The clock is ticking down towards the retirement of Qantas' Boeing 747 fleet in 2020, but the airline is planning to treat frequent flyers with a series of 'Points Plane' flights on the iconic jumbo, beginning with a Sydney-Los Angeles flight on October 13 2019.
Inspired by the success of the Airbus A380 Points Plane initiative, this will be the last commercial flight of a Boeing 747-400 delivered to Qantas in 2000 (VH-OJU), with every seat in business class and premium economy initially reserved for booking using points.
There's a one-week window during which those premium cabin seats can only be booked using points – from now until midnight September 2 – after which, any remaining business class beds or premium economy seats will be opened up to paying passengers.
Every economy class seat will be open for booking using points as well, although cash fares will also be available for purchase from day one, to help fill the aircraft.
To book this one-way flight, you'd part with 96,000 Qantas Points in business class, 72,000 Qantas Points in premium economy or 41,900 Qantas Points for economy, plus taxes, fees and carrier charges as levied at the time of booking, covering the initial one-week window as well as any bookings made up to and including September 17 2019.
Should there be availability, any bookings made from September 18 2019 will instead require a higher 108,400 Qantas Points in business class or 81,300 Qantas Points in premium economy, when the upcoming changes to the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme take effect, although economy remains at 41,900 Qantas Points.
The flight number to look for is QF99, from Sydney to Los Angeles on October 13 2019:
As with any one-way flight, passengers will need to make their own arrangements to return home, such as by buying a one-way airfare from Los Angeles to Australia, or securing a return seat using points where availability permits on a 'normal' flight.
The aircraft operating this Sydney-Los Angeles service, VH-OJU, will exit the Qantas fleet after this final flight and be transferred to another airline to continue flying.
Since its delivery back in 2000, Qantas claims the aircraft has flown approximately 80 million kilometres: the equivalent of almost 2,000 round-the-world trips.
Qantas steams ahead towards more Boeing 747 retirements
Qantas has been steadily phasing out its historic Boeing 747 fleet in favour of the advanced and fuel-efficient Boeing 787, with a second wave of factory-fresh Boeing 787s seeing the jumbo's staged retirement by the end of 2020 as Qantas celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The stalwart Boeing 747 of Sydney-San Francisco will be replaced by a Dreamliner in December 2019; Qantas is also considering the Boeing 787 for the long jumbo flights to Johannesburg – having announced plans for the same to Santiago – while an Airbus A380 superjumbo could be earmarked for Sydney-Tokyo.
Qantas originally began flying the Boeing 747 in 1971, with early models sporting a rather groovy lounge on the upper deck.
Dubbed the Captain Cook lounge, the 15-seat lounge managed to combine a nautical theme honouring the nation's foremost European discoverer with a then-chic colour scheme of orange, checks and woodgrains.
Additional reporting by David Flynn.