The past few months have demonstrated the importance to airlines of a frequent flyer program with as many engaged members as possible. At a time of significantly reduced flying, loyalty programs remain one of the only consistent sources of much-needed revenue for airlines such as Qantas.
So, why on earth does Qantas Frequent Flyer still charge Australian residents a $99.50 joining fee in 2020?!
Most frequent flyer programs do not charge joining fees – nor should they
It’s not at all normal for a loyalty program to charge a joining fee. Nor should a member have to pay for the privilege of being marketed to and having data collected about them!
A well-run loyalty program gives businesses an edge over competitors, and uses data to encourage members to spend more, more often. More members bring more value to the business. So, if anything, a highly profitable loyalty program such as Qantas Frequent Flyer should be paying members to join – not the other way around!
Many airlines offer bonus miles or other incentives to encourage people to join their loyalty program. Right now, for example, Qatar Airways is giving away 2,500 Qmiles to new members that join the free Privilege Club program using the promo code JOIN2020.
The only other frequent flyer program to charge a joining fee is Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club. But that’s not really a fair comparison because Cathay Pacific actually has two loyalty programs. Cathay’s Asia Miles program, which is for earning and redeeming miles, is 100% free to join. You’ll only have to pay if you want to earn status through the Marco Polo Club program.
It costs USD100 to join Marco Polo Club. But for this fee, you’ll also receive 12 months of “Green” membership benefits including priority check-in and priority boarding when flying with Cathay Pacific. To renew, you’d just need to earn at least 20 club points in the next year.
And what extra benefits do you get for the $99.50 Qantas Frequent Flyer joining fee? Well, nothing…
Why does Qantas Frequent Flyer even charge a joining fee?
The Qantas Frequent Flyer joining fee has slowly increased over the past few years. When I signed up in 2011, the fee was $82.50. It later rose to $89.50, then to $99.50 in January 2019.
Australian Frequent Flyer recently asked Qantas why there is still a joining fee. They never responded, so I can only assume it’s for one of two reasons:
- There are still gullible people that pay the joining fee
- It gives Qantas Frequent Flyer and its program partners an opportunity to promote the (many) free ways to join.
Seriously, most banks that offer Qantas-point earning credit cards promote “complimentary Qantas Frequent Flyer membership” as a key benefit of the card!
Perhaps they think new customers feel special when they “save” $99.50 by not paying a joining fee?
There is plenty of content on the internet about the Qantas Frequent Flyer joining fee, and I’m yet to find anyone that thinks it’s a good idea. Points Hacks, for example, says “it is quite odd that they would actually want to charge for this”. Another website, Luxury Travel Hacks, says “this is pretty extortionate considering other airlines don’t even charge a dollar”.
Interestingly, Qantas Frequent Flyer charges New Zealand residents a reduced join fee of NZD60 ($56) and residents of all other countries do not pay any fee to sign up.
Join Qantas Frequent Flyer for free
The good news is that it’s so easy to join Qantas Frequent Flyer for free. If you’re not already a member, there really is no reason to pay $99.50! Just use one of the many, many “free join” links available on the internet.
Here’s one that works: Join Qantas Frequent Flyer for free
Alternatively, simply Google “Qantas Frequent Flyer free join” and dozens of options will appear!
How many people haven’t joined because of this fee?
Given how easy it is to join for free, you’d have to wonder how much extra money Qantas is really making out of these joining fees. If people aren’t paying, there’s no point in having the fee in the first place! But if some people are still paying $99.50, it demonstrates that there are still Australians that are unaware they can join for free.
Qantas Frequent Flyer may make a bit of short-term money from the latter group of people. But it also needs to consider the opportunity cost of people not joining because they were put off by the up-front fee. The long-term value to Qantas of a new member that goes on to actively engage with the program is far greater than $99.50!
Around five years ago, I was doing an aviation management course at university and we had a guest speaker from Qantas. The Qantas manager asked the room of roughly 200 aviation students to raise their hands if they were a member of Qantas Frequent Flyer. Just 3 people, including myself, raised our hands.
Shocked, the guest speaker asked why so many of us were not members. Almost everyone said that it was because of the joining fee! (I’m told that when a guest speaker from Qantas returned the following year, they came prepared and provided students with a “free join” link…)
Even though it already has 13 million members, Qantas consistently reports on growth in its membership base as a key metric of success. At a time when Qantas Loyalty should be doing everything at can to attract new, profitable members, it’s well and truly time to ditch the $99.50 joining fee for good.