On Qantas domestic flights, upgrades are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. If there is a Business Class Classic Reward seat available on your flight, the upgrade is yours. But Qantas international flights work somewhat differently.
On international Qantas flights, upgrading with frequent flyer points is like entering a lottery. The only difference is that the winners are not selected by chance.
Upgrade requests are only processed in the days prior to the flight, and are only approved if there are still empty Premium Economy, Business or First Class seats. It is often the case that there are more passengers requesting an upgrade with Qantas points than there are seats available. This is especially the case on popular Qantas long-haul routes, such as flights to London and Los Angeles, as well as during peak periods like school holidays. So, who gets the upgrade?
Higher Qantas status, higher upgrade chances
Qantas allocates points upgrades primarily based on your frequent flyer status with the airline. Chairman’s Lounge members get first priority, followed by Platinum One members, Platinum members, and so on. If you have Bronze or Silver status, you’ll unfortunately be well down the queue in terms of priority. But if you are a Qantas Club member, this may place you ahead of other members with the same status that are not Qantas Club members.
Within status levels, there are also other unpublished factors that determine your Qantas upgrade priority. These could include your fare class (with priority going to customers that booked more expensive tickets), your “customer value” to Qantas or even the date that the upgrade was requested.
There is also some speculation on AFF that upgrades from Premium Economy to Business could be prioritised, to some extent, over upgrades from Economy to Business. By upgrading someone from Premium Economy to Business, this in turns frees up a Premium Economy seat that can be given to an Economy passenger. In theory, Qantas can collect more points by upgrading two passengers in this way than upgrading one person from Economy to Business.
As Qantas’ upgrade algorithms are not released publicly, we can’t know with 100% certainty how upgrades are processed. But your frequent flyer status is the single biggest factor in determining your Qantas upgrade priority.
Increasing your chances of a Qantas international upgrade
If you are looking to upgrade with points on a Qantas international flight, there are a few things you can do to maximise your chances. For example, travelling off-peak can help. This could mean choosing a flight departing on a Tuesdays or Wednesday, and avoiding school holidays. But a more scientific method of finding a lightly-loaded flight is to check for flight availability on Expert Flyer.
If you happen to have a family member with Platinum One status, this can also help your case. Platinum One members can request upgrades on behalf of family members, and these requests will be given Platinum One priority – even if the person flying has no status.
Unfortunately, Qantas point upgrades on international flights are never guaranteed. The only way to get a confirmed Business seat is to book one – either using money or points. As it happens, booking an outright Classic Flight Reward in Business class can be better value anyway as it doesn’t cost that many more points than upgrading. For example, it costs 60,000 Qantas points plus $190.47 for a confirmed Qantas Business seat from Sydney to Hong Kong. But, you would have to purchase an Economy Saver fare for at least $509 just for the chance to upgrade – at a cost of 50,000 Qantas points for the upgrade.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: International upgrade request pecking order
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Frequent Flyer Solutions offers a comprehensive training program which includes an entire course on upgrading flights. The first unit of this course is all about Qantas upgrades and is available for free to all Frequent Flyer Solutions members! View ‘Qantas Upgrades’ training unit →