Qantas Overhauls Its Frequent Flyer Program (Things Could Have Been A Lot Worse)


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On Tuesday we were given a heads up that Qantas was going to be using a Thursday morning press conference to announce sweeping changes to its Frequent Flyer program, so the past 48 hours can’t have been much fun for a lot of travelers down under.

When airlines change their frequent flyer programs it’s rarely good news for flyers so, understandably, quite a few people were expecting the news to be pretty bad (me included).

I speculated that we’d probably see changes that involved points earning being based on the cost of the fare (rather than the distance flown), increased mileage requirements for premium cabin partner awards as well as changes to the status credit thresholds required for elite status and/or changes to the number of status credits earned from flying.

These are all things that multiple airline loyalty programs around the world have already done or are in the process of doing.

Thankfully I was mostly wrong.

Qantas Frequent Flyer Program Changes

Here’s what Qantas has announced:

The Good

  • Qantas says it will add “more than 1 million extra reward seats annually on Qantas and new partner airlines
  • Charges imposed by Qantas on award bookings will be cut. International awards will see surcharges cut “by up to 50 percent”. The cut to surcharges on Economy Class awards is immediate while the cut to premium cabin surcharges will take effect from 18 September 2019.
  • A reduction of “up to 10 percent” in the number of points needed for international Economy Class awards.
  • An improved website is on the way which will show award availability a lot more clearly than the current site.
  • A new ‘Qantas Points Club’ is on the way (expected December 2019) which appears to be a loyalty program (of sorts) which will reward people who earn Qantas Points through means other than flying.
  • Qantas is introducing a new ‘Lifetime Platinum’ tier…albeit at the eye-watering level of 75,000 status points.
Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner Economy Class

The Bad

  • The cost premium cabin ‘Classic Rewards’ will be increasing by between 9% and 15% (depending on the route) for bookings made from 18 September 2019.
  •  The points cost of upgrades will increase by 9% from 18 September 2019

Thoughts

The big news is that the really bad things that could have happened didn’t happen:

  • We still have Qantas award charts (no dynamic awards)
  • There aren’t going be any increases in the number of credits needed for the various status levels
  • A minimum spend criteria isn’t being introduced for the purposes of earning status
  • There aren’t going to be any changes to the number of status credits Qantas and partner flights earn.

That should all be a big relief to Qantas’ frequent flyers.

It’s also good to hear that the ridiculous surcharges Qantas adds to its awards will be coming down…although I wish the airline would do the right thing and eliminate them completely.

Qantas has provided an example of how the surcharges on an example route (Melbourne – Los Angeles) have/will be changing:

It’s nice they didn’t decide to use a route where the surcharges decreased by 50% to make their point – at least this gives a more balanced view and a view on a popular route.

The news around award costs is mixed…but it could have been so much worse.

Here’s how Qantas says the award costs on the Melbourne – Los Angeles route have changed/will be changing:

216,800 is a colossal number of points for a roundtrip Business Class fare between LA and Melbourne….but then the existing 192,000 point requirement that remains in place until 18 September isn’t exactly an insignificant number either.

I’m not attempting to brush off the award cost increases or make light of the fact that Qantas Frequent flyers will now need up to 15% more miles for their premium cabin awards, but this is hardly a bloodbath.

When American Airlines upended its loyalty program a few years back we saw award costs increasing by over 40% (in some instances) so if this is what happens when Qantas announces “the biggest overhaul to [its] loyalty program in its 32 year history” there’s every reason to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Most of the other announcements aren’t actually that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things (although an improved award search will be welcome and I’m sure Aussies will be happy to have the Qantas Points Club as a new way to earn miles and get more benefits).

The biggest bust was probably the announcement that Qantas will be offering flyers the change to reach lifetime Platinum Status going forward.

Image courtesy of Qantas – Click to enlarge

With Lifetime Gold status requiring 14,000 status credits and with 1,200 status credits being enough to maintain Qantas Platinum status from year to year, it was expected that the introduction of a Lifetime Platinum status would come with a requirement of anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000 status credits.

Oh how wrong that estimate was.

Qantas will now award Lifetime Platinum status to flyers who earn 75,000 status credits.

A flyer who only just manages to earn Platinum status every year would have to fly Qantas for approximately 60 years (earning Platinum Staus every year) before being awarded Lifetime Platinum status.

I don’t see the point.

Sydney Qantas First Class Lounge
Qantas First Class Lounge In Sydney

Bottom Line

From a personal point of view I don’t really care about the Qantas Frequent Flyer program very much because I don’t have any use for it, but I’m still happy that the changes that have been announced aren’t as bad as I expected.

Quite a few readers have probably been making the most of the recent transfer bonuses that we’ve seen from Amex and the airline itself so I’m glad they’ll have time to burn their miles before the award price increases kick in and I’m glad the overall increases aren’t too bad.

What do you think of the changes Qantas has announced?

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