A million extra seats and a slashing of carrier charges are the centrepiece changes in the overhaul of Qantas' Frequent Flyer program, which was announced on Thursday.
"It's all about more seats, fewer fees and better value," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at a media conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
In response to complaints from consumers about the scarcity of seats on popular routes, the company pledged a million extra reward-based seats per year on its aircrafts and those of partner airlines, with booking fees associated with points-based purchases cut by up to 50 per cent on international flights.
For example, an economy flight from Sydney to New York will now have carrier charges of $180, instead of $360.
The additional seats will concentrate on peak periods like Easter, Christmas and school holidays.
"We know the majority of our members want to use their points to take a dream trip overseas, so we are adding more reward seats ... to places like London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Singapore," Mr Joyce said.
It's the "single biggest overhaul of the Qantas frequent flyer program in its 32-year-history," he said.
The investments are expected to cost Qantas $25 million per year.
International economy flights booked through Qantas with points will require a slightly lower amount, with more expensive flights and class upgrades getting an increase - which Mr Joyce defended as the first in 15 years, and a reflection of improvements to service in that period. Upgrades will require an increase in points of between nine and 12 per cent.
"We still think this is good value for money," he said.
The decrease in economy points required and carrier charges will come into effect today, with other changes rolled out later in the year.
Qantas has retained 80 per cent of its consumers in the corporate market despite intense competition, Mr Joyce said.
The airline also announced the establishment of a new points club, a two-tiered system with a minimum annual points-spending threshold.
The base tier will require members to earn 150,000 points earned on the ground.
A new lifetime membership will be available to flyers who earn 75,000 status credits, called Lifetime Platinum, which will launch in September. The threshold will be more than five times the amount of credits required for Lifetime Gold.
"In some ways, it's more exclusive than the Chairman's Lounge," said Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth.
- SMH/The Age