attract new ones,” former Qantas Loyalty CEO Lesley Grant said in 2015.
In 2021, this goal of attracting new customers in New Zealand hasn’t changed. In fact, to encourage more sign-ups, Qantas Frequent Flyer is currently offering to waive the NZD60 joining fee for New Zealand residents who are AA Smartfuel members. (If you’re a New Zealand resident, you can avoid paying the ridiculous Qantas Frequent Flyer joining fee by using this link to sign up.)