Qantas Announces ‘Biggest Overhaul’ in its Frequent Flyer History

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. “35% of Australia credit card spend is on a Qantas product.” Sounds a little misleading/confusing.

    Could be better phrased “35% of Australia credit card spend is on a card linked to the Qantas loyalty scheme.”

  2. I am wondering if and how will this affect redeeming AAdvantage miles for travel on Qantas. In particular Business Class redemptions? Right now it is 80k to/from US for ow travel. Anyone have insight if that is slated to change anytime soon?

  3. Could be better phrased “35% of Australia credit card spend WAS on a card linked to the Qantas loyalty scheme.”

    Earlier this year Amex had a 25% devaluation on ponts earned. I and many others cancelled our Qantas-linked cards, and those who didn’t cancel then will have a chance to reconsider in the light of this nasty devaluation on Qantas premium-class awards.

  4. The recent Amex devaluation had a 50% loss of net earn / redeem in my own case, someone principally using the card for travel purchases.

    The overall loss, including this QF devaluation, is thus 65%!

    The modest reduction in fuel surcharges for premium awards does not come close to offsetting the increase in points demanded by QF.

    The fuel surcharges are dynamic anyway so can easily be put back up later.

    The Lifetime Platinum threshold is ridiculously high! Nobody in their right minds would be tempted to use it as an incentive, especially with alternatives such as BA. Better to sit on Lifetime Gold and either go for points (AA, AS, etc) or lifetime OneWorld Emerald (BA). Definitely not QF!!!

    Claims of so many % increases in reward availability for international premium are coming off a base of near zero so the claims are pretty well meaningless and there is no accountability or transparency anyway.

    Lots of typical QF spin and mostly bad news for any serious frequent flyer!

    The sole ray of light in QF FF is the ability to scoop up wine purchases with a 40 or even 50 plus points per dollar payback and then select rewards with lower fuel surcharges…

  5. Did Qantas start taking premium cabin award space away from partners when this was announced? I am seeing business class awards on QF that AA.com and AA agents cannot see and that are not shown on BA.com.

  6. @ DJ

    QF generally releases more award space on QF to its own FFers than can be accessed through partner programs such as AA and BA. This is not new.

    Also, an unadvertised benefit of QF Platinum is you can ring to request the release of a seat for a reward, which may, or may not, be granted.

    Some claim QF status also affects how many award seats you can see on the QF website, but on the occasions, I have compared PLatinum login to Bronze login there has been no such difference.

    Claims of a greater number of award seats by QF are framed in “up to” weasel wording and may in large part simply reflect the addition of some partners…

  7. One of the unannounced changes coming in as part of this round of changes is award availability is going to start to be based on your engagement and behaviour as a member of the QFF program.

    That means you may start to see differing availability based on how many points you earn in the program and also start to see differing availability based on your redemption history.

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