Whether your meetings wound up sooner than expected or you’ve arrived at the airport far earlier than planned, you may be able to swap your ticket for an earlier Qantas flight to get home faster.
Unlike Virgin Australia, Qantas doesn’t have an official Fly Ahead benefit for all Gold- and Platinum-grade travellers – but there are still ways you can ‘fly ahead’ with the Roo if you know how and when to ask.
1. Free flight changes for Qantas Platinum One members
If your wallet wields that elusive white Platinum One card and you’re booked on a flexible domestic fare, Qantas allows you to catch an earlier flight if seats are available.
This is a published benefit for these top-tier travellers, with the airline also waiving any difference in price between the flight you’d originally booked and the flight you’re actually taking.
You can make your request at the Business Lounge or Qantas Club service desk when travelling with only carry-on baggage, or at the priority check-in counter when travelling with bags or in airports without lounge facilities.
When travelling on all other ticket types including lower-cost economy fares, an earlier flight is never guaranteed: but it doesn’t hurt to ask what’s possible, of course.
2. Flight changes for Qantas Gold, Platinum members
There’s also no promise of an earlier flight for Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum members on these or any other fares – unless the ticket purchased specifically allows same-day changes – but in the same vein, ask and you may receive.
We’ve had the most success when there’s bad weather on the horizon which could affect the airport, and when our original flight has been delayed and there’s another heading to the same destination which departs sooner.
But even on clear days, snagging an earlier flight isn’t unheard of.
Make your request at the service desk in the lounge – not at the main reception desk unless they’re combined – and realise that even if you can switch your ticket, you might lose your prized perch in 4D for something less familiar: 27E, perhaps.
Last-minute flight changes also come without guaranteed catering, so when flying at meal times, you may miss out entirely or won’t necessarily receive your first preference.
3. Flight changes for all other travellers
At airports with automated check-in kiosks, arriving early can sometimes prompt the offer of a new flight at no charge, known as ‘flow forwarding’.
For instance, when appearing roughly four hours early for a Perth-Brisbane flight, this writer has been given the option of an earlier non-stop service or a second choice detouring via Sydney: both of which promised an earlier arrival than the flight originally booked.
(Naturally, you don’t have to accept an earlier flight when it’s offered – you can choose to remain in your original seat if so desired.)
When jetting about without checked baggage, you might also consider approaching the boarding gate of your desired flight and making your request to the gate agent manning the computer (not the staff scanning boarding passes).
It’s not something to make a habit of, but if you don’t have lounge access and there’s a good reason for you to switch flights (such as a delay to your original service), you just might be in luck.
Connect with other business travellers in our Qantas discussion group