While Qantas is giving away bonus status credits to help frequent flyers keep their tier-based benefits for another year, members who live overseas face a separate conundrum: the need to make several ‘eligible flights’ at a time when Qantas has grounded all international services.
Each membership year, four eligible flights are required to maintain a member’s existing level or see them climb up to the next tier (that’s in addition to clocking up the necessary number of status credits).
Here’s the sticky part: although status credits can be earned on airlines right across the Oneworld alliance, when it comes to those eligible flights, only tickets sold on Qantas and Jetstar flight numbers are counted.
Living in the UK? While you can earn Qantas status credits on British Airways flights, those flights won’t help you cover off those four ‘squiggles’.
With Qantas’ international flight network on hold as Australian travel restrictions remain in place, the task of taking those four eligible flights could prove impossible for many members based abroad.
When asked whether the ‘four flight’ rule would be amended to count journeys taken with partners such as British Airways, Qantas declined to comment on-record.
However, Executive Traveller understands that Qantas is currently reviewing whether such changes could be made possible, under Oneworld alliance rules.
Oneworld policy currently "mandates that all Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald members earn minimum sectors on their home carrier," confirms Mark Ross-Smith, CEO of Loyalty Data Co and former manager of the Enrich frequent flyer program at Oneworld's Malaysia Airlines.
"Qantas can’t waive the minimum sector requirement as it’s mandated by Oneworld," Ross-Smith affirms. "It’s up to Oneworld to make these changes to help support Oneworld member airlines."
As Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is also currently serving as Chairman of the Oneworld Governing Board, Joyce could make a motion to waive this requirement across the alliance, with the support of other member airlines, should Qantas decide to do so.
Qantas codeshare flights also out of reach
Under current arrangements, Qantas codeshare flights operated by other airlines like Emirates do count towards those four required flights – that is, booking an Emirates flight on a QF flight number – but there’s another catch.
Those codeshares haven't always been available for sale during the coronavirus pandemic: and even when they are available, codeshare flights aren’t offered on every route.
In many cases, the passenger must also be travelling to or from Australia as part of the same ticket to be eligible to book that codeshare flight number.
Qantas Frequent Flyer's international appeal
Qantas Frequent Flyer is, no doubt, primarily designed for travellers based in Australia, who could cover off those four eligible flights in two simple return domestic trips – but in recent times, the program has been pushing itself towards a more international membership base.
Just last month, Qantas Frequent Flyer inked a partnership with American Express UK, allowing UK-based cardholders to convert their Membership Rewards points into Qantas Points.
Over in the United States, Qantas Points can also be earned via a range of US credit cards attached to AMEX Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards.
These partnerships particularly appeal to Aussie expats who were already accustomed to earning Qantas Points, and would otherwise have switched to programs like American Airlines AAdvantage or BA Executive Club.
By keeping these members’ Qantas Points flowing in even after their move overseas, there’s every chance they’ll continue chasing Qantas status credits, too.
But, if ‘eligible flights’ remain out of reach, the appeal of those other frequent flyer schemes can only increase: enticing long-time Qantas loyalists to jump ship to a program that better-rewards the journeys that they remain able to take.