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Qantas Frequent Flyer changes: 4 things you need to know

Qantas Frequent Flyer made a major announcement yesterday, unveiling some of the key changes in its programmes. Here are some of the things we thought you might want to know:

1. Redemption rates for premium classes are going up by up to 15%

From 18 September 2019, Qantas will be increasing the number of points required for award tickets and upgrades on premium economy, business and first class seats, while reducing the fees required for these seats internationally.

On average, the number of points required are going up between 12.9% and 15%, depending on class and the distance traveled.

The tables below are only for redemptions on Qantas, Emirates, American Airlines, Fiji and Airnorth services:

ZoneOne-way distancePremium Economy
Old
(‘000 pts)
New
(‘000 pts)
Increase%
10 – 6001213.81.815.0
2601 – 1,2001820.62.614.4
31,201 – 2,4002731.04.014.8
42,401 – 3,6003742.25.214.1
53,601 – 4,8004551.36.314.0
64,801 – 5,8005461.57.513.9
75,801 – 7,0006371.18.112.9
87,001 – 8,4007281.39.312.9
98,401 – 9,6008494.910.913.0
109,601 – 15,00096108.412.412.9
ZoneOne-way distanceBusiness
Old
(‘000 pts)
New
(‘000 pts)
Increase%
10 – 6001618.42.415.0
2601 – 1,2002427.63.615.0
31,201 – 2,4003641.55.515.3
42,401 – 3,6005057.07.014.0
53,601 – 4,8006068.48.414.0
64,801 – 5,8007282.010.013.9
75,801 – 7,0008494.910.913.0
87,001 – 8,40096108.412.412.9
98,401 – 9,600112126.514.512.9
109,601 – 15,000128144.616.613.0
ZoneOne-way distanceFirst
Old
(‘000 pts)
New
(‘000 pts)
Increase%
10 – 6002427.63.615.0
2601 – 1,2003641.55.515.3
31,201 – 2,4005462.28.215.2
42,401 – 3,6007585.510.514.0
53,601 – 4,80090102.612.614.0
64,801 – 5,800108123.115.114.0
75,801 – 7,000126142.316.312.9
87,001 – 8,400144162.818.813.1
98,401 – 9,600168189.821.813.0
109,601 – 15,000192216.924.913.0

For instance, a return Singapore to Sydney business class redemption will go up from 120,000 points to 136,800 points. On the other hand, the fees will reduce from an incredibly exorbitant $650+ to $450+ for a round trip redemption, saving you about $200 in lieu of more points.

Increase in points, reduction in fees

Similarly, redemptions on oneworld partner airlines are also going up between 5.3% and 15.5%. Some of the biggest rises are in the mid-haul zones, particularly between the 1,200-mile to 3,600-mile ranges where you see the increases at about 15%, making it particularly unattractive to use Qantas points on oneworld partners. For instance, a return trip in Business on Japan Airlines to Haneda will cost you 61,200 miles each way. Contrast this to Asia Miles where you only need 50,000 miles to redeem for the same itinerary, Qantas is surely not competitive.

You can refer to the new tables here.

Qantas has done a pretty good job spinning this as an ‘enhancement’ by saying that members will see “up to a 30 per cent increase in International Premium Cabin reward seats including during peak travel periods.” Whether that happens or not, remains to be seen.

2. Upgrade redemptions are also going up

Similar to many other airlines, Qantas offers upgrade awards using points for most fare classes (exception being Discounted Economy fares). You can even upgrade your award ticket if space is available.

Qantas will also be increasing the points needed for upgrades by up to 9% (you can find the full tables here).

For illustration, if you have purchased a Economy Saver fare from Singapore to Sydney and will like to upgrade it to Business using your points, you will have to fork out 54,500 points each way, up from 50,000 points previously.

Be reminded that using points to upgrade is rarely a value-for-points option, and should only be used in very specific situations, such as upgrading a free ticket.

3. Less points needed for economy class tickets

Probably one of the brightest spots in the announcements, Economy class prices will go down between 6 to 10%, for distances above 2,401 miles. That effectively excludes all domestic sectors in Australia and some international sectors to New Zealand from Australia.

On top of the reduction in points needed, the fees have also gone down slightly, so overall if you are one of those few who uses points for Economy class seats, this will be a boon for you. The changes are effective immediately.

ZoneOne-way distanceEconomy
Old
(‘000 pts)
New
(‘000 pts)
Increase%
10 – 60088No change
2601 – 1,2001212No change
31,201 – 2,4001818No change
42,401 – 3,60022.520.3-2.2-9.7
53,601 – 4,8002825.2-2.8-10
64,801 – 5,8003531.5-3.5-10
75,801 – 7,0004037.6-2.4-6
87,001 – 8,4004541.9-3.1-6.8
98,401 – 9,6005551.2-3.8-6.9
109,601 – 15,0006055.2-4.8-8

4. Introduction of Lifetime Platinum, but you’ll probably never get it

One other major announcement was the introduction of Lifetime Platinum status, at a crazy level of 75,000 status credits.

Just so you have a sense of what it takes to achieve this, you will have to fly:

  • 94 business class roundtrips between Singapore and New York via Sydney & LA
  • 156 first class roundtrips between Singapore and London
  • 300 business class roundtrips between Singapore and Sydney
  • 1,250 roundtrips between Singapore and Bangkok on Jetstar with Starter Max bundle
  • 3,750 discount economy roundtrips between Sydney and Melbourne

In short, crazy. For comparison, you will only require 7,000 and 14,000 status credits for lifetime silver and gold, so the leap to lifetime platinum is a huge and most likely impossible one unless you are truly a frequent flyer (i.e. spend half your life on a plane).

What is not changing

Amidst all these changes, most members can heave a sigh of relief that the basic structure of the programme isn’t changing, i.e. the tiers, the number of status credits required to attain each level, and the benefits associated to each tier.

I for one was a little anxious about the lifetime statuses, as many airlines have removed them over the years. While it’s good that Qantas has in fact gone in the other direction to offer a new but unattainable lifetime status, but it’s a good sign of commitment to fostering more loyalty in a business that often finds it hard to capture the allegience.

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