Qantas is adding a new Green tier to its frequent flyer scheme, with the promise that ‘green flyers’ can earn extra points and status credits as a reward for taking eco-friendly steps on the ground as well as in the air.
As part of a company-wide sustainability push, the airline will leverage the influence of its juggernaut loyalty program by using Australians’ love of frequent flyer points as an incentive to think and act green.
“This new Green tier is a way of encouraging and recognising those who want to do their part by offering Qantas Points or status credits, which we know helps shape customer choices,” says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
The innovative approach, believed to be a world first, is “designed to educate, encourage and reward the airline’s 13 million frequent flyers for everything from offsetting their flights, staying in eco-hotels, walking to work and installing solar panels at home.”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve used points to reward members for taking positive action in their own lives,” Joyce reflects.
The power of points
“We’ve seen it work when we’ve provided points for walking through our wellbeing app, while the vaccination reward has been taken up by more than 600,000 members already.”
Germany’s Lufthansa is also working on its own green rewards plan to launch in 2022.
“We do think the eco-conscious traveller wants people to know that they’re an eco-conscious traveler,” Chief Customer Officer Christina Foerster remarked in an interview earlier this month. “It needs to be chic to show off you’re flying green.”
As with Qantas’ longstanding Fly Carbon Neutral program, money paid towards Qantas Green offsets will fund environmentally-friendly projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This can include restoring or protecting forests and other ecosystems, conducting controlled back-burns, and investing in projects to develop renewable energy such as wind farms, as well as purchasing ‘carbon credits’
“Offsetting is one of the main ways Australia can reduce its net emissions in the short to medium term until new low emission technology becomes available,” Joyce says.
How the new Qantas Green tier will work
To be launched in February 2022, the Green tier will sit alongside the exiting Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum One membership levels in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme (and you’ll get a digital card, not another piece of environmentally-evil plastic to crowd your wallet or purse).
It will also come with its own serve of bonus Qantas Points and status credits, which will be activated after members complete five sustainable activities per year across six categories: flying, travel, lifestyle, sustainable purchases, reducing impact and 'giving back’.
These benefits will be in addition to the rewards they get under their existing flying status or as part of the Qantas Points Club.
Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth expects to see 100,000 of the airline’s 13 million Frequent Flyer members inducted into the green tier “in the first 12 months.”
After unlocking Green status, members can choose between an initial reward of Qantas Points or status credits, the amount of which are yet to be revealed.
Additional points will be earned through avenues such as purchasing sustainable products through partners, while members will also receive invitations to special “sustainability events and experiences”.
As a first step to Green status, and ahead of the tier’s official launch next year, frequent flyers will from today be able to offset not only their flights but the carbon footprint of their home and car.
A calculator on the Qantas Frequent Flyer website will estimate those core ‘lifestyle’ emissions and let members offset them for a year at a time.
The airline estimates that the average annual cost to offset home energy for a family of four with two cars would be approximately $200, with members earning 10 Qantas Points per $1 spent on home or car offsets; Qantas Points can also be used to pay for those offsets.
Installing solar panels or “making a contribution towards protecting the Great Barrier Reef” will also count towards meeting a personal “sustainability target” and attaining Green status.
Qantas already encourages travellers to buy a carbon offset for their flights, which will now be another Green goal.
The offset cost of a one-way trip from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane is around $1, while the longer trek to London comes in at around $25.
Qantas says that 11% of its travellers tick the carbon offset box when booking their flight, for which they earn 10 Qantas Points per dollar, with the airline matching those contributions on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Towards ‘net zero’
Qantas has set a goal of achieving ‘net-zero’ by 2050, meaning that right across the company – not just on the planes it flies – the amount of CO2 emitted by the Qantas Group will be functionally zero through the use of sustainable practices, reducing waste sent to landfill, smarter flight planning, carbon trading and other efforts to reduce its overall emissions footprint.
Other airlines which have made a net-zero 2050 commitment include Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Etihad Airways and Japan’s ANA.
Many, including Qantas, are also working on an interim target to substantially reduce their carbon emissions by 2030, including measures such as purchasing newer, more efficient planes.
Qantas will next month reveal the shape of its future domestic fleet, with Airbus, Boeing and Brazil’s Embraer having submitted final bids as the airline looks to purchase over 100 new aircraft for delivery from 2023 to 2034.
“All of the next-generation aircraft we’re considering have the potential to drive big improvements in trip cost and overall efficiency, and they’re great platforms for delivering a better premium service to our customers,” Joyce has said.
“Not only will these aircraft deliver a step change in reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to around 15 per cent, we’re talking to each of the manufacturers about how we can accelerate the development and use of sustainable aviation fuels for our domestic flying.”