Qantas is offering a free return domestic flight to passengers who had their flights cancelled during its recent grounding. There's a lot of fine print involved, so read on to learn how to make the most of the offer if you're eligible.
Picture by Sahra
The free flight deal is separate to Qantas' offer to offer refunds on flights and covering expenses incurred during the cancellation, and Qantas has also hinted that it will be offering an additional sweetener for some of its Frequent Flyer members.
The basic deal is this: Anyone whose Australian flight was cancelled because of the grounding between October 29 and October 31 is eligible for a return domestic flight. There are, however, a lot of conditions attached, so you'll need to plan carefully. (I'm not saying this to whine — getting something on top of having flights refunded is definitely a bonus, though it's also an obvious plot for Qantas to try and maintain customer loyalty.)
Qantas is planning to email affected customers with a voucher code they can redeem for their free flights. It also says it will place a form on its web site on November 11 for anyone who isn't contacted but believes they are eligible for a free flight.
Who doesn't qualify? The free flights are only being offered to passengers who are resident in Australia and who were booked to fly within Australia; international flyers will apparently get a separate offer later.
What flights can I take? The offer covers return point-to-point flights, either within Australia or between Australia and New Zealand. The point-to-point element means that your options may be restricted if you live in regional Australia and only have one or two local Qantas flights on offer. Also, you can't redeem the voucher for Jetstar flights, which immediately knocks out a lot of holiday destinations (the Gold Coast being the most prominent).
When can I take the flights? Qantas isn't opening bookings until November 30, and you have to book flights at least 14 days in advance — so no-one is going anywhere until December 14 at the earliest. You can't book flights more than 90 days in advance. You can take the flights any time before December 14 2013, but have to be registered online for the offer (via the link sent in the email) by January 31 2012. Once booked, you can change flight dates up to 24 hours beforehand (subject to availability), but you can't change the destination.
How can I get the best value out of the deal? There are two key elements to consider here: cost and points. Obviously, it makes sense to book a ticket that would normally be expensive, which generally involves flying longer distances or to less-serviced locations. Paradoxically, you can get a good idea how much flights cost by checking out Qantas' sale page and looking at fares towards the bottom of the list. That said, you need to factor in overall costs as well: a free return flight to Broome will save you a lot of money, but finding cheap accommodation when you get there may be a challenge.
As we've noted before, scoring cheap fares also requires careful calendar planning. For instance, it's often hard to get a cheap flight during school holiday periods. Using the free voucher then could make sense, but you'd want to get in as soon as the flights open up: that is, 90 days before your planned return date.
You'll also get frequent flyer points (at discount economy rates) for flights booked through the deal, which might be a factor if you're trying to rack up points or status credits. If you're trying to requalify for a particular tier, scheduling the flight before your cut-off date is also worth considering.
If you're eligible for a free flight, where are you planning to go? Or are you so irate at Qantas you wouldn't fly with them anyway (which is an irrational but I suspect common response)? Tell us in the comments.