Qantas Unveils Changes to Rewards Program, Including Lower Fees, Expanded Award Availability
Yesterday, Qantas announced a $25 million dollar revamp of its frequent flyer program, the most expansive update in its 32-year history. While award program changes don't tend to favor the flyer, not all the initiatives in this overhaul are negative, with the introduction of a new elite tier status and increased availability for reward redemptions. Changes are set to roll out over the next 12 months — and nearly every aspect of the program is going to be affected.
- Updated Award Rates: Beginning September 18, 2019, the number of points required to book a seat in a premium cabin will increase by as much as 15%, while the cost to upgrade to a premium cabin using points will also rise, up to 9%. In contrast, economy redemptions are seeing of a drop of up to 10%, effective immediately.
- Lifetime Platinum: Excitingly, Lifetime Platinum is joining both Lifetime Gold and Lifetime Silver to offer permanent status to Qantas' most frequent fliers. This new status will become available in September 2019, and members must accrue a total of 75,000 credits to qualify.
- More Seats: Over a million more award seats will be available on Qantas and its partners throughout the year, including peak travel time — with up to 30% more premium cabin seats on offer.
- Lower Fees: Starting today, carrier fees on economy bookings are discounted by as much as 50% on international award redemptions. Premium cabins will also see a reduction, though not as significant as economy flights and changes won't take effect until September 18, 2019.
- More Partners: Travelers will have five new airlines on which to earn and redeem Qantas points, thanks to new agreements with Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
- Points Club: Qantas is introducing a new club focused on providing elite-style benefits (like lounge access and bonus status credits) to big spenders on non-flight transactions. The club will consist of two tiers — 'Points Club' and 'Points Club Plus' — based on the amount of spend. Points Club will require at least 150,000 credits, while Points Club Plus will require an additional (as yet undisclosed) amount of credits. The Club is set to launch in late 2019.
- More Redemptions: An improved digital interface is also coming out, set to enhance user experiences with award searches and flights. Members will be able to view 12 months of reward seats in under five seconds and will be prompted with award availability on popular routes upon login.
Though it's generally hit-or-miss with award program updates, there are some things that Qantas has gotten right here. The addition of Lifetime Platinum is a nice feature for dedicated Qantas loyalists, and the ability to earn miles on an expanded series of partners will make obtaining Qantas Points much easier. While the 15% increase on premium cabin redemptions is a tough pill to swallow, these awards typically weren't the best value under current rates, and a 50% reduction in carrier charges helps cushion the blow a bit.
The big question that remains is how the expanded award availability will work. Here's how it's described in the carrier's official press release:
"Frequent Flyers will have access to more than a million extra reward seats annually on Qantas and a growing list of premium partner airlines including during peak leisure travel periods to our most popular destinations such as London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Singapore. As a result, members will enjoy an up to 30 per cent increase in our highest demand reward seats in Qantas International premium cabins over the next 12 months."
Qantas is known for its relatively stingy international award space to and from the US, so an increase is welcome. However, will that expansion apply to true saver-level awards that are bookable through partner programs, or will it be limited to Qantas' own members? A number of airlines use different award inventories for their own members — Singapore KrisFlyer is probably the most well-known — so it wouldn't be surprising to see Qantas take the same approach.
However, if partner programs like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or American AAdvantage suddenly see a noticeable increase in Qantas premium cabin award seats, it's safe to say this will be a decidedly positive change for US-based travelers.
We've reached out to Qantas for clarification and will update this article when we receive a response.