Qantas To Operate An Airbus A380 Just For Points Redemptions (I Love This!)


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Qantas appears to have come up with a pretty cool idea. Later this year the airline will need to fly an Airbus A380 to Tokyo from where it will operate a charter flight for whoever has chartered the aircraft and, rather than flying an empty aircraft to where it is needed, the Australian carrier will operate the A380 as a points-booking-only flight to Japan’s capital city.

The Qantas ‘Points Planes’

On 21 October 2019 Qantas will fly one of its Airbus A380 aircraft on a flight between Melbourne and Tokyo and the airline will be selling every seat on the flight to Qantas Frequent flyers in exchange for Qantas Points.

The A380 will offer 14 First Class, 64 Business Class, 35 Premium Economy, and 371 Economy seats at the standard Qantas Points redemption rate for the route (+ taxes & fees):

  • First Class – 108,000 Qantas Points
  • Business Class – 72,000 Qantas Points
  • Premium Economy – 54,000 Qantas Points
  • Economy – 35,000 Qantas Points

The airline says that Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum members will all have equal opportunity to secure a booking on this special ‘Points Plane’ flight so there will be no booking preference for top-tier elites – everyone should have an equal chance of booking a seat on a first-come-first-served basis.

Qantas hasn’t made any mention of its oneworld partners in this announcement so I suspect that members of the American Airlines AAdvantage program (for example) will not be able to redeem their miles for the ‘Points Plane’ – I expect this to be an exclusive for Qantas frequqnt flyers only….although I will be checking when bookings open up just to be sure.

The airline will be adding to the almost guaranteed party atmosphere on this flight by offering “a distinctive inflight service with special on-board experiences including a bespoke cocktail and meal service, signature pyjamas and inflight giveaways”.

In case you’re wondering how flyers are expected to return from Tokyo well, Qantas has that covered too…..mostly!

The Airbus A380 will not be operating the return leg (presumably it will be on charter duty or will already be back in Australia) but Qantas will be operating an Airbus 330 as a second Points Plane between Tokyo and Melbourne on 26 October 2019.

This does, however, pose a small problem – the A380 is able to seat up to 484 passengers while the airline’s A330’s appear to be able to seat no more than 297.

Anyone booking the A380 Points Plane will either have to be flexible with their plans for the return journey or hope they’re fortunate enough to snap up a seat on the smaller A330.

Not A One-Off

Qantas is calling the A380 flight the ‘inaugural Points Plane’ because it says it may well operate more such flights.

Here’s what Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth has had to say:

This is the first time we have dedicated an entire aircraft – let alone an A380 – to our frequent flyers, and we are expecting to see significant demand for these flights

Four flight redemptions are made every minute and sixty upgrades are confirmed every hour. We know our members love to redeem their points on travel, so we’re excited to be able to give them new ways to access these rewards.

Member-exclusive flights mean more redemption opportunities for our members and less time searching for reward seats.

If this concept is a success, which we think it will be, Qantas hopes to operate more regular Frequent Flyer only flights to other international and domestic destinations in the near future.

As Qantas often moves aircraft around its system for operational reasons it opens up opportunities for more Points Plane flights going forward.

Bottom Line

Qantas frequent flyers will be able to book seats on the Points Planes from Thursday 16 May 2019 (Australia time) and with demand likely to be through the roof I expect most premium cabin seats to be sold out in minutes.

This a very clever idea from Qantas. The aircraft being used would have been flying empty anyway so why not generate some goodwill (and take some frequent flyer points out of the system) in exchange for whatever extra fuel is needed to carry all the passengers?

Hopefully Qantas will find that these first two flights are a huge success so it will be encouraged to schedule more Points Planes in the future but, for now, a tip of the hat to the airline for coming up with this opportunity.

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