Qantas’ Frequent Flyer Updates: The Good And The Bad

Qantas announced a large number of adjustments to its Frequent Flyer scheme today. This is Lifehacker’s take on the changes that will give you more options — and those that won’t.

We’ve already reported on plans by Optus to offer frequent flyer points for customers, but whether those changes will help the average customer won’t become clear until we learn what the actual allocation of points to dollars spent is. However, for many of the other changes announced today, the benefits (or otherwise) are more obvious.

GOOD: Increased cabin bonuses. As of May 17, tickets in premium economy will attract a 25% points bonus (up from 10%), business get a 50% bonus (up from 25%), and first gets 100% (up from 50%). If you’re a cheapskate flyer, you won’t have ever flown in these classes, but if you (or your employer) are already coughing up, it’s nice to get that extra bonus.

In the same way, increased points earnings for higher-tier fliers also help: Silver is up from 25% bonus to 50%, and Gold rises from50% to 75%.

BAD: new Platinum One tier. Anyone who scores more than 3,600 status credits in a year — which is triple the level you need to be platinum — will get unspecified “extra benefits”, including a dedicated helper team. This is potentially good news if you’re in that rarefied group, but given that this requires multiple business or first class trips a year, it’s not going to help most of us (and I say that as someone who is currently on the Platinum tier.

GOOD: SMS notification for upgrade requests. Currently, if you request a class upgrade, you don’t know if it has happened until you check in to the flight. That will be replaced with a system where upgrade requests will happen via SMS, though that won’t be in place until Q4 2011, and won’t work on partner airlines.

BAD: Changes to Jetstar eligibility. At first glance, being able to pay extra to earn points on a Jetstar flight for a Plus or Max bundle seems like an improvement. But in practice, it’s not a major change from the current two-tier system where only JetFlex fares earn points, since you’ll still have to pay extra on standard fares to have any chance of earning points.

GOOD: Improved loyalty bonuses. Right now, you get 5,000 extra points whenever you earn 500 status credits. From December, you’ll get 8,000 extra points when you earn 450 status credits.

NEUTRAL: Increase in points needed for taxes. Currently, if you choose to use points to pay surcharges and taxes, you need to pay 3000 points per sector. From July, that will rise to 4500 per sector. That sounds bad, but the reality is that for most flights, paying taxes in cash is a better tactic than paying using points anyway.

Are you happy, unhappy or indifferent to the latest round of changes? Tell us in the comments.

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