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 www.gcmap.com 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 gcmap.com, 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.