Ever wondered how many Qantas Frequent Flyer points there are in existence?
The exact number of Qantas points in the total pool is a closely guarded secret. Of course, it’s also constantly changing as Qantas Frequent Flyer members earn and redeem their points.
But using publicly available information – and some educated guesses to fill in the gaps – it is possible to get a rough ballpark estimate of how many Qantas points might be out there. We can also get a sense of how this has changed over the past 15 years.
How many Qantas points are there in the world right now?
In a way, Qantas points are like a currency and Qantas Loyalty is the central bank. Qantas can “print” as much of the currency as it likes by issuing points. The airline also determines how the points can be spent, and the prices and availability of all the rewards. Unlike regular currencies, though, frequent flyer points don’t earn interest and can expire if your account is inactive for 18 months.
Qantas has never specifically said how many points are out there in members’ accounts. But as a public company listed on the ASX, Qantas does report annually the value of “unredeemed frequent flyer revenue” received in advance. For example, this amount is listed on page 42 of the Qantas Preliminary Final Report for the 2020-21 financial year.
“Unredeemed frequent flyer revenue” refers to the value of points which have been issued to members but not yet redeemed or expired. In its annual report, Qantas classifies this as a liability. The amount is divided into “current” and “non-current” liabilities, with “current” unredeemed frequent flyer revenue referring to points that are expected to be redeemed or expire within the next year. It is likely that these amounts also include Qantas Business Rewards points.
As of 30 June 2021, the total value of unredeemed Qantas points was just over $3 billion. Although we don’t know what internal value the flying kangaroo places on one point, we could guess that it’s roughly around 0.85 cents per Qantas point. (It could actually be more or less than this, but we think this is a reasonable estimate.) Based on these figures, we could estimate the total number of Qantas points in existence to be around 350 billion.
How has the pool of Qantas points grown over time?
Qantas has published data on unredeemed frequent flyer revenue in its annual reports since 2007. Looking at the trend, it’s clear to see that the total value of points in the pool has increased over time.
Of course, we don’t know if Qantas’ internal value of one point has remained the same since 2007. At any time, Qantas could change the value it places on one point and this would impact the value of unredeemed points. But if we use the same ballpark assumption as before, we could estimate that the total number of Qantas points in existence has increased from around 220 billion points in 2007 to 350 billion points in 2021.
As the rate at which points are issued is increasing at a higher rate than points are redeemed, this could cause inflation of frequent flyer points. If there are too many points in existence, and not enough rewards to meet the demand, this also makes it harder for frequent flyers to redeem for things like reward seats. This is a major reason why Qantas has increased award prices and availability over the past two years.
This is also why Qantas has introduced Points+Pay awards and encourages members to redeem their points on the ground for things like wine and toasters.
Given the large increase in unredeemed points from 2019 to 2021, it’s also clear that many Qantas Frequent Flyer members have been redeeming fewer points since the start of the pandemic. This is not surprising, as travel options have been limited. But Qantas did report record levels of points redeemed via Qantas Wine and the Qantas Rewards Store last year.
The impact of COVID-19
This trend is also shown if we analyse the changes in the percentage of points Qantas expects to be redeemed within the next year. From 2007 to 2019, this amount hovered between 39-45%. But in 2020, Qantas assumed only 22% of points would be redeemed (or expire) in the following 12 months.
On 30 June 2021, Qantas expected 30% of the points in existence to either be used or expire in the next 12 months. But almost every year, the total number of points earned exceeds the number of points redeemed. So the total points pool continues to grow.
How many points does the average Qantas Frequent Flyer member have?
Qantas Frequent Flyer claims that it has 13.6 million members in 2021. This is double the number of members Qantas had a decade ago, and more than six times the number of members enrolled in 2000.
Based on the figure of 13.6 million Qantas Frequent Flyer members, we could assume that the average member has around 26,000 Qantas points.
But this isn’t really a fair estimate because we don’t know how many Qantas Frequent Flyer members are currently active. We know that 13.6 million people have ever signed up to the program, but many of these members would no longer be active. Some may have since passed away (without their relatives informing Qantas), some may have only signed up so they could search for Oneworld award availability on the Qantas website, and some people could have joined more than once.
According to a respected loyalty program expert that we spoke to, a more accurate estimate of the number of currently active Qantas Frequent Flyer members is probably around 4 million. Assuming this, the average active Qantas Frequent Flyer member might have around 90,000 points. That’s enough for a return Economy Class flight from Australia to Los Angeles.
The Qantas Points Auction
When Qantas recently ran a “Points Auction” where members could bid on exclusive memorabilia and experiences using their points, there were a lot of comments that this was a clever way for Qantas to reduce its increasing points liability.
In reality, the 12,314,485 Qantas points redeemed in these auctions represents just 0.003% of the total pool of unredeemed points. That’s a drop in the ocean for Qantas. If anything, the main benefit of the Points Auction for the airline was all the free publicity.
How does this compare to Velocity Frequent Flyer?
As Virgin Australia is no longer a public company, it is no longer required to publish its financial results for the world to see. So, we don’t actually know the current value of unredeemed Velocity Frequent Flyer points. But we do have data from Virgin’s last public annual report in 2019.
In 2019, Velocity had 9.8 million members and it reported “unearned loyalty program revenue” of $497 million. Again, we don’t know how Velocity values its points internally. But we could guess that this might be around 0.8 cents per Velocity point. Based on this, our ballpark estimate would be that there were around 62 billion total Velocity points in existence in 2019. That would make Qantas Frequent Flyer around 4-5x larger than Velocity Frequent Flyer.
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