Australian Business Traveller reader Liam Getreu analyses whether it's better to burn your Qantas Frequent Flyer points on domestic or international flights.
So, now that you've hoarded all those Qantas Frequent Flyer points, the time has come to use them. Assuming you want to spend it on flights (there are plenty of other options), it can be quite a difficult maze to navigate.
Each person has their own ideas and thoughts on the best way to burn their miles. Is it on domestic fares? Maybe it's best to splurge them on an Any Seat Award, also gaining valuable status credits?
For me though, it's on the ultimate overseas getaway -- around the world in 30 days, all for only a little more than the cost of a return flight to Europe.
I'm only a university student, but I've been lucky to accrue a swag of Qantas Frequent Flyer points over the few years. A couple of volunteer positions I took have taken me around the world, all in discount economy, and somehow to the astronomical heights of Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum status.
Now, with all these points in the bank, I'm looking to make my move.
Options abound on spending all those points you've accrued, but I spent some time crunching the numbers and I think the most attractive option for burning is on international trips.
This is where my two barometers -- points per dollar you'd otherwise be spending, and points per miles flown -- really swing round the dial in the right direction.
I'll explore the three main redemption options below: Classic Award (Domestic), Classic Award (International) and Any Seat Award.
Classic Award - Domestic
I am based in Melbourne and travel every couple of weeks to Sydney, so burning points on Australia's busiest domestic air route is appealing, as seats are readily available on almost any flight time.
But with a 16,000 points outlay (plus taxes) on a Classic Awards flight, and only 439 miles to fly, is it really worth it?
I could spend $180 to buy the tickets, or I could spend 16,000 points.
Looking at it that way, I'm burning about 90 points per dollar, or roughly 18 points per mile flown.
It might sound like a good deal, not having to fork out the money for a nice weekend getaway, but read on to discover much better value ways to spend your points.
Classic Award - International
You tend to get much better bang for your buck on international points redemptions.
I've taken two sample trips in October where I've been able to find availability (sometimes a problem on popular international routes, particularly in classes other than economy, but usually manageable if you're willing to be flexible on dates).
The first trip I'm looking at is a simple Melbourne-London return flight in economy.
The cheapest (Qantas/BA) flight I was able to find was $1615. The alternative is spending 128,000 points.
That translates to 80 points per dollar, or just six points per mile travelled. Compare that to the 18 points per mile on the domestic fare and you can see that it's clearly better value on that measure.
The second flight I looked at is best for leisure travellers -- people who are wanting to see the world in a month or and get in some of the best locations on key continents.
I chose New York, Paris and Hong Kong, though it could just as easily be other cities on the same continents. A routine flight like that might cost around $2,400, but you can get away with spending only 140,000 on an economy fare.
Similar to the London route, you get good value on the miles per point counter, around 5.7, but in terms of value for your points it truly shines, costing you just 58 points per dollar.
If you can get availability and you want to make the trip extra-special, you can redeem your points a business class seat.
On Classic Awards, a business seat is exactly double the points needed for an economy seat, making it quite a bargain - 108 points per dollar, just 18 points per dollar more than a domestic economy flight!
Also consider that buying a business class seat will cost you many times more than twice the economy fare, so paying just twice the points is fantastic value.
Any Seat Award
As Dan wrote last week, you can also now redeem your points for an Any Seat Award (ASA), which lets you earn status credits on the reward flight and work towards a higher Qantas Frequent Flyer status.
While Classic Awards are limited to only a handful of seats on each plane, you can redeem your points of any seat on the plane with an ASA as the name suggests.
You will struggle, however, to get good value on these seats.
Despite the fact that you do earn some points back, as well as all-important status credits, you can end up forking over your entire stash of points just for the seat.
For example, the same Melbourne-London return flight I found for 128,000 points using a Classic Award was more than 200,000 with an ASA, neither points amount including taxes.
The best possible Qantas Frequent Flyer award flight
Based on my analysis, the best option of all is the business class version of the DIY round-the-world fare I outlined above.
The points you need to outlay are significant -- but if you have the double points-accrual of a Platinum Qantas Frequent Flyer membership or you're a high-spending Woolworths Everyday Rewards or frequent flyer credit card shopper, you shouldn't need to wait forever to get there.
It's not practical for everyone, but looking at cost of long-haul international flights and the relative minimal outlay of points-per-dollar you need, it really does make a good deal.
So take stock, get saving and enjoy the fun of planning your next mile-burning trip.
(Please note that for the sake of easy comparison, no prices or points quoted here include taxes and fuel surcharges -- a handful of dollars on domestic fares, but more than $500 on the international fares quoted.)