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This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel and was last updated in July 2019.
Looking for one of the very best ways to use your pile of Qantas frequent flyer points? Here it is: booking a lavish, round-the-world business class trip for the same amount of Qantas Points as a simple return journey to London.
For example, a return business class flight from Sydney to London with one of Qantas’ many Oneworld alliance partners – such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines or Qatar Airways – commands 318,000 Qantas Points from 18 September 2019: yet a round-the-world business class ticket will also cost only 318,000 points from the same date.
Want to luxe it up in first class? Once again, it's the same amount of Qantas Points compared to a return flight to Europe with the Roo’s partner airlines, and the same pattern is seen with premium economy and economy.
However you choose to travel, here’s what you need to know to turn your hard-earned Qantas Points into that round-the-world trip of a lifetime. Note that all the rates in this article are based on Qantas' 2019 changes to the number of points needed for booking flights.
Jetting round-the-world with Qantas Points: the basics
Under the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, these bookings are known as Oneworld Classic Flight Rewards, and the number of points you’ll need to book them comes directly from Qantas’ Oneworld Classic Flight Reward table.
These aren’t to be confused with the more common Partner Classic Flight Rewards – being ‘normal’ one-way or return bookings with most of Qantas’ partner airlines – or Qantas Classic Flight Rewards, which cover flights booked with only with Qantas, Emirates, and a few other select partners.
Oneworld Classic Flight Rewards are a separate beast, and as such, they come with their own set of rules.
Firstly, every airline you incorporate into your booking needs to be a Oneworld alliance member, so you can’t work in flights with non-Oneworld carriers such as Alaska Airlines, China Eastern, Fiji Airways and others.
That means you can fly with Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM (formerly LAN and TAM), Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.
In fact, your Oneworld Classic Flight Reward needs to include two airlines other than Qantas: so you can’t simply fly Qantas from Australia to London; tag on an AA or BA flight to New York, and then fly Qantas home from New York.
You’re not obligated to include any Qantas flights in the booking, of course – you just need to fly with at least two Oneworld airlines other than Qantas as part of the trip.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: how far can you travel?
All up, your round-the-world trip can be up to 35,000 miles in total length, from the time you embark on your first flight until you return to the same place.
This includes both the length of the flights you take, as well as any flights you don’t take because you’ve arranged other transportation, which are known as ‘surface sectors’.
For instance, flying into London, catching a train to Paris under a separate booking and then flying onward from Paris as part of a round-the-world booking pegs ‘London to Paris’ as a surface sector, and the distance between those two cities is included when the system calculates your trip length.
Another thing to watch out for is where you begin the trip in one city (such as Sydney) but conclude it in another city (such as Melbourne), because the distance between the first and last city will also be added to your tally – which, again, needs to be 35,000 total miles or less.
Within the trip, you can plan a maximum of five ‘stopovers’, which is where you remain in one place for 24 hours or more: whether you're there for days, weeks or longer. Each stopover must be in a different city, so you can’t go back to the same place twice on the one booking.
The system also seems to allow up to two 'transits' as well without affecting reward pricing, being where you spend less than 24 hours on the ground, whether or not you leave the airport: useful when flying to multiple destinations near major airline hubs which aren’t otherwise served by direct flights, or where award availability makes a connection necessary.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: a sample itinerary
Considering all the rules around distance, stopovers, transits and the ‘two airlines other than Qantas’ rule, here’s a sample itinerary that ticks all the boxes for a traveller planning to visit Asia, Europe and North America on a single trip:
- Sydney-Hong Kong with Qantas or Cathay Pacific
- Hong Kong-Tokyo with Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon or Japan Airlines
- Tokyo-London with British Airways or Japan Airlines
- London-New York with American Airlines or British Airways
- New York-Los Angeles with American Airlines, or Qantas, but only if flying Qantas onward from LA
- Los Angeles-Sydney with Qantas or American Airlines
This keeps things simple without any planned ‘transits’, which keeps those free if connections are needed to work around frequent flyer reward availability.
All up, this trip measures up at 25,811 miles – well within the 35,000-mile cap, giving plenty of room for extra transit detours, or the inclusion of Africa or Central and South America in lieu of other cities, without exceeding the limit.
Flying round-the-world: how many Qantas Points you’ll need
While Qantas’ Oneworld Classic Flight Reward table lists a range of figures for journeys of varying lengths, if you’re flying round-the-world, the numbers you’ll need are at the very bottom in the “19,201-35,000-mile” range.
As such, you’d be looking at 455,000 Qantas Points for a first class ticket, 318,000 Qantas Points for a business class booking and 249,600 Qantas Points for a premium economy journey on bookings made from 18 September 2019.
Any bookings in premium cabins made before that date will still be priced at the previous rates, being 420,000 Qantas Points in first class, 280,000 points in business and 210,000 in premium economy.
A round-the-world ticket in economy class has already dropped to 132,400 Qantas Points under the new changes, effective immediately.
The number of points needed is based on the highest class of service flown throughout your itinerary: so if you mostly book business class flights but take one flight in first class instead, choosing that flight bumps your entire booking from the ‘business class’ to the ‘first class’ rate, costing you 455,000 Qantas Points instead of 318,000 Qantas Points.
At that stage, you may as well go back and book your entire trip in first class, because you’d be parting with 455,000 Qantas Points either way – but if you’re happy to keep things at business class, you’d instead shell out the standard rate of 318,000 Qantas Points.
As with any booking made using frequent flyer points, merely having enough points in your account doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to book any specific flight or travel with any particular airline. Whether or not you can book each flight depends on reward availability, as always.
Because most airlines tend to release flights for reward bookings around 10-11 months before travel, this is when you should consider making those bookings if you can, to maximise your chances of getting the flight you want.
Certainly, you might get lucky and be able to book a set of suitable flights much closer to departure, but when you’re dealing with multiple airlines and flights, planning ahead keeps your options open and gives you enough time to construct a Plan B (and Plan C, or Plan D…) if need be.
When it does come time to book, you’ll also need to pay an amount on the side to cover all necessary taxes, fees and carrier surcharges imposed on your booking.
The exact amount payable will depend on your itinerary, but as a guide, expect to pay at least $800 on the side: more if you’re taking a flight from the UK at the pointy end due to the country’s APD charges; and even more if you’re flying with Qantas or BA, as both airlines’ carrier surcharges are among the highest.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: booking your trip
Because the Qantas website now allows you to search and book reward flights with all Oneworld alliance airlines, these tickets can be secured online rather than having to call.
Begin by clicking “multi-city” on the Qantas homepage – not “round the world”, which is only for round-the-world bookings purchased entirely with money, not points.
On the next screen, your first step should be to select “use points – Classic Flight Rewards only” at the top:
Then, key in your planned journey, including the dates you’d like to travel. Keep clicking the “add a flight” button until your entire trip has been filled out. There’s a lot of data to enter, but if it starts to look something like this, you’re on the right track:
At the bottom, select the number of passengers you’re searching for and the cabin you’d like to fly, then click “search flights”. For our sample itinerary, we’re going to fly business class:
Before you start choosing individual flights, the system gives you a chance to double-check what you’ve entered, so before you continue, make sure the dates you’ve entered are all correct, along with the cities you’ve chosen.
Then, it’s a matter of choosing the most appropriate flight for each part of your journey.
This part can be simple if there’s reward availability on the exact flights you want, but when there’s not, this is where your transits can come in handy.
For example, on the date we wanted to fly from Sydney to Hong Kong, none of the non-stop Qantas or Cathay Pacific flights that day had any reward seats available in business class…
… but scrolling further down the page revealed a different option: flying Qantas from Sydney to Brisbane in business class, and then flying from Brisbane to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific business class:
Here, Brisbane becomes a ‘transit’ city, getting us on our way. A similar process is followed for the rest of the flights, such as onward from Hong Kong to Tokyo…
… and so on, until all flights are entered. During the process, you’ll notice something changing at the bottom of the screen: the number of points required to make your booking, but in these early stages, the figure shown doesn’t take your full trip into account and can be safely ignored.
If you eventually see 280,000 points (before 18 September 2019) or 318,000 points (afterwards) in this section, you’re on the right path – but if the figure remains above that once all your flights have been entered, it’s a sign that you’ve broken one of the key rules of these bookings, such as by having too many stopovers or transits.
The itinerary shown in this article meets all the rules, but it’s just something you should look out for when planning your own trip. Towards the end of the process, you may also find it tricky to book a flight from North America to Australia on points, if your journey takes you that way round…
… but don’t forget that trick we used for our very first flight – scrolling further down the page to look at connecting flights, which revealed a Qantas business class flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, with an onward Qantas business class flight from Melbourne to Sydney:
All up, that completed this round-the-world booking, with the maximum of five stopovers (in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, New York and Los Angeles), two transits (Brisbane and Melbourne), and beginning and concluding in the same place (Sydney).
As every flight is in business class, this ticket costs the expected 318,000 Qantas Points, and once those flights are all selected, you’ll have a chance to look back over them all, and the dates you’ve selected, to make sure they’re correct before continuing with the booking process and finalising your reservation.
That’s all there is to it, but if you run into any problems finding flights that can be booked using points, grab a pen and paper (or open Notepad on your computer), and try searching for flights through the Qantas website one at a time.
For example, to find flights and dates that work to get you from Sydney to Hong Kong, search for a one-way Classic Flight Reward from ‘Sydney to Hong Kong’ only – jot down which flights are available on the dates you want, and start a new one-way search for ‘Hong Kong to Tokyo’, etc.
Repeat the process until you’ve found suitable reward flights for every part of your journey, and then head to the multi-city page to get your mega booking locked and loaded, having done your research and knowing which flights will be available when you need to travel.
Additional reporting by Brandon Loo