Qantas passengers will have the freedom to change their travel dates on both domestic and trans-Tasman flights for an unlimited number of times through to January 2022, as the airline encourages travellers back into the skies.
The airline says its new "Fly Flexible" policy applies to all new bookings made from today "until at least the end of April", covering flights as far ahead as its schedule stretches – up to 355 days in advance – and those unlimited flight date changes can be made until January 31 2022.
Travellers could previously make just one free flight change, for travel until the end of June.
Virgin Australia is expected to match Qantas by extending its own waiver on flight change and cancellation fees – which currently ends on June 30 2021 – for bookings made by 30 April 2021, for travel up to January 31 2022.
Change fees waived on all Qantas fares
Qantas typically applies a change fee of $99-$125 on its cheapest economy tickets, such as domestic Red eDeal fares and trans-Tasman Sale and Saver bookings.
“Customers have told us that sudden changes to border restrictions by state governments are giving them second thoughts about going on holidays or taking a business trip,” said Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer, Stephanie Tully.
“By giving customers unlimited flight date changes for almost a year, we think it will encourage more people to book, helping to boost tourism which is so vital to local economies and businesses around the country.”
For prospective trans-Tasman flyers, New Zealand's border does of course remain closed to Australia, with no firm opening date.
Despite a mooted 'Q1 2021' launch – which had previously been postponed several times throughout 2020 – Qantas isn't widely selling trans-Tasman flights until July, running only a skeleton schedule in the months ahead.
This makes any trans-Tasman booking from Australia something of a gamble, with the fee waiver on domestic flights being more useful for most flyers.
There's no extended waiver of change fees on other Qantas international routes, including those selling from July 2021.
Qantas' unlimited flight date changes: what's the catch?
While a generous policy for travellers booking paid airfares, Qantas' updated 'free flight changes' rules don't apply to Classic Flight Reward bookings.
Being journeys booked using Qantas Points, these continue to have change and cancellation fees waived until April 30 2021 only – not until January of next year.
Even for travellers on eligible paid tickets, fare differences still apply when making a change.
This means passengers who snap up attractive sale fares may find significantly more expensive flights waiting for them, when requesting a change.
As well, as the policy only applies to bookings made until April 30 this year, those who make flight reservations in May (and beyond) would not enjoy the same level of flexibility under the current policy.
Where flight changes are requested, these can be for travel as far forward as available in the airline’s booking system: that’s up to 355 days in advance.
Prior to this update, Qantas passengers could make one complimentary flight change for travel until the end of June 2021, unless further fee-free changes were permitted under normal fare rules.