Frequent flyer tip: how to calculate the distance of your flight

By Chris C., August 24 2017
Frequent flyer tip: how to calculate the distance of your flight

In many frequent flyer schemes – Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer included – the number of points needed to book a flight is based on the distance of each flight: so by knowing a flight’s length in miles, you can determine how many points are need to secure a seat.

It’s a great time-saving strategy to have up your sleeve, either when planning a journey and setting a ‘points goal’ for yourself, or when a reward booking can only be made by telephone: because you’ll be able to confirm the number of points required (and that you have enough) before you call.

Here are two easy ways to work out the distance of any given flight, and how to use that information to check how many points are needed to book.

Option 1: Velocity Frequent Flyer’s easy mileage calculator

If you’re spending Virgin Australia Velocity points, you can use the program’s simple ‘mileage calculator’ to determine the length of your Virgin flight, along with the length of most partner airline flights such as with Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Just visit the Velocity Frequent Flyer website, key in your origin and destination and then click ‘search’ – for instance, as we’ve done here for Melbourne to Hong Kong:

(When searching from Melbourne, Australia, be sure to select ‘Melbourne (Tullamarine)’ rather than ‘Melbourne International Airport’, as the latter is the airport of Melbourne, Florida in the United States.)

This calculator only works for non-stop flights, so if you’re booking Singapore Airlines from Sydney to London, for example, you’ll need to search for ‘Sydney to Singapore’, and then separately for ‘Singapore to London’, and then add those two distances together to get your total.

Option 2: Using Great Circle Mapper’s distance calculator

Burning Qantas Points, or points from other mileage-based programs such as Cathay Pacific Asia Miles? Head to instead.

For this, you’ll need the airport codes relevant to your journey – if you don’t have them, a quick Google search will dig these up – and plugging them in and clicking the ‘distance’ button will fetch your answer.

For instance, when planning to use points for a Malaysia Airlines flight from Sydney (SYD) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), you’d key in ‘SYD-KUL’ to reveal its distance (4,089 miles):

You can also use GCMap to measure journeys with flight connections, such as Sydney-Kuala Lumpur-London Heathrow, for which you’d enter ‘SYD-KUL-LHR’:

So, how many frequent flyer points do I need?

Once you’ve found the distance of your dream journey, you can line that up with the ‘reward tables’ of your preferred airline frequent flyer program to check how many points you need.

Sticking with those Malaysia Airlines examples and assuming you’re spending Qantas Points, begin by calling up the Qantas ‘Partner Classic Flight Reward table’ which Qantas uses when booking Malaysia Airlines flights, along with flights on most of its other partner airlines.

We know that a standalone Sydney-Kuala Lumpur journey is 4,089 miles, which corresponds to Zone 5 in that table (3,601-4,800 miles): so can see that 65,000 Qantas Points are needed for a business class reward flight, or 35,000 Qantas Points for an economy ticket, one-way.

(If Malaysia Airlines also offered first class and premium economy on the route, we could also see that 95,000 and 52,500 Qantas Points would be required, respectively.)

Or, when flying Sydney to London via Kuala Lumpur as a connecting journey, the flights’ combined distance of 10,682 miles (as above) instead lines up with Zone 10 on the same table (9,601-15,000 miles), which means 139,000 Qantas Points could get you a business class booking, or 75,000 Qantas Points could find you seated in economy.

With Velocity Frequent Flyer, you’d also begin by loading up the program’s ‘points tables’ – so using our Melbourne-Hong Kong example with Virgin Australia, look to the table which namechecks Virgin Australia at the top:

As the route clocks in at 4,614 miles, we can see that this matches Velocity Zone 5 (3,601-4,800 miles), commanding 59,500 Velocity points for business class or 27,800 Velocity points for economy. Virgin Australia doesn’t fly premium economy to Hong Kong, otherwise it’d need 44,700 points.

Just like Qantas, Velocity uses a separate table for many of its partner airlines, so for our Singapore Airlines example of Sydney-Singapore-London (10,673 miles), a quick check of Table 2 is required:

That itinerary matches with Zone 10, for which you’d need 203,000 Velocity points for first class (and Airbus A380 Suites Class), 139,000 Velocity points for business class, 112,500 Velocity points for premium economy and 75,000 Velocity points for economy.

You can also use the distance of a flight to calculate how many miles you’d earn on a paid fare in many cases – so if the ticket you’re buying provides one point per mile flown, a 10,673-mile one-way journey would fetch approximately 10,673 points: or half that if you’re earning half a point per mile flown.

Just be aware that the flight distances used by some frequent flyer programs can differ slightly from those presented by, and while that’s not an issue if your flight is comfortably inside a certain ‘zone’ bracket, it’s worth checking with your airline if your flight is a small distance on either side.

Chris C.

A former contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 145

Doesn't QF have a calculator for doing this? 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2546

Qantas has a fantastic 'earning points' calculator, but its 'using points' calculator is rather primative, not always correct and doesn't show all of your options, so we haven't included it here.

For example, searching 'Sydney to Singapore' or 'Sydney to Hong Kong' reveals only the number of Qantas Points required to book a Qantas flight: you won't also see that you can book British Airways or Cathay Pacific (respectively) for a different number of points.

As another example, when searching 'London Heathrow to Milan', Qantas' calculator assumes you're flying with British Airways to Linate Airport rather than Malpensa Airport, even though you can fly from London to Malpensa for fewer points than from London to Linate.

(Malpensa Airport is slightly closer to London and requires 10,000 points for economy and 18,000 points for business class. Linate Airport is just a tad further away from London and puts the flight up into the next distance band, increasing that to 14,000 points in economy and 26,000 points in business class - and you'd only know this by doing the GCMap distance search (or manually searching for reward flights separately for each airport), as Qantas' calculator certainly doesn't tell you!)


12 May 2015

Total posts 6

Great Circle Mapper is also very useful when planning RTW or other similar ones such as Pacific Circle to see which zone you fall in.  I agree it is a guide but from my use always very close to what the airline calculates.


17 Apr 2014

Total posts 11

Never heard of circle mapper. I've been using webflyer's milage calculator for years. It doesn't have the maps, but it does one job and does it well.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1042

I've been using GCMap for years.

You don't have to know the IATA code for the airport. You can type in the city name and it will give you a list of possible airports to select from (same goes if you mistype an IATA code). You can also use the ICAO codes.

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