Qantas has made some significant changes to the Frequent Flyer program. The value of points is changing with some flight options and upgrades requiring more points. But what will the real cost be? Let's look at a few popular flight upgrades and see what the program changes mean.
As someone who spends a lot of time flying - most years I do five or six international trips and I travel interstate once or twice a month - these changes are set to affect my points' value considerably. I spread my travel between Qantas and Virgin and their code-share partners and loyalty program partners and use my points for the occasional upgrade or to offset the cost of a family holiday.
Qantas is completely overhauling how Frequent Flyer points work. The airline is describing it as the biggest change in the program's 32 year history with a million extra seats added to international reward flights and a new "two-tiered" points club.
However, some flights will now require more points which means spending more money. Here's everything you need to know.
It's important to note that there can be a huge differential between flights booked just a day apart or by taking less direct routes. For example, instead of going directly from Sydney to Los Angeles, you could save points by going via Melbourne and swapping planes there.
Or, if you use Qantas' 'points and pay' option, you can make part of the route cost just 40,000 points but you'll need to contribute about $150. That's what I did for a family holiday recently.
The main changes to the Frequent Flyer program include a 25% boost on the number of available reward seats available, bringing the number to five million. International flights will get a tax cut of up to 50% but seat upgrades will require 9% more points. Domestic routes won't see a lot of changes as most of those items don't apply unless you're leaving the country.
Points earned on credit cards and through Qantas partners remain the same.
So, with more seats available, it should be easier to actually use your points but if you've paid for a seat in economy, getting a points-based upgrade to a nicer seat and better meal will cost more points.
Oh, and if you fly a lot - like a massive amount, there's now a lifetime Platinum option that will require a monstrous 75,000 Status Credits to achieve.
To give you some idea of what that means, here's a table detailing one of the most popular international routes, between Melbourne and Los Angeles:
|Route||Current points and fees||New points and fees||Difference|
|MEL-LAX Economy||$513 and 90,000 points||$393 and 83,800||Save 6200 points and $120|
|MEL-LAX Premium Economy||$794 and 144,000 points||$603 and 162,600 points||Use 18,600 more points but save $190|
|MEL-LAX Business Class||$943 and 192,000 points||$703 and 216,800 points||Use 24,800 more points but save $240|
|MEL-LAX First||$943 and 288,000 points||$703 and 325,600 points||Use 37,600 more points but save $240|
What's clear is that if you're happy to sit in the cheap seats, then your points will take you a little further. But if you like a better meal, seat and service, then that's going to cost you 15% more. But given two-thirds of all points earned are generated by on the ground transactions, the likelihood your weekly shopping or other purchases can be used to redeem a flight goes up.
If you're planning to use points to upgrade to a better seat, that's going to cost 9% more points than before. There's a neat Fact Sheet that explains most of the main changes in the program.
Loyalty program changes rarely result in consumers getting a vastly better deal. But by making more seats available and lowering the threshold for an international economy seat these changes, which come into effect in September 2019, should make it easier to take off.
I suspect the real reason behind this move is because all those unredeemed points are a financial liability. If Qantas can get us to spend more of our points then they reduce the liabilities in the finances which is a positive for them. So, there's a dash of financial realism behind this altruism.
I tend to use my points for holidays so, if economy fares to places like Hawaii or Fiji follow the same pattern as popular long-haul destinations like LA and London and become cheaper I'll be happy.