Qantas Frequent Flyer — an American Express, Citibank, and Capital One transfer partner — has announced several changes to their program, which I consider largely to be negative but not dramatically so, increasing the cost of premium cabin awards modestly off of an already sky high base in exchange for vague promises of greater availability off of a very low base.
There are 12.7 million Qantas Frequent Flyer members, and consistent with U.S. program experiences two-thirds of miles are earned outside of flying. Surprisingly 35% of Australia credit card spend is on a Qantas product. So we also will see new benefits for customers who earn without flying.
Qantas A380 First Class
In general changes to coach redemption happens immediately and without advance notice (but is good for members) while changes to premium cabin redemption happens September 18 (3 months’ notice, and is bad for members). New award charts are here.
- More award seats, 5 million seats a year on Qantas including ‘up to’ 30% more in premium cabins although it sounds like the actual increase in availability is largely driven by new airline partners.
- Reduction in the cost of coach awards ‘up to’ 10% effective immediately
- Increase in the cost of premium cabin awards ;up to’ 15% and upgrades ‘up to’ 9% starting September 18 (although these weren’t exceptionally high in the Qantas program already)
- Decrease in fuel surcharges on awards by ‘up to’ 50% (remember that Qantas has been charging fuel surcharges on redemption bookings when not even charging them on revenue fares). This change starts immediately for economy, and September 18 for premium cabins.
- Introduction of lifetime Platinum status starting in September, earned after 75,000 status credits. There are no other changes to elite status.
- Qantas Points Club which amounts to elite status-lite for members who earn points through partners rather than flying (similar to what Aeroplan offers). This launches in December, and will offer tiers of benefits starting with members earning 150,000 partner miles per year. Details of benefits and status levels will come later.
- New redemption partners Air France KLM, Air New Zealand, China Airlines and Bangkok Airways
This has been dubbed the biggest overhaul in program history but I don’t think that’s actually correct, it’s a change in the award chart and promise of more availability (something programs almost always promise when raising redemption prices, except that American Airlines didn’t promise this in 2016).
The basic structure of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program – and the actual biggest change in the program’s history — dates to November 2004 where members got the current distance-based award chart that means cheap short haul coach awards, one way awards and the ability to transfer points to eligible family members along with the elimination of confirmed upgrades at booking, elimination of upgrade credits, and a big increase in the cost of premium cabin awards,
Business class from Sydney to Los Angeles and Sydney to Singapore each went up 20%. First class from Sydney to Heathrow went up 28%. First class from Sydney to JFK shot up a whopping 92% to 384,000 points for a single ticket…
If you want to get in on redemptions made through Qantas prior to the increase in premium award pricing American Express is running a 20% bonus on transfers through end of month.
Ultimately Qantas is keeping award charts and not moving to dynamic award pricing so if there’s a silver lining in redemption pricing that along with a reduction in scam charges is it. The move towards recognition of non-flying but still important program members and recognition of lifetime elite status up to Platinum are improvements, as are the introduction of new redemption partners.