Qantas is rolling out the welcome mat for frequent flyers of rival airlines – including Virgin Australia Velocity – with a shortcut to Gold status, but there's less than a week to get your application in.
The airline is accepting 'expressions of interest' through to Friday December 18 for top-tier members of 16 airlines.
There's an initial three months of lounge access for those who qualify, during which time you’ll need to earn just 100 Qantas status credits (instead of the usual 700) to unlock 12 months of Gold – making this a particularly generous fast-track.
Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth says the move to embrace 15 overseas-based airlines “recognises those Aussies who have returned home and might need to change programs,” with reduced international travel likely for 2021.
Of course, Virgin Australia sits at the top of Wirth's hit-list, even if she won't name her competitor directly.
“In the world that we're now living in, customers want certainty,” Wirth said at this week’s CAPA Live summit, in a nod to Virgin's new mid-market offering.
“They want to know what product they're going to get, and they're going to get that with Qantas. There's a big question mark over what they might be getting with others.”
Wirth’s dig comes as Virgin Australia has shuttered almost half its airport lounges, and lists its business class offering, VIP program and Canberra lounge as “under review” – although that didn't stop the airline from tempting Qantas flyers with a status match of its own.
Qantas has so far been inundated with those 'expressions of interest', the vast majority of which have come from Virgin Australia's Velocity members.
In fact, on the day Virgin Australia unveiled its own status match offer – which indirectly helped publicise Qantas' rival deal – Qantas saw a 197% increase in status match applications compared with the day before, and has received thousands of applications to date.
Qantas status challenge: who qualifies?
To date, Qantas status matches have generally been made by request only, or given as part of a company-wide offer when snagging new corporate accounts.
A public status match “is something we've never done before,” Wirth says.
And Qantas’ fast-track to Gold isn’t open only to Velocity Frequent Flyer’s Gold and Platinum members, but also to those holding similar tiers at a long list of international airlines.
That roster includes carriers from across the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East and North America, almost all of which offered flights to Australia prior to COVID-19.
Heavy hitters like Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines are all in Qantas’ crosshairs, joined by fellow Star Alliance rivals in Air Canada, Air China, Air India, ANA, Asiana, EVA Air, Shenzhen Airlines, South African Airways and Thai Airways.
Frequent flyers of SkyTeam’s Delta Air Lines and Korean Air are also invited to apply, as are those of Etihad Airways.
The only catch? You’ll need to have an Australian postal address – and of course, hold Silver or entry-level Bronze status with Qantas.
To date, Qantas has received applications from members of every one of these airlines, and will continue to accept these expressions of interest until December 18.
How to request your Qantas status challenge
Qantas’ status challenge is operating under an ‘expression of interest’ basis.
This means you can’t simply lodge an application – you’ll need to share a few details first to be considered, before continuing the process.
You can get the ball rolling by heading to this page on the Qantas website. You’ll also find the offer by scrolling down the airline's homepage, on the right-hand side:
At this stage, you won’t need your rival frequent flyer card or account details – only the details of your Qantas frequent flyer account, your travel habits, and to advise which frequent flyer tier you hold at your current airline.
If you’re a business owner, you’ll also be asked for your ABN and whether you travel most often for work or leisure.
(If you don't already belong to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, you'll of course have to sign up: there's a nominal $99.50 joining fee, but you can sidestep that through to January 31 2021 via www.qantas.com/freejoin.)
Locking in your Qantas status challenge
After submitting the expression of interest form, Qantas says you’ll hear from the airline within 10 business days (two weeks) if you'll progress to the verification stage.
Some readers report a very prompt response from Qantas – coming within just a few days – but others say the wait has been far longer.
Because of the volume of requests Qantas has received, the airline has been scrambling to process them all: but with a new automated process now in place, things should be faster for new applicants.
(If you'd already applied in the early days of the offer, and still haven't heard anything, keep an eye on your email inbox, as you should receive an email shortly.)
Once you do hear back from Qantas, you’ll need to give proof of your current frequent flyer tier, so you might as well get those details ready in the meantime.
Expect to share a photograph or screenshot of your membership card with that rival airline, as well as an excerpt of your account history showing that you earned that tier under your own steam, rather than via family pooling or through a status gift from a friend or family member.
After this information is submitted, your status match will either be approved or rejected based on the information you provide.
Timing your Qantas status challenge
To recap, those approved for the Qantas status challenge will have 90 days in which to earn 100 status credits: at which point, you can enjoy an entire year of Gold-grade benefits with Qantas.
However, there’s flexibility as to when your 90-day window is placed, so choose wisely.
If accepted, you can nominate the start date of your preferred 90-day period to be as late as March 31 2021.
That’s particularly handy if you mainly fly for business and won’t be taking another work-related trip until after the New Year, as you can match that 90-day window to the flights you’ll be taking or planning, to make sure you get over the line.
Just be mindful that once you’ve selected your preferred time period, the dates of your challenge can’t be changed.
You’ll also need to choose a start date at least 10 business days into the future, to give Qantas time to activate the challenge on your account, ensuring the flights you take are counted towards your goal.
Ready to get started? Lodge your expression of interest via the Qantas website before 11:59pm (AEDT) on Friday December 18 2020.