Coming this year: points upgrades across all Oneworld airlines

Under the program it’ll be possible to use points from any Oneworld airline to upgrade on any other.

By David Flynn, February 10 2022
Coming this year: points upgrades across all Oneworld airlines
Executive Traveller exclusive

Frequent flyers of Oneworld’s 14 member airlines can look forward to securing points-based upgrades across the alliance this year.

The initiative will see travellers able to use their points in the loyalty program of one airline in the Oneworld family to upgrade into premium economy, business class of first class on any other airline across the group.

Although first planned for 2020, and then delayed to “the end of 2021” due to the impact of the pandemic, Oneworld says its on track to roll out the much-anticipated platform this year.

“We are actively progressing in developing the Oneworld upgrades programmes,” a spokesperson for the group tells Executive Traveller.

The arrangements “will deliver greater value to member airlines and customers in the future as international travel recovers” – as will plans to open the first Oneworld-branded airport lounge, originally slated for late 2019 but now also back on the cards.

Oneworld plans to roll out its alliance-wide upgrade system this year.
Oneworld plans to roll out its alliance-wide upgrade system this year.

But wrangling the frequent flyer programs of 14 airlines to build an interweaving upgrade mechanism covering each fare type and travel class is no easy matter.

Right now, each airline handles its own frequent flyer upgrades a little differently: some allow upgrades to be cleared and confirmed instantly; others require upgrades to be ‘waitlisted’ for consideration closer to departure; and some carriers offer both.

Airlines would also need to balance their stock of available ‘reward seats’ to meet the demand of their own customers along with passengers wielding points from other airlines.

“If it was really simple, we would have done it before,” Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney told Executive Traveller in 2020,“but I think we've got a pretty clear roadmap of how we're going to get there.”

“There's a lot of work being done in rounding out what the ideal customer offering is, and just as importantly, how it’s executed.”

How will upgrades work across so many airlines?

Oneworld has not detailed the mechanics of its planned upgrade system, such as which fare types would be eligible for alliance-based upgrades.

For example, rival network Star Alliance has long allowed members of one airline's frequent flyer program to upgrade on flights operated by other Star Alliance airlines, although travellers must book full-fare flexible economy to qualify for business class bump-ups.

Will Oneworld-wide upgrades be immediately confirmed, or see travellers waitlisted with their fingers crossed?
Will Oneworld-wide upgrades be immediately confirmed, or see travellers waitlisted with their fingers crossed?

There’s also the matter of whether these upgrades can be confirmed instantly upon request, or must be 'waitlisted' for consideration closer to departure.

Qantas polled its own frequent flyers on the concept as far back as 2019, with surveys sketching out options such as setting a minimum for points-based upgrades across airlines at the more expensive standard and flexible economy fares rather than “discount economy or economy sale fares.”

The survey also flagged the possibility of these other-airline upgrades being made available on a last-minute basis as little as “within one day of the scheduled flight.” 

Unlocking the miles and points puzzle

As to how many frequent flyer points or miles will be required for each upgrade, that will depend on the traveller's ‘home’ frequent flyer program – in the same way that each frequent flyer scheme sets its own redemption rates for outright flight bookings on partner airlines.

Whether Oneworld’s airlines will adopt a single set of alliance-wide upgrade policies, or operate one set of rules for their own frequent flyers and another rule for members upgrading via other frequent flyer programs, remains to be seen.

Points with any Oneworld airline could get you an upgrade to the pointy end on Qantas.
Points with any Oneworld airline could get you an upgrade to the pointy end on Qantas.

And after everything becomes finalised behind the scenes – including how the airlines will compensate each other when upgrades are processed – the final step becomes educating the members of each Oneworld frequent flyer program about the new upgrade system and how it’ll work for them.

“How can we explain it simply, and how can it be delivered efficiently and effectively?” are just some of the considerations Oneworld will face in the rollout process, Gurney said.

What it “looks like through the lens of the customer” is also important, as is the need to balance the complex economics for airlines in the background, with simplicity in the foreground for frequent flyers.

Still, “I think we’ve got pretty good alignment across our member airlines around how this is going to work.”

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2015

Total posts 44

It will be interesting to know what fare types and classes will be eligible for points upgrades across all the partners

For example, if I book a Qantas Oneworld Award mostly in Business but one leg is in Economy say on Finnair which i believe books into X fare class could i use my QF points to upgrade that leg?

To implement this surely Qantas will need to show fare class being booked to the consumer otherwise it will be very confusing to work out eligibility.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Star alliance UA lh etc  are quite specific about Fare  Classes which are eligible fro UA Plus Points LH EVoucher upgrades Transparency is key to getting your upgrades  make sure you book into th correct booking class

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 152

The concern to frequent flyers will always be the amount of restrictions that come with this. Star Alliance already has this feature but the number of restrictions makes it so that only the most expensive, flexible fare classes of each travel class could actually be upgraded, which diminishes its use to last minute travel or business travel where employers or clients aren't willing to pony up for business or first. A very niche case for it indeed. 

05 Jul 2013

Total posts 10

Wonderful!  With this new offer in place, I can go from upgrades not being available on Qantas, to upgrades not being available on any OneWorld airline.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 98

That’s the “Law of attraction” in action.  😂

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 255

Can only imagine this being single cabin and quite restrictive (higher fares only) in line with the Star Alliances model, but better than nothing at all

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 367

No question about it, this will only be available on higher fare types which gives them a new selling point other than flexibility, and of course too bad if your upgrade doesn't come through and you've bought the $3000 economy fare. Its always a gamble with upgrades at the best of times but having the option of wait-list and on departure upgrades would help.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

Hopefully Qantas might revert to its previous system for international upgrades, where you could confirm this at the time of booking. Then, post 2000, it was changed to allow international upgrades only in the 7 days prior to flight (different times for different FF levels).

It will be a big improvement if the system once again allows certainty on international upgrades at the time of booking.

12 Aug 2020

Total posts 3

I wish I could believe your were right in believing in the restoration of these confirmed upgrades at the time of booking, however, I think that is something that will remain 'last century'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 410

I hope the airline you are a frequent flyer with gives you the priority eg if im plat1 with qf and I want to upgrade on qf, I get priority over an AA or BA etc FF.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 127

The headline announcement is good news indeed but the mechanics of it will be crucial as to whether it's judged a success or failure by frequent fliers. On an unrelated topic: why on earth is that CX passenger smiling weirdly into his coffee mug? Who does that!

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 61

I won’t hold my breath. It will be theoretically possible but just like now there will hardly be any availability. 

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 40

In my experience it's next to impossible to get an upgrade on a QF international flight using points.  Other OneWorld airlines are much, MUCH better, particularly Finnair.

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

Do you have status? I have only had one failed upgrade request for QF international flights using points. I had two successful upgrades late last year.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Oct 2014

Total posts 8

Any update on this??

last time I looked, you can upgrade from any fare straight to business class on Fiji air, by bidding online & no, not with points but dollars. Frequent flyer points are worth a lot less now, than before pandemic & all airlines need cash. Think about it, if you have Qantas points, Qantas has already been paid for those points by banks, retailers etc. Fiji air also has the best aircraft A359 & best business class on direct SYD/LAX service via NAN. Other benefit, Fiji is a fantastic place for a stopover. With $1000s in airfares saved, can also have the stopover & have $1000s leftover cf. with those nonstop airlines.

07 May 2015

Total posts 34

This is going to be a bit of a minefield in terms of valuing all the different airline 'currencies', you almost wonder if OneWorld needs to have its own common alliance-wide currency, its own unit of points or miles, and then you can funnel your own frequent flyer points or miles into that as a sort of 'balance' and draw down on that for upgrades at a single common rate regardless of the airline.


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