Qantas unveiled “the biggest overhaul to the airline’s loyalty program in its 32 year history” earlier today in Sydney. But put simply, the changes are not as draconian as I feared.
Here’s how Qantas spins the “major initiatives” members can look forward to:
- Adding more than 1 million extra reward seats available annually on Qantas and new partner airlines.
- Slashing carrier charges – the additional costs associated with flights booked with Points – by up to 50 per cent on international bookings, saving members on average $200 per return journey.
- Changing the points required for reward seats on domestic and international flights including an up to 10% reduction in the number of points required for international economy Classic Reward seats.
- Increasing the points required for upgrades and Classic Reward seats in premium cabins to better reflect the value of this premium experience.
- Creating a new tiered Points Club program to better reward members who earn most of their points through on-the-ground transactions.
- Introducing Lifetime Platinum status, the ultimate recognition for the airline’s most loyal flyers.
Let’s focus on a number of these.
Economy Class Cheaper, Business + First More Expensive
Economy class pricing will drop by as much as 10%, effective immediately. Business and first class redemptions will increase by up to 15% starting on September 18, 2019. Upgrades will rise by up to 9% in mileage price.
Carrier charges will be cut by “as much as 50%” on international bookings. Even premium cabin redemption will see lower rewards.
Here’s a handy table that illustrates the pricing changes and reduction in fees:
Notice that longhaul redemptions are still a terrible value versus what American Airlines AAdvantage charges for the same flights with no “carrier surcharges” at all.
More Award Seats + Five New Partners
Qantas will release more award seats to top-destinations and offer easy-to-book award redemptions on a growing list of non-oneworld partner airlines, including some from SkyTeam and some from Star Alliance:
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% increase in our highest demand reward seats in Qantas International premium cabins over the next 12 months.
Additionally, we will be giving members more choice when travelling to destinations across Europe, New Zealand and South East Asia through new frequent flyer agreements with Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
I’m less interested in the additional changes. Qantas will introduce the “Points Club” to allow members to earn more points and even status without ever setting foot on a Qantas flight. Qantas will also introduce Lifetime Platinum status for those who earn 75,000 status credits. That’s the equivalent of 130 business class round-trips between Sydney and London!
Here’s a video summarizing the changes:
I predicted major bad news and instead we only received minor bad news. Indeed, those who redeem their miles for economy class awards actually received good news today.
As I wrote yesterday,
Perhaps the one hope we have is that Qantas must be careful not kill its cash cow.
That seemed to be the case and Qantas took a more conservative approach. British Airways just raised business class prices far worse than Qantas. We can live with these changes. For the most part, Qantas Frequent Flyer still won’t be competitive. But the sweet spots (like EL-AL or some exotic partners in the South Pacific region) will still be worth considering. Most of all, I’m happy that Qantas left fixed-priced awards intact, as uncompetitive as pricing may be.