Changing to an earlier Qantas flight: how it's done

By Chris C., November 30 2016
Changing to an earlier Qantas flight: how it's done

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.

Also read: Virgin Australia 'Fly Ahead': moving to an earlier flight, free

Connect with other business travellers in our Qantas discussion group

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

Shame they weren't pragmatic this morning for those of us on 408 and were here early!

Still showing as "go to gate" SMH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 473

As a QF Platinum I've had reasonable success with changing flights, even off the saver fares where changes aren't allowed. 

I try not to get an earlier flight as I've found too often it ends up leaving later than the original - maybe I'm jynxed! 


22 Jul 2015

Total posts 4

No surprise, but I've found the most success in flying forward on busy routes. ie Friday afternoons, flying Syd > Mel

30 Nov 2016

Total posts 21

"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".

I had thought that anyone holding a flexible domestic fare (Bronze thru CL) could catch an earlier flight pending available seats? I have never had an issue with this (pending seats available) - even having been able to move to earlier flights on non-flex tickets as a Gold.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Flexible fares generally allow same-day flight changes regardless of status, but if the flight you change to is priced higher than the fare you originally paid, you're 'technically' required to pay the fare difference.

For Platinum One members, it's a published benefit that under these circumstances, any fare difference is waived and won't be charged. All other travellers don't have the same guarantee and should expect the normal fare rules to apply, but as we've noted above, exceptions do occur from time to time for members of all status levels and ticket types.

05 May 2016

Total posts 617

If the earlier flight is more expensive then they could ask for fare difference if you're on a flexible fare as a NB

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 37

We're only a Bronze frequent flyer and some of were us on Reward Seats, the rest were on Red E-Deal. We once tried to change our flight back to Perth from a 737 to an A330. The A330 was only half an hour earlier but they didn't do it, we were stuck on a five hour flight, crammed on a 737 all the to Perth

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