How to get the most from Qantas' new Frequent Flyer program

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Qantas today unveiled major changes to its Frequent Flyer program, adding options to fly on any day where seats are available and an expanded range of other products to its traditional use-points-and-fly-if-you're-lucky approach. Where can the best deals be had and how can you ensure you get the flights you want? Click after the jump for our initial impressions, and add your own best advice in the comments.

Five million Australians are members of Qantas' Frequent Flyer scheme, so the changes would seem bound to have a major impact. In truth, despite the addition of Any Seat awards (get any vacant seat using a higher number of points) and Points Plus Pay (add cash if you're slightly short of the points total) to the existing system (Classic Awards), the same basic principles still apply to getting frequent flyer seats. Of these, the most important are:

The further in advance you book, the better the deals that will be available, whatever booking option you use. If you want public holidays (particularly Easter, Qantas' busiest period), early booking is critical. For major overseas routes (such as Sydney-London), it's not unrealistic to look 12 months in advance or more.

Flexibility pays. If you're not wedded to a particular set of dates, you'll get a lot more choices. Tough for family weddings, but potentially not impossible for holidays if kids aren't involved.

Loyalty pays. Qantas offers more Classic Awards seats to higher ranked (platinum and gold) frequent flyers.

Check all your options and weigh them carefully. Frankly, it's a waste of time to spend money on a seat that you can purchase at a discounted rate anyway. With online booking, it's easy to check what the cash cost of a given trip is and weigh it against the use of your points.

FFSample.jpgQantas doesn't make complete comparisons particularly easy, since you can't compare different types of award flights in one screen. But it's worth going through and checking the Classic, Any Seat and standard prices before making a booking.

The general principle Qantas is promoting is to use Classic for onger-term bookings, and Any Seat if you need a particular reservation or are in a blazing hurry. How well this works will vary a lot by destination.

We tried booking a flight from Sydney to Melbourne for next Monday (a traditionally competitive day), and couldn't get any morning flights with the Classic system (where the price would be 8,000 points with taxes, or 14,000 points with no cash payment). The Any Seat options ranged from 13,396 (note that this marginally less than the equivalent Classic booking but lacks any flexibility) for the afternoon flights to a whopping 52,274 points for morning flights.

Bear in mind that the latter is getting close to what a Classic economy seat from Sydney to London would cost (assuming you could find one). The cheapest paid-for seat available for Sydney-Melbourne was $450. Yeah, that's a lot of money, but my gut feeling is that 50,000 points can still be better spent to get you more than $450 in value.

Advance booking definitely opens up your options. Looking at the same booking for three months hence, all the morning flights were available in the Classic system. Any seat also had virtually the whole day covered with a range of points options.

When booking in any of the schemes, check the flights carefully to make sure you're getting the airline you want. Jetstar flights are included, which is essential given that Qantas itself doesn't cover all Australian destinations anymore, but this could result in your having a slightly different flight experience than you'd anticipated.

Don't forget to compare costs properly. Classic seats can be booked using points alone or points plus tax payments; Any Seat bookings are points only. The number of points you spend also impacts the flexibility; cheaper seats (in points terms) can't easily be changed.

One more piece of advice? The store doesn't look particularly good value for tech products. For instance, a 1GB iPod shuffle can be had for 12,700 points. However, those points in the old system are worth at least a $125 flight — possibly more on a less competitive route — while the Shuffle itself can now routinely be had for $60. Sure, points are money you don't have to spend, but by spending them on flights, they're more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

Angus Kidman has possibly spent more time on planes than anywhere else in the last eight years. His points total rarely tops 100,000, but only because he keeps spending it.


Comments

    You are only able to book 353 days in advance at any level, and don't forget that if you book 353 days in advance, you pay the taxes immediately.

    Avoid the membership fee. Don't forget to use a friend's non-Australian address.

    This Frequent Flyer scheme is a waste of time! I lost 84,000 points (enough for Sydney-Tokyo return worth around $2,000) because of 3 years inactivity on my account. No amount of begging & pleading, including writing to Geof Dixon, made any difference. Qantas has the most mean-spirited
    management (viz. aircraft engineers' pay claims) and I don't fly Qantas or Jetstar anymore!

      You should have read the terms and conditions and known that points expired after 3 years. Why should you get special treatment above other people who bother reading what they sign up for. Qantas is a business and without rules they would fall apart - they are not "mean" they are just doing their job.

    how do i check if i am registered for qantas frequant flyer points on my everyday rewards card followed the prompts but not sure if i done it righti have a password and user name. i am a bit brain dead with computers, could you check and reply. thankyou.

      Not a comment on Quantas Miles but I wanted to know is you are the Carole Southwell mother of our exchange daughter Jacqueline Southwell White. Please reply.

    Well, here it is in a nutshell. I have been loyal to Qantas to the level of Gold Sapphire membership and have had "ta-da" wait for it one upgrade!!! I recently tried V Australia to LA and did one leg business class on a cheap fare (1st flight ever) and they upgraded me from Premium to Business on the leg home. I am now clearly going to drop Qantas its just too infrequent that they upgrade you. I cant see what the use of Qantas loyalty is they just want your cash, greedy, greedy...I will now have my staff and myself flying V Australia and Singapore Airlines for LA and London. Both have upgraded me regularly and I fly with them infrequently. Bye, Bye Qantas to many people feel like me and guess what we talk on the flights so I know I am not alone with this issue. CEO of Global Software Co.

    A warning to people who is contemplating joining Qantas frequent flyer program. Qantas is co-sharing flights with Jetstar. Though both are the same company, they are catering different end of the market. Qantas is a full service airline and Jetstar is a not. For redemption using frequent flyer points, Qantas reserve the right to bum you to a jetstar flight with no compensation. In fact, you have to pay for your own food & drink. They are short changing your entitlement. There are so many other better frequent flyer programs around. Suggest looking elsewhere & making comparison before joining Qantas frequent flyer. Personally, am not supporting an airline that short change it's customers. So what if its Australian. Their culture is not very Australian anyway.

      Any airline reserves the right to move you onto another flight in their fine print. I've never personally been shifted to a Jetstar flight after booking a Qantas flight, whether with cash or on points. You do need to watch out for destinations that are Jetstar-only and check the operating airline carefully for any FF flight, but there are still dozens of Qantas destinations where Jetstar isn't an option, so as a comment this seems a bit broad-brush to me.

    I tried to book a flight from Manila to Brisbane
    for February 2011 and for the whole month there is only one day available. So supply does not meet demand at all. So in summary my frequent flyer $ is not worth anything. Queer And Nasty Try Another Service. Check the acronym.

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