How to check for Qantas business class upgrades before you book

By Chris Chamberlin, January 5 2018

Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.

Upgrading from economy to business class is one of the best ways you can spend your Qantas frequent flyer points: and when travelling within Australia, there’s an easy way to check if upgrades are available on any given flight before booking your ticket.

It’s a great strategy for business travellers to keep in their back pocket – particularly those stuck reserving economy flights under their company’s frugal travel policy – as you can choose which economy flight to book based on whether you’re guaranteed a business class upgrade using your points.

Also read: Qantas business class upgrade guide

While this doesn’t work for international flights where all Qantas upgrades are simply ‘requested’ and confirmed closer to departure day, this trick can help you snare a confirmed business class upgrade on any Qantas domestic route: here’s how!

Step 1: Search for a frequent flyer upgrade

Even if you’re required to book and pay for your flights through a special online portal or corporate travel agent, head to the main Qantas website and search for flights on the day you need to travel, ensuring that you are not logged in to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account.

For instance, if planning to jet from Sydney to Perth on May 24, plug that information into the search box, ensuring you select the “Use money, points or both” option at the top:

On the next page, you’ll see flights listed for sale as usual – but for now, ignore the cash prices and glance over to the Business Classic Reward column.

Flights that show a ribbon in this column (highlighted in blue) can be booked outright using Qantas Points: but the presence of that ribbon also means that you can upgrade from economy using points on the same flight:

Conversely, flights which have no confirmed business class upgrades available will display ‘No seats’ in the same column.

Using the above as an example, a business traveller stuck buying economy but hoping to fly in business class could choose to book flight QF565 rather than QF575 or QF581 in these circumstances, because only QF565 has a business class upgrade available.

If booking a Flex fare, just 10,000 Qantas Points would land that business class upgrade from Sydney to Perth, while from a less-expensive Red e-Deal ticket, 25,000 Qantas Points can deliver the same.

(This page on Qantas’ website doesn’t show how many points your upgrade will cost – you can instead find that out by using the Qantas upgrade calculator, with domestic Flex fares corresponding to ‘flexible economy’ and domestic Red e-Deal tickets being ‘discount economy’:

Now that you know which flight will guarantee your upgrade, you can proceed book your journey in the normal way – such as through your company’s travel portal or by requesting that your corporate travel agent book a specific flight.

If you’re clear to book online yourself, just click on the desired paid fare for your flight and complete your payment.

Step 2: Upgrade to business class

Once your booking has been made and your frequent flyer number is attached, just head to the ‘Your Account’ page of the Qantas website, find that booking in the list to your left, select it, and then click ‘Upgrade’.

(If your frequent flyer number hasn’t been linked to the booking, use Qantas’ regular ‘manage my booking’ tool to join the two, and then return to the ‘Your Account’ page as above.)

The next screen will confirm how many frequent flyer points are needed to lock-in your upgrade, and if you’re happy to go ahead, just follow the prompts and voila – what was an economy ticket is now a business class seat!

You'd be smiling too if you'd just upgraded to business class..!
You'd be smiling too if you'd just upgraded to business class..!

Also included with your business class ticket is priority check-in, security screening and boarding (where available), along with access to the Qantas domestic business class lounge before your flight in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra or Perth, or the Qantas Club in other cities.

Again, this works on all Qantas domestic routes, but remember that timing is key – the upgrades you discover during the search phase are available right now.

Take your time booking a ticket and return later that day or week to request your upgrade and there’s a chance somebody else may have beaten you to it!

Also realise that upgrading on a flexible ticket may actually limit your flexibility if needing to change or cancel your flight, so this process is best-used by business travellers planning trips in the not too distant future.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 143

This is good most of the time, but occasionally even if it says there is a reward seat available it won't upgrade - the upgrade requests sometime seem to get stuck.

Also good point about not logging in - Platinum FFs get more availability for reward seats, but these do not necessarily translate to being available as upgrades.


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 105

Have had this happen recently. 

Availability was showing for a flight to PER so we upgraded, but it hasn't been confirmed and seems to be in some sort of holding pattern.

I hope we get the upgrades, will be annoyed if we're not.

Anyone have any recommendations?

S: Often when that happens it's just a glitch, so cancelling and re-requesting your upgrade online normally gets it confirmed straight away. Otherwise, a quick call to Qantas usually achieves results!


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 105

Thanks Chris. Will give them a try on the phone!

Peteshep: "Platinum FFs get more availability for reward seats, but these do not necessarily translate to being available as upgrades."

Exactly right. Silvers and Golds also sometimes see more reward flight options than Bronze which don't always mean an upgrade is available, so by searching through the 'use money' option when you're logged out, you'll only see what a Bronze member can see - hiding any of those rewards restricted to certain members or booking types.

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 22

I believe upgrading Sydney to Perth on a red e-Deal is now 27,500 points after the enhancement a few months ago.

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 22

Hmm calculator still says 25k. Could've sworn it asked me for 27.5 recently!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 79

The calculator doesn't have PER-LHR so it could well be out of date for other things too

Scott: On February 20 2017, the number of points required to upgrade a discount economy ticket on Sydney-Perth flights increased from 20,000 to 25,000. Upgrades on flexible fares remain at 10,000 points.

You can read our full story on these changes here: Qantas hikes domestic, international frequent flyer upgrade rates

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 22

Yes, apologies - I was getting confused with changes on SYD-SIN in Flex Y. Feel free to delete my comment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jun 2015

Total posts 31

Another anomoly I have found is upgrading on a Qantas Link operated flight. It doesn't seems to register as upgrades are available (even requested). This is not normally a problem if you speak to Qantas directly.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jun 2016

Total posts 9

Remember you need to be ticketed before it will allow the upgrade as well 
Can someone help me? 

I booked a DSC eligible flight and flew during the promotional period. My return flight was flexible and therefore I flew earlier in the day after changing my flight online. I then changed it again at the airport at the kiosk on check in to an even earlier flight, as suggested by the kiosk. 

Is my flight - and my whole booking for that matter - still eligible for DSC? I'm not sure how to take the T&Cs. Surely I shouldn't be penalised if it is a change to fly on the same date? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2017

Total posts 1

Helpful article, thanks! However, can one earn extra status credits with the upgrade and is there a chart or calculator to refer to, check how many credits one can earn?
As with any upgrade on Qantas, you earn points and status credits in line with the fare you paid for (economy), not the cabin you flew in. The advantage of upgrading over simply booking a business class flight with points is that you at least earn some status credits (as per your economy fare), whereas you'd earn none at all via a business class reward flight.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Dec 2015

Total posts 8

Is there a similar 'trick' for VA ? 
Yes, we've covered this here

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Jan 2015

Total posts 6

I just tried to do this for a SYD - LHR and the classic rewards info does not come up. Am I doing somethign wrong?

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 143

It will only work for domestic flights. International upgrades are never confirmed at time of booking - only 7 days before for Platinum one, 2 days before for Platinum, and 1 day before for gold or below.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Sep 2015

Total posts 3

If you select two passengers during the booking process and the ribbon appears under the Businesss Classic Award column, does this mean that there is business upgrade availability for both passengers?

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 143

Yes it does. It won’t show if there are less seats than the number of passengers you are searching for.

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