Using points to upgrade – Premium Economy or Business?

With all the Qantas Frequent Flyer changes that came into effect in July, flight upgrades are probably one of the few areas left where points still have significant value. Depending on the fare you booked, an upgrade to Premium Economy, Business or First Class can often be requested. But if you have not travelled in those cabins, what exactly are you getting for your points?

I’m about to fly with my partner to FLL via DFW (747) with Qantas/AA. The points quoted to upgrade to Premium Economy is 50,000 and Business, 80,000. I’m only QF Silver status with Qantas Club membership. I’ve only ever experienced PE before, so don’t actually know what I’m missing with Business. Questions: How do the 2 classes compare, and is it worth the large amount of points spent? What is the likelihood of getting an upgrade if flying on a (presumably quieter and more empty plane) Wednesday?

Using points to upgrade does not mean you will get all the benefits of a paid fare in the same cabin. Your points and status credits will be credited as per the original fare purchased. If chauffeur drive is available, chances are the upgrade will be confirmed after the booking cut-off time has passed. A similar story applies for the meal pre-orders, which often feature an exclusive dish not available onboard a la carte.

Fortunately, for those upgrading to Business or First Class, lounge access is one benefit that will be applicable. This includes the right to access any OneWorld airline operated business lounge at your departure point. For those in First, some very suave First Class lounges will often also be on offer. With the extras sorted out, it’s then time to look at the in-flight service and comfort. On a long journey, the difference between cabins can be significant, as our members point out.

Business would be my preferred option on such a long haul flight. 17 hrs sitting up slightly more reclined than in Economy isn’t as good as a full lie flat bed! … The service in QF PE is actually more like a business minor rather than economy plus which is a bonus compared to other carriers, however the seat is still a recliner seat.

Now that you know what you are likely to get, it’s important to remember there are no guarantees the upgrade will happen. While some carriers (especially US based ones) do offer confirmed upgrades well in advance, with Qantas it’s a lottery. For a traveller with low status, on some routes the number of high frequency business travellers will mean the chances of getting a seat are low. The US is one of those destinations, although it can also depend on when you choose to fly, with mid week often a better choice for the leisure traveller. If the upgrade does come through, once you have flown in a premium cabin you will find it hard to go back to economy.

Do you have questions about what to expect in a different cabin to the one you usually travel in, why not ask our experts HERE.


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