9 things you should know about Qantas Frequent Flyer
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Earlier this week, American Express added Qantas Frequent Flyer as a new transfer partner. This means that if you have a credit card that earns Membership Rewards points, you now the option of transferring them to Qantas points at a rate of 1:1 — so 500 Membership Rewards points would become 500 Qantas points.
Qantas might not be the first programme that comes to mind when you think of using points. You might have seen the “Flying Kangaroo” at Heathrow Airport and be aware that they are an Australian airline, but that might be all. But, now that it’s a transfer partner of Amex, you might want to know a bit more about the programme.
Here is what you should know about Qantas and its loyalty programme
1. Qantas is an alliance partner of British Airways
Conveniently for U.K.-based travellers, Qantas is a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, of which British Airways is also a member. This means you can earn and redeem Qantas points flying British Airways, and vice versa. They operate on only a couple of the same routes. For example, both airlines fly from London (LHR) to Singapore (SIN) and on to Sydney (SYD).
The Oneworld alliance also has some well-regarded members flying to and from the U.K., including Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Finnair. You can use Qantas points on these airlines just as you can use BA Avios with them, too.
2. Qantas has unique airline partnerships
Along with its Oneworld partners, Qantas partners with some more unusual airlines. Some of these don’t fly anywhere near Europe, so they may not be of use to you. However, there are two airlines that could be very useful: Dubai (DXB)-based Emirates and Israel’s El Al. Both these airlines have limited airline partnerships and operate to the U.K. Though you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to the Emirates Skywards programme, if you’re interested in redeeming points on Oneworld airlines, as well as Emirates and El Al, consider transferring your Membership Rewards points to Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Don’t forget, too, there’s a Qantas-related trick to allow you to earn Avios on Emirates flights.
3. Qantas releases very few premium cabin award seats
A long-time complaint from Qantas Frequent Flyer members is that the airline releases few premium cabin seats to book with any points, whether they be Qantas points or Avios. Seats are released 365 days in advance of the flights (like British Airways does), and long-haul business- and first-class redemption seats are usually booked up very quickly, often within days of being released, with the airline unlikely to release any more later or at the last minute.
Qantas is good at filling its planes with paid passengers and upgrades, so it doesn’t release as many seats to either its own members or members of partner airlines.
4. Redemptions start at 8,000 Qantas points
Unfortunately, there are no bargains in the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme when it comes to redemptions. You’ll be looking at a minimum of 8,000 points for the shortest, Qantas-operated redemption, like Sydney (SYD) to Brisbane (BNE). For a partner redemption like one operated by British Airways, redemptions start at 10,000 Qantas points one-way, plus fees, taxes and surcharges — even if it’s only a short hop over to France.
Unfortunately, there’s no cost-effective Reward Flight Savers in the Qantas programme. If you are looking at booking short hops to Europe on BA, stick with Avios redemptions.
5. Qantas charges per journey, not per flight
This is probably the biggest advantage of the programme compared to Avios. If you’re looking at a direct flight with BA, then Avios can be good value because it charges per flight. If you are looking at a partner redemption that involves a connection like Qatar Airways via Doha (DOH), then Qantas is likely to charge far fewer points, as it will calculate the distance of each leg together, rather than separately. This is each way, so a return trip would be two separate sets of points required.
Partner connecting redemptions in premium cabins can cost ridiculous amounts of Avios, so consider Qantas if you are looking to connect on partners.
6. Qantas imposes surcharges
Surcharges on redemptions are nothing new for Avios collectors, and you can expect big co-payments if redeeming on Qantas as well. Qantas Frequent Flyer is an extremely profitable division of the Qantas Group, partly because it charges big fees disguised as fuel surcharges, despite the fact that fuel is very cheap right now.
Qantas will impose surcharges on redemptions for Qantas-operated flights, and any partner flights where that airline also has surcharges. Compare this with the American Airlines AAdvantage programme, which has no major fuel surcharges on its own flights and only passes along the fuel surcharges for flights operated by British Airways and Iberia — not for Qantas-operated flights.
7. The upgrade ‘lottery’ can be very frustrating
British Airways and Qantas take very different approaches to upgrades. British Airways will allow anyone to upgrade with Avios on BA-operated flights, provided there is a full award seat available in the higher class.
Qantas allows anyone to request an upgrade, though this is far from guaranteed. The airline will only begin to process upgrades in the few days before the flight, converting a good number of unsold seats to upgrades — whether they were showing as available for a full award seat or not. This helps ensure the flight goes out as full as possible. The order Qantas processes upgrades is based on status within the Qantas programme. The higher your status in that programme, the more likely your upgrade is to clear. Unfortunately, only Qantas status is recognised in terms of upgrade priority, so even if you have British Airways Gold status, while it would come with Oneworld status benefits when flying with Qantas like first-class lounge access, it would be of no benefit if you are using Qantas points to submit an upgrade request.
Remember, you can only upgrade certain types of both BA and Qantas fares — not the cheapest sale fares. While you might have a good idea based on award availability if your BA flight will be upgradeable with Avios, the same can’t be said for Qantas flights with upgrade requests. These upgrades may not be processed until you get to the boarding gate. I know of many people who have bought a more expensive Qantas economy fare for the sole reason that they wanted to upgrade with Qantas points, only for their upgrade not to clear because of their low status, leaving them stuck in economy with an expensive fare they paid too much for.
8. One Avios is usually more valuable than one Qantas point
For a U.K.-based traveller, I would value an Avios slightly higher than a Qantas point. We currently value Avios at 1.1p, while I would value a Qantas point at around 0.8p each. There are no real sweet spots in the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme, and two of the real advantages of the Avios programme — the short-haul Reward Flight Savers and the ability to earn a 2-4-1 Companion Voucher every year with the right credit card — don’t exist in the Qantas programme.
Avios is hardly the best value loyalty programme in the world, but neither is Qantas. There are no amazing value Qantas redemptions — you’ll likely get the best value per Qantas point for upgrades on Qantas-operated flights, though note the lottery issues described above.
9. Qantas is a good airline
Despite not having an amazing loyalty programme, Qantas is considered a well-run airline with good service and good products. Its domestic business class in Australia is far superior to British Airways’ Club Europe, for example.
Perhaps what Qantas does best is airport lounges. It first-class lounges in Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), Singapore (SIN) and Los Angeles (LAX) are some of the best airline lounges in the world, and even its business-class lounge in Hong Kong (HKG) is one of my favourite business-class lounges anywhere. Its only European lounge is in London Heathrow Terminal 3, where it is one of the best lounges in the terminal, though faces some stiff competition from fellow Oneworld member Cathay Pacific.
You can access Qantas business lounges with Oneworld Sapphire status (such as Executive Club Silver) flying any cabin, or its fabulous first-class lounges with Oneworld Emerald status (such as Executive Club Gold), also flying in any cabin of service.
While it doesn’t have a long-haul network anything like the size of British Airways, if you do have the chance to fly with Qantas for the first time, it’s likely you’ll enjoy the experience.
Qantas is a great airline with an OK loyalty programme. It makes plenty of money for the airline and keeps people loyal, but there aren’t any amazing tricks to teach you. If you’re used to British Airways’ Club World product and have the chance to instead book Qantas business class, I would encourage you to try it out – I’ve never had a bad flight in Qantas business.
For most U.K.-based travellers, Avios continues to likely be the best Oneworld option for your Membership Rewards points, though it’s always great to have more options available. This is why Membership Rewards points are such a valuable points currency to collect.
Featured photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.