How codeshare flights could be costing you thousands...

By Chris C., August 21 2014
How codeshare flights could be costing you thousands...

Airline partnerships such as those of Qantas and Emirates, or Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines, can see you paying thousands of dollars more to travel on the exact same flight, depending on which airline you book your ticket with.

What if you could pay up to $3,200 less for the exact same seat on the exact same flight, while still earning frequent flyer points?

It’s no gimmick, nor is it as complicated as buying miles to redeem for flights at discounted rates. Instead, the magic lies in codeshares – or more accurately, by avoiding them altogether.

Frequent flyers have long been trained to hunt down codeshare flights through their ‘home’ airline – such as Qantas codeshares on Emirates flights and Virgin Australia codeshares on Singapore Airlines flights – to earn more points and status credits.

But travellers don’t often think to compare the codeshare prices against the ‘normal’ cost for the same flight, which frequently means missing out on the best deal.

We’ve given the native and codeshare flight prices between Qantas, Emirates, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, China Eastern and LAN a real grilling to see how they compare on value.

Qantas vs Emirates: Sydney to London

Using dates in November and December, Qantas and Emirates were offering matching prices for economy travel – in fact, down to the cent.

It was $1,878.14 to fly Sydney-Dubai-London on EK415 and EK5 or QF8415 and QF8005 (Qantas codeshares on the same flights), and then London-Dubai-Sydney on EK6 and EK412 or QF8006 and QF8412 – again, the same actual flights regardless of which flight number is booked.

That’s a great example of where codeshares can be your friend, as Qantas Frequent Flyer members can opt for the QF code to earn both points and status credits on the Emirates flights.

(Qantas frequent flyers can still earn points, although not status credits, when travelling on an Emirates EK flight number.)

However, the magic ended when searching for business class seats. On the same flights, Emirates’ best offer was $8,954.94…

… while Qantas wanted a higher $9,744.94:

Platinum frequent flyers would pick-up 62,000 Qantas Points and 560 status credits on the Qantas codes, but only 27,250 points and zero status credits when booking directly with Emirates.

Ultimately, road warriors would need to decide if the promise of status credits and an extra 34,750 points is worth the $790 premium.

Virgin Australia vs Singapore Airlines: Sydney to Singapore

Again using dates in November and December, we could find return economy flights with Singapore Airlines for a total of $796.94…

… but when booked through Virgin Australia, the same flights came out at $1,059.14:

It’s a similar case in business class, with Singapore Airlines charging $4,251.14 for its own flights…

… and Virgin Australia commanding $4,446.14 to sit in the same seat:

All up, jetsetters would collect 9,780 Velocity points in SQ business class, but only 782 points in economy on the return trip.

The additional cost of booking on the VA codeshares comes with a reward in the form of more points… the earning jumps tenfold for Platinum-grade flyers in economy to 7,824 Velocity points, and in business class with the Platinum status bonus, it maxes out to a cool 23,472 points.

Whether booking on the VA or SQ code, Velocity members would also gather 240 status credit on the return trip, which means your extra dollars are only being spent to buy you more points.

Crunching the numbers, it’s a good deal in business class at 1.42c per extra point earned on the VA code, but on these particular economy fares, you’ll be paying 3.72c per additional point – far from a bargain.

Qantas vs LAN: Sydney to Auckland

Qantas’ Oneworld partner LAN flies from Sydney to Santiago, but makes a stopover in Auckland on the way.

The Sydney-Auckland-Sydney legs can be booked without flying onwards to South America, and on LAN, it’s a steal at only $777.54 return from Sydney:

Try to book that flight as a Qantas codeshare and it’ll cost you nearly $1,000 more:

The difference again lies in your points haul – Qantas flight numbers would get Platinum flyers 8,500 points and 160 status credits on the return trip, but on the LA code, that drops to roughly 3,362 points and 80 status credits.

As you’re paying less than half as much to book through LAN, we can’t dispute that it’s certainly ‘fairer' under Qantas’ revised frequent flyer program.

Qantas vs China Eastern: Melbourne to Shanghai

Qantas runs its own daily flight from Sydney to Shanghai, but also whacks its code onto China Eastern’s Melbourne-Shanghai services, making it easier for Victorian travellers to fly directly to China’s business hub.

With only Business Flex fares for sale on our dates, those codeshare flights would set us back $6,460.62 – which is a little pricey:

To compare, the price drops to a mere $3,207.62 when booking directly with China Eastern:

That’s less than half price and a staggering saving of $3,253 – again, to sit in the same seat on the same flight.

As you’d expect, the higher Qantas price comes with greater flexibility for changes and cancellations, but also with status credits and more frequent flyer points.

On the return journey, Platinum frequent flyers can earn 28,600 points and 270 status credits on the QF code, whereas the MU flight number yields only 12,405 points.

Like Emirates, China Eastern isn’t a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, so status credits are also off the table when travelling with MU.

With prices this far apart, we’d still suggest booking the cheaper MU-coded flights, and if it’s a once-off, there’s no harm in keeping your points together in Qantas Frequent Flyer.

But if your travel plans will see you frequently in Shanghai and booked onto the China Eastern flight number, it might be time to consider switching to a different loyalty program – such as GarudaMiles.

With China Eastern and Garuda Indonesia both members of the SkyTeam alliance, travellers can use the GarudaMiles scheme to earn and redeem points, but also, to climb the frequent flyer status ladder.

This single return trek in business class would take you straight to Silver status, three trips would have you reaching GarudaMiles Gold (SkyTeam Elite), while five return journeys takes you to GarudaMiles Platinum and SkyTeam Elite Plus status – comparable to both Qantas Platinum and Oneworld Emerald.

Further reading: The GarudaMiles rewards scheme for Aussie flyers

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2014

Total posts 37

. . . But if you ask, you may receive. We got our travel agent to book the flight, and then they requested that the flight be returned to the prefered codeshare partner.  For example, we booked a Jet Airways Business Class airfare to Delhi via Hong Kong - with the Sydney-Hong Kong actually a codeshare with Qantas - on Qantas A380. That leg of the flight has been accepted by Qantas as a native booking with them due to the fancy leg work of our Travel Agent, so now we get Qantas Points, Status Credits, and lounge access in HK.


What do you mean by "they requested that the flight be returned to the prefered codeshare partner"?

Isn't the point here that "native bookings" are priced differently from codeshare ones?

Did your travel agent manage to override the pricing or did Jet and QF price the flights the same?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2014

Total posts 37

QF was substantially more expensive if booked direct. Cheaper if booked through Jet Airways as a codeshare. So it was a way of getting the lower price but with the benefits of booking direct with QF.

So if you booked it as a Jet codeshare i.e. with a Jet flight number, how do you obtain the benefits of booking direct with QF?

Not having a go at you. I'm just having a difficulty undertstanding your logic.

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

I think the point being made is that 9W does offer a codeshare on QF127 as 9W4027. In this case the TA booked at the price 9W was offering but with the QF code.

So it becomes an interline booking on 9W ticket stock (instead of on QF ticket stock at the higher fare).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2014

Total posts 37

We booked through a travel agent (TA), on the Jet Airways fare. I asked would we have access to the Qantas Club in HK - TA said no, because of the codeshare, would get FF points but not status points, so TA contacted Qantas. TA said sometimes they will allow booking QF numbers for Syd/HK legs instead of codeshare. Had to get it OK's by Qantas, and suddently the flight is up in my Qantas booking schedule, and we will get Status credits, lounge access etc. Hope that clears it up. I was pleased as didn't know such things were possible.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 442

Qantas's entire business model is based on customers wasting money for a perceived benefit.

Yeah i just haven't been able to work out the benefits for me of paying extra for Qantas, I'm sure it must work for some...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 241

Whilst I am by far not an expert at these sort of a code-share deals, the one take away point I got was: 'If you want the best price, don't buy from an Australian Airline.'

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 464

i just discovered this most recently Flying to Singapore using VA codes than SQ costs extra even though it's the same plane and at least the Singapore Airline people give you time to pay and if you need anything done SIA have an office in town somewhere to help out if required.


Air China - Phoenix Miles

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 105

I suggest Delta's Skymiles instead of Garuda Indonesia.

Skymiles can be used to redeem Virgin Australia's flights.

QF Platinum

24 Jan 2013

Total posts 138

It's for folks who have someone else pick up the tab (eg. company, taxpayers, etc) but want the extra points and status credits.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 504

Qantas could have gone with Qatar Airways but still Doha won't beat Singapore.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Really good article Chris and good advice for any traveller. I remember when QF and EK first aligned there were HUGE discrepancies between their codeshare fares but I thought they had slammed the lid on those and settled for a mid-way 'averaged' fare to avoid this sort of thing?

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