TRAVEL HACK | Planning to book a flight using your hard-earned Qantas Points? You may, in fact, be able to book two flights without spending any extra points, by taking advantage of Qantas’ handy multi-city booking tool.
The concept is simple: every time you book a trip using points, Qantas calculates the number of points needed based on the distance of your entire journey that day, not the number of flights you take or whether you leave the airport in between.
Here’s an example: a savvy traveller planning a business trip from Brisbane to Melbourne could actually swap their single non-stop flight in favour of two flights: Brisbane to Sydney to attend some meetings there, plus a leg from Sydney to Melbourne later the same day, for the same number of points as flying direct from Brisbane to Melbourne.
It works for international flights, too – a Sydney-based traveller with clients to visit in both Melbourne and Singapore could fly from Sydney to Melbourne in the morning, tend to business there, and then fly from Melbourne to Singapore later the same day, for the same number of points as flying Sydney-Singapore non-stop.
You can make this work almost any time you’re booking flights using Qantas Points, provided you follow a few key rules, so here’s what you need to know.
Booking two flights for the price of one: those key rules
Before you start getting creative with this, be aware that on a single Frequent Flyer reward booking, Qantas only allows you to depart from two cities on the same day: you can’t milk this to get three, four or even five flights for the price of one – at best, you’ll be able to visit one extra city.
Under that rule, the example above of flying Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne is fine, but adding an extra leg on the end, such as Melbourne to Canberra, isn’t possible on the same day, unless you make a separate booking, for which you’ll pay full price in cash or points.
Within Australia, the domestic flights you plan to take all need to depart on the same day, so again, you could fly from Brisbane to Sydney bright and early in the morning, and from Sydney to Melbourne later the same day – but taking that onward flight the next day would again cost you more points.
When transiting internationally, Qantas instead uses a more generous ‘24-hour’ rule, where if your onward flight is scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the planned arrival time of your first flight, your ticket will be treated as a connecting journey rather than each flight being calculated separately.
Next, to avoid paying any extra points, the total distance of your planned multi-city journey needs to fall within the same Qantas Frequent Flyer ‘Zone’ as the non-stop flight you’d have otherwise taken.
As a reminder, and to help with your planning, here’s a copy of that reward chart, showing how many points you’ll need to book a trip with Qantas, based on the total distance of your connecting journey:
Also read: How to calculate the distance of a flight
Taking the example from above, a non-stop flight from Brisbane to Melbourne measures up at approximately 857 miles, while a journey from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney clocks in at around 905 miles.
Both these figures remain within ‘Zone 2’ on the Qantas Frequent Flyer Classic Reward chart (covering trips of 601-1,200 miles), so they both cost the same number of points to book: 24,000 in business class, or 12,000 in economy.
In line with the rules above, if you flew from Brisbane to Sydney, spent the night and continued to Melbourne the next day – rather than on the same day as your first flight – each flight would be calculated separately, costing you a total of 32,000 points in business class or 16,000 points in economy.
That’s why you need to book both flights on the same day, if you want to visit two cities for same number of points as visiting one.
Booking two flights for the price of one: traps to avoid
Now that you’ve got the basic rules down pat, there are two other things you should also avoid when planning your trip, to keep the number of points needed to a minimum.
#1: Don’t change between ‘reward tables’
Qantas uses two main ‘reward tables’ when deciding how many points your trip should cost – one table is more generous, and covers flights with Qantas, Emirates, American Airlines, Fiji Airways, Air Vanuatu and Airnorth, as pictured above.
The other is less generous, and covers flights taken with all other partner airlines, as below:
(Qantas also has a third table purely for Jetstar bookings, and a fourth table for ‘Oneworld Rewards’ such as round-the-world tickets, but we’re not looking at those here: only the two biggies.)
As such, connecting from one Qantas flight to another Qantas flight – or to an Emirates flight, for example – keeps everything under the one table, so the total distance of your journey determines how many points are needed.
However, taking a Qantas flight followed by a flight with an airline on that ‘other’ table, such as BA, Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways, prices each flight separately: the Qantas flight as per the Qantas table, and the onward flight as per the ‘other table’, costing you more points.
#2: Book your flights in the same class of service
When it comes to booking one of these ‘connecting’ tickets, it makes the most sense to fly in the same cabin on every flight: so, if you book business class on the first flight, book business class on the second flight too.
If you mix and match business class and economy tickets, the computer will either charge you the cost of each flight calculated separately, or the cost of taking your entire trip in the higher cabin (whichever is lower): so if you’ll be spending the points to fly business class, you may as well fly business class the whole way!
However, this same rule works to your advantage if connecting from a domestic business class flight to an international first class flight, such as flying from Sydney to Melbourne in Qantas business class, and Melbourne to Singapore in first class with Qantas or Emirates.
That’s because the system will charge you the same 90,000 Qantas Points as you’d have spent to fly first class non-stop from Sydney to Singapore, so you’re still getting your first class flight from Australia to Asia, but are also getting a domestic business class too at no extra points cost.
Booking two flights for the price of one: making that booking
Once you’ve got your head around these bookings, securing your seats is the easiest part!
Start by visiting the multi-city booking page on the Qantas website, select the “Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only” option at the top, and key in your planned flights. Here, we’ll look at booking the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne example covered above, by choosing the same travel date for both flights:
The next step sees you choosing your first flight (Brisbane-Sydney for us). With plenty of reward availability, we’ll pick QF503 in business class, which reaches Sydney in time to head into the city before the business day begins:
Click through to the next screen and you’ll see a reminder of the flight you chose (helping to plan your onward leg)…
… and below that, plenty of options for the connecting flight. We’ll choose QF435 at 1pm, giving our traveller five hours on the ground in Sydney – ample for a long meeting plus time getting to and from the airport – and arriving in Melbourne at 2:35pm, to catch a late afternoon meeting the same business day.
Scroll to the bottom of the same page and you’ll see how many points this booking will cost: and as predicted, it’s 24,000 Qantas Points in total for this business class itinerary, the same as flying Brisbane-Melbourne non-stop:
On the next screen, you’ll have one last chance to confirm your itinerary, before finalising your booking and paying any taxes, fees and charges associated with the ticket, which may be a little higher than flying non-stop, because you’re jetting through three airports instead of two, and taking two flights instead of one:
For international flights, such as Sydney to Melbourne plus Melbourne to Singapore, the process is the same – just remember, if you’re being quoted a higher number of points than you were expecting, it’s probably because your journey is too long and has nudged your trip up to the next frequent flyer Zone, so try again with a different routing.