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Do your Qantas points still have currency?

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The recent Qantas-Emirates hook-up means value-seeking frequent flyers need to be smarter about their bookings.

The recent Qantas-Emirates hook-up means value-seeking frequent flyers need to be smarter about their bookings. Photo: Nic Walker

It's often said that Qantas Frequent Flyer points are Australia's de facto currency. But while the Aussie dollar continues to ride high, some travellers are finding the "exchange rate" for their points is slowly heading south.

It's all to do with the value that some of Qantas's partner airlines place on Qantas points.

The new Qantas-Emirates alliance comes with a few traps for unwary travellers. 

To extend the foreign exchange metaphor, when you're flying on an airline other than Qantas you're in a foreign country with a different currency.

The "earn rate" for Qantas points can be considerably less than on a jaunt in one of the Red Roo's own jets.

This applies even to airlines which are part of the same Oneworld airline alliance family.

No points-boosters on BA

A case in point: the latest fallout from the new Qantas-Emirates alliance and subsequent winding down of the Qantas-British Airways joint venture.

From March 31, Qantas will remove the "status bonus" offered to its frequent flyers when they travel with BA.

This prized perk delivers a second helping of points based on your status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme.

The status bonus lets Platinum card-holders double their points haul, even if they're sitting down the back in economy – which makes for a serious boost when you're going all the way to London.

Gold gets you a 50 per cent bonus, while for Silvers it's a 25 per cent pick-me-up.

Also for the chop: the standard "one point per mile" on the cheapest discount economy tickets on BA flights from Australia to Singapore, London and Frankfurt. This wil be trimmed to a mere 0.25 points per mile.

Fewer miles with Malaysia Airlines

BA isn't the only airline where we're seeing a downgrade in the value of the Qantas Frequent Flyer point.

Malaysia Airlines, the newest a new member of the Oneworld tribe, lets you earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on MAS flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to Kuala Lumpur and beyond (including a double-daily A380 to London).

However, the rate at which MAS miles are magicked into Qantas points delivers only 0.75 Qantas points per mile in business class for flights between Australia and Malaysia, as well as through to London.

You also forego the cabin bonus, a common perk on other partner airlines through which you earn extra points for flying in business class or first class.

Let's be clear: Qantas isn't to blame for this.

Malaysia Airlines effectively buys Qantas Frequent Flyer points from Qantas and sets its own exchange rate for how these are handed out to the traveller.

But it shows why canny Australian travellers are become clued-in on maximising the value of their frequent flyer currency.

Earning with Emirates

The new Qantas-Emirates alliance comes with a few traps for unwary travellers.

While you'll be able to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on Emirates flights, you'll get a better exchange rate if those Emirates flights are booked through a Qantas agent under their corresponding Qantas flight code, which treats the trip as if you were on one of Qantas' own aircraft.

Take the evening Emirates flight EK413 from Sydney to Dubai, which dovetails neatly into Emirates' morning flights from Dubai to Europe - so you've got a much shorter layover at the airport than if you arrived on Qantas's own QF1.

Book this as the Emirates EK413 flight and you'll earn Qantas points at a lower "partner rate" and with no status credits.

Book the same flight as Qantas QF8413 (Qantas adds an 8 in front of the three-digit Emirates flight number) and you'll pick up your full complement of Qantas points and status credits.

There's also a status bonus of 50 per cent to 100 per cent for points, and a further cabin bonus of 50 per cent if you're in business class, compared to a 25 per cent business class bonus under the EK413 ticket.

That's a substantially larger haul for flying on the exact same plane.

Loyalty bonus

There's another gotcha coming down the track that will make it harder to earn points with any Qantas partner.

From July 1, the 8000 point "loyalty bonus" - which comes with every 500 status credits you rack up travelling with Qantas or a partner airline - will apply only to flights carrying a QF flight number.

It's another example of why frequent flyers need to carefully plot their travel plans to shore up the earning potential of their points.

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT

What do you think of Qantas's Frequent Flyer program? Are you happy with the changes? Do you still gain value from your membership?

52 comments

  • I think the Qantas FF program used to be much better than it is now. A really unpleasant tendency I've noticed lately on the Qantas FF website for Classic Awards is that often they will offer a business class seat for, say, Sydney - Los Angeles, and charge business class points for the WHOLE trip - you have to click on the asterisk to see that the "business" class portion of the fare is domestic business class from Sydney to Melbourne, and that from Melbourne to Los Angeles, far from occupying a skybed, you'll be shoe-horned into an economy seat down the back. Their inability to be up front with what is on offer is a real turn-off.

    Plus if you attempt to use points to pay for part of a normal Qantas commercial fare, you'll find out how devalued they have become. For an economy trip from Singapore to Sydney, I was far better off to pay real money for a low cost carrier - the seat, as well as the extras such as baggage, meals, and extra leg room seats. I paid less cash than what I would have "redeeming" my points on a Qantas commercial ticket - and I kept all my Qantas FF points.

    I guess with Qantas FF it's a case of "buyer be very aware."

    Commenter
    CM8
    Date and time
    March 21, 2013, 12:24AM
    • lol who even fly with them these days? I don't want to fall out of the sky. I don't want to pay double the price. I just want to get from zone A to B. That's it. I am literally just in the air to get where I have to go. I can put up with a small seat for cheaper price knowing the engine will not fail. I stopped flying with them when I turned 18 lol

      Commenter
      Branco
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 8:47AM
    • It is not true that they charge full business rate. Moreover you will SAVE point if you book MEL-SYD-LHR and MEL-SYD will be economy compared to just SYD-LHR in business. Though I fully agree that this asterisk business is truly sux - one need to be extra careful not to book "business" from MEL to LHR to find that business only from MEL to SYD and all other way up is cattle calss!

      Commenter
      Skeptic
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 8:47AM
    • @Branco
      And you alternative suggestion is?
      I am not saying that Qantas became better in last 20 years when I use them - they indeed became worse - but apart of very few carriers like Air NZ, BA, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines I fail to see alternatives. I never will feel comfortable and safe on China airlines - they will not make me their customers even if they offer free ride.

      Commenter
      Skeptic
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 9:03AM
    • Have long since given up on QFF points. They've been consistently devalued over the past 10 yrs, and despite the number of points held increasing exponentially, the number of award seats available has shrunk. In other words you'll never get to use your worthless points even if you wanted to. I'm gold so I get a pretty good choice of award seats, and I've only ever managed to book flights I want once in 10 yrs.

      I'll take the points I get and spend them at the shop rather than even bothering to look at award flights any more. The only benefit these days is lounge access - even as gold I've never been upgraded by qantas - not once!! And at ~$400 a year for a club membership, I've saved that much on a single flight going with another carrier. So zero loyalty from me - I'll go with qantas if they're the cheapest / most convenient flight and the status credits are nice, but otherwise go with whoever offers best cost / flight. Will not travel qantas on long haul anymore - their "seat creep" with ever diminishing seat pitch means they're the most uncomfortable carrier for someone tall like me.

      The whole loyalty program thing turned to sh*t when some MBA / banker wiz-kid decided frequent flier programs were worth money. Remember when the private equity kids were running the ruler over qantas - they were saying the loyalty program was worth more than the rest of the airline. I'm sorry boys - a loyalty program COSTS you - what you return to your most loyal / profitable passengers to keep them loyal. When it turned into "how can we get this to turn a profit" any benefits to FFs disappeared. Pity.

      Commenter
      Un loyal
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 9:26AM
  • You cannot use your points to upgrade on Emirates. You cannot fly to or from Perth using a Qantas plane, you will get to Dubai thereafter it's emirates. As a matter of fact the only way from Perth to Europe is via Melbourne or Sydney (add 6-8hours) if you wish to use our national carrier.
    After 20 years of flying Qantas of those 16 as a frequent flyer am changing to BA. My points are of little use going forward, a flight from London £788 - using points 120 000 point plus taxes of £580. Why bother? Loved you Qantas goodbye.

    Commenter
    Angry ant
    Location
    London
    Date and time
    March 21, 2013, 2:02AM
    • It is known fact that using point for economy airfare (and especially so for domestic one!) is just waste. But from other hand getting business via classic award became incredibly difficult and most likely then not you will finish up with very inconvenient fly.

      Commenter
      Skeptic
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 8:44AM
    • QFF points are next to worthless, I do not think even charity will take the donation of my 300K + points. I am now only accruing Emirates Skywards miles. Last time I enjoyed it, it was easy to choose an award flight, all done through the internet and there are many destinations that fit to the time of my vacation. Plus Emirates do not charge the ridiculous tax to the tune that Qantas slap their members redeeming that extremely rare award flights.
      Good bye Qantas. You are well and truly not competitive, you no longer look after your Australian customers and employees.

      Commenter
      QFF_nomore
      Location
      Middle East
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 8:47AM
  • With Malaysian Airlines it would be nice if they credited any miles at all. I flew with them 3 times early in February in Business Class and none of the points have appeared on my Qantas account. I have raised it with Qantas but it is now well outside the 2 weeks they say they will resolve it.

    It is hard to beat Qantas on their international flights in the premium cabins - I will stick with them in future.

    Commenter
    JM64
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    March 21, 2013, 6:36AM
    • I was so unhappy with QF Frequent Flyer that I switched to expanding Asian carrier Philippine Airlines.

      This unaligned airline's Mabuhay Miles program gives me elite bonus miles, lounge access (albeit in Manila not at the standard of some other carriers, but with Air NZ lounge in Melbourne and Sydney and Air China lounge in Hong Kong, for instance) and easy redemption of the kilometres that I rack up.

      40,000 points gives me a 'free' Australia - Manila return trip. Much better value than QANTAS.

      Commenter
      Not happy Jan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 7:02AM

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