If you're regularly on flights for work or for leisure, you'll know Frequent Flyers is a handy bonus to leave gathering when you're looking to book that holiday. But with so many flying rewards offers floating around across hundreds of airlines, it's hard to keep up with what you're entitled to and what you're not. Here's a breakdown of what's misconception and what's reality.
The thrill of the chase, the excitement of a freebie, and our innate human tendency to collect things can make frequent-flyer programs extremely attractive. Unlike loyalty cards for your local cafe where 10 coffees equals the coveted prize of one free coffee, the calculations of what frequent flyer points are worth is more complex.
Daniel Sciberras from airline reward site, Point Hacks, has provided a breakdown debunking some of the worst myths about airline rewards systems so let's set the record straight.
Business class is always better
"Surprisingly, on some airlines and on particular planes, Premium Economy is a better experience than Business Class. As some fleets have older seat configurations, Business Class can represent today’s Premium Economy," Sciberras said. "For instance, Jetstar’s Business Class on a 787 Boeing may not be as great as a Premium Economy seat on Qantas’ Dreamliners, with reclining seats and improved dining options."
Paying with points and some money is good value
"Through Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia, you can purchase award flights outright with your Qantas Frequent Flyer points, or you can purchase flights using a mix of points and cash (called ‘Points Plus Pay’)," Sciberras said.
"There is more seat availability when you use Points Plus Pay to purchase a flight, but this kind of redemption hugely devalues your points and is considered poor value: at a rate of around 0.7 cents per point. For a good value redemption, you should be looking between 1.5 - 14 cents per point, depending on your class of travel."
Frequent Flyer points never expire
"Think your frequent flyer points bank is like having money in the bank forever? Not so. Points do expire," Sciberras explained.
"Some frequent flyer programs, such as Qantas and Velocity, have a ‘soft’ expiry for points (the points expire if they haven’t had any activity within a specific timeframe), whereas others such as KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles have a ‘hard’ expiry (the points expire after a set time, regardless of whether points have been earned or used in the account)."
You can upgrade your bargain flights
"This is false as you can generally only upgrade on certain tickets. For instance, Qantas’ discount economy — the cheapest Economy fare, also known as Red e-Deal or Sale fares — will only let you use points to upgrade on domestic flights, not international. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia offers upgrades on all domestic Economy fares but for Business upgrades on international flights, this is only available to Velocity Gold or Platinum members who have purchased the more expensive ‘Freedom’ fare," Sciberras said.
"Often, upgrades from saver fares are not worth it, as the number of points required is similar to the points required for an outright Business Class redemption. A saver upgrade from Sydney to Brisbane would be 10,000 points, while an outright Business redemption would be 13,800 points. Short-haul international flights from Australia (Fiji, Samoa, Bali or New Zealand) only allow upgrades from flexi fares."
Frequent flyer points are equal across airlines
"Like currencies, the value of airline rewards points are not like for like between programs," Sciberras said.
"For example, 100,000 Qantas Points won’t equate to 100,000 KrisFlyer miles. How these points are earned also differs. A return Sydney-London flight on Qantas' Premium Economy can earn you 31,000 points, but Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy will earn you 21,152 KrisFlyer miles."
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.