Much as Emirates is Qantas’ major partner on European flights, China Eastern Airlines is the Roo’s cornerstone comrade in China: on which Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn and spend Qantas Points.
There’s just one catch – China Eastern reward flights don’t appear for booking on the Qantas website. They can only be secured by phone, for those who know to call.
Here’s how many Qantas Points you’ll need for your journey, how to check whether reward flights are available on a specific date before you dial in, and who to call when you’re ready to book.
Using Qantas Points on China Eastern flights: how many points you’ll need
The number of Qantas Points required to book a flight on China Eastern is the same as most of Qantas’ other airline partners, including British Airways and Cathay Pacific, even though China Eastern belongs to the SkyTeam alliance rather than Oneworld.
Flights from Brisbane to Shanghai – and seasonally, from Cairns to Shanghai – command 65,000 Qantas Points for a one-way business class journey, and 35,000 Qantas Points for economy.
Travelling from Sydney and Melbourne to Shanghai, along with Sydney to Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing and Wuhan, instead requires 78,000 Qantas Points for business class and 42,000 Qantas Points for economy, one-way.
Where first class is also offered from Sydney and Melbourne, a one-way reward ticket would cost a higher 114,000 Qantas Points.
On round-trip journeys, you can either double those figures (e.g. 156,000 Qantas Points for a return business class trip to China from Sydney or Melbourne), or can mix and match.
For instance, if you don’t have a large bounty of points to spend, you might choose to fly economy from Sydney to Beijing for 42,000 Qantas Points on a daytime flight where sleep isn’t the main goal, and then business class on an overnight flight home for 78,000 Qantas Points, for 120,000 Qantas Points all up.
Note that Qantas also flies from Sydney to Shanghai – and has non-stop Sydney-Beijing flights also – which can be booked online for 72,000 Qantas Points in business class and 35,000 Qantas Points in economy: slightly fewer points needed than to book China Eastern flights of the same length.
Using Qantas Points on China Eastern flights: checking availability
Worked out where you want to fly and how many Qantas Points you’ll need? The subscription-based website ExpertFlyer is your friend here, as you can use it to check reward availability on any given China Eastern flight, before then calling Qantas to book.
That not only helps minimise time spent on the phone, it’s also handy when travelling with a partner or as a group: as you can find flights yourself and get the ‘OK to book’ from everybody involved, rather than having to call up once to check availability, and then again to make the booking.
Existing ExpertFlyer users should log-in to their account and head to the ‘Awards & Upgrades’ tab, while new users can sign-up for an obligation-free five-day trial, or take out a paid membership from US$5/month (A$6.20) for access to the same reward flight search tools.
In any case, select ‘China Eastern Airlines - MU’ from the airline list on the ‘Awards & Upgrades’ tab, key in where you’re travelling from and travelling to, your desired flight dates in each direction, how many passengers you’re searching for (‘quantity’), and what type of reward flights you’re hoping to find.
For example, we’ll search for a return journey between Melbourne and Shanghai for one passenger, who is happy to fly first class, business class or economy for travel in mid-February 2018:
As their travel dates aren’t fixed, we’ll also change the ‘exact date’ setting to ‘+/- 3 days’ for both the outbound flight and the return flight, to view reward availability across an entire week in each direction:
The next page reveals a list of flights arranged by date, and for each flight, whether a reward booking is possible in first class, business class and economy. For example, on February 13 2018 from Melbourne to Shanghai, the following is displayed:
Along with the details of each flight including departure and arrival times, the software gives a clear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ next to each reward booking type:
See a ‘Yes’ and you’re clear to book a business class reward ticket using frequent flyer points for the number of passengers you searched for – but see a ‘No’ and that’s not possible.
Using our example above, business class and economy class reward bookings are indeed possible on flights MU738 and MU740, although travel in first class is unavailable on this date.
Advanced users angling for a particular aircraft type can also glance over to the ‘aircraft’ column, where it’s shown that an Airbus A330-200 is serving the MU738 flight, and a Boeing 777-300 on MU740.
(If you don't recognise an aircraft code, you can click on it to see the full aircraft type.)
Scroll down to repeat this process for the return leg, and make a note of the flights you wish to book, including your dates, flight numbers, flight times and travel classes.
If you can’t find something suitable, go back and try searching on a different route or a different range of dates.
Using Qantas Points on China Eastern flights: booking your journey
All set to travel? The final step is to call the Qantas Frequent Flyer team on 13 11 31 between 7am and 7pm Monday-Saturday (excluding public holidays).
When prompted, press 1 for ‘travel arrangements, including Classic Flight Rewards’, and when connected to an agent, tell them you’d like to “book a Classic Flight Reward on China Eastern Airlines”.
From there, simply feed through the information you jotted down after your ExpertFlyer searches, and have your credit card ready to cover the taxes, fees and charges payable in addition to the points required, which vary from route to route and sometimes between travel classes too.
Qantas also normally charges an assistance fee for telephone reward bookings, but as these tickets cannot currently be secured via the Qantas website, Qantas has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that this fee is waived when using points to book China Eastern itineraries.
The airline also expects China Eastern reward flights to become bookable online in the first half of 2018, as previously reported: with the ‘ExpertFlyer and telephone’ dance getting the job done in the meantime.