Would you buy an annual Qantas or Virgin Australia ‘flight pass’?

A Netflix-style flight subscription has clear appeal to business travellers and frequent flyers.

By Matt Lennon, March 10 2022
Would you buy an annual Qantas or Virgin Australia ‘flight pass’?

Here’s an interesting notion: what if you were able to buy 10 or 20 return flights, on a specific route or a group of routes, in order to lock in a heavily discounted price?

Taking it a step further: what if this was a monthly subscription service, somewhat similar to the likes of Netflix or Spotify, which issued you with ‘flight credits’ redeemable against trips?

Both approaches have now been adopted by several airlines around the world, including Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways – and there’s no reason such a system could not be rolled out by Qantas, Virgin Australia or Rex. 

Frequent flyers on the US West Coast can now sign up for an Alaska Airlines Flight Pass, which from US$49 per month lets them lock in preferential economy fares for six, 12 or 24 return trips per year between 16 destinations – although most are within California and none extend to Alaska’s Seattle hub.

“The price of a monthly Flight Pass subscription is cheaper than the average price of a ticket on eligible flights,” the airline promises.

“In exchange for your business for the next year, Alaska provides you with a great deal on a price that doesn’t change.”

(And before you ask, Flight Pass trips include a full serve of points and status credits.)

With domestic travel on the rebound, is this a model of a prepaid flight pass one which Australian flyers would embrace?

Businesses would certainly appreciate the flat cost of an annual flight subscription, provided the routes available largely aligned with their travel needs.

However, there’d be less flexibility in being able to grab the cheapest fare on a route – Alaska Airlines bases the cost advantage of its Flight Pass on a comparison to “the average price of a ticket”.

Another caveat: Alaska’s basic FlightPass plan requires that flights be booked no less than 14 days in advance, whereas the more expensive FlightPass Pro package narrows that window to as little as two hours before wheels-up.

Executive Traveller readers: would you consider bulk-buying flights, or subscribing to an annual flight pass, from Qantas, Virgin Australia or Rex?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 379

Obviously it depends on the price, there is no way a flight pass would be lower than the cheapest economy fare but those can go pretty quickly and in the case of Qantas certainly favour the less popular flights, eg 6am. But if the price was less than a mid-range economy fare, then it would also depend on the routes. If it covered all routes or just the main trunk routes, within the triangle and maybe east-west, I could see this being a big saver for my business.

We had one of the few corporate accounts at TAA but other companies brought 10 tickets at a time in the old days (1970). 10 business class tickets for $2500.00 on the East Coast would be a goer for myself, I'd even buy 20 - 30 if the price was right.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

You can't imagine QF offering a unconditional J class ticket voucher for effectively $250.  They don't want to make the availability of J class upgrades in their FF loyalty scheme less attractive unless they can make serious money on the alternative and $250 is not enough in this situation especially as the FF option enables them to release seats on less popular flights whilst maintaining top dollar on peak services.

@reeves35 Woody was talking about REX and VA at $250.00 a flight, you would be lucky to get $550.00 on a Qantas ticket.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 17

Adjusted for inflation, $250 on TAA in 1970 works out at about $3,000 on today’s Qantas. If $250 was a bargain, I’d hate to think what the normal fares were back then. 

@Nalanji I can't remember the cost of a ticket in 1970 but in 1985 we were buying tickets for $985.00, the cost of flying has come down.

If you told me in 1985 I could fly on Jetstar for $19.00 I would have called you ...........

Yes I remember having a book of 10 Sydney Brisbane return fights in the early 1990s specifically because during the First Gulf War insurance companies wouldn’t cover us for flying.

They made life a lot easier as the tickets were flexible business class turn up to the airport and go. I thought it was Qantas but possibly Ansett

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 225

I like the Alaska Airlines approach of issuing 'flight credits' which are redeemed against each flight, maybe if Qantas used this approach they could have a flight pass covering all of Australia and then say that SYD-MEL might be one 'flight pass credit' but SYD-PER might be 'three credits' for example, which would give the customer more flexibility across the entire network, instead of just a select set of routes.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

It would be great to know the modelling behind this.  Typically, companies sell these voucher schemes when they know that a portion of the vouchers will never be redeemed so the voided vouchers become 100% revenue and offset discounts elsewhere.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 576

You're right on the money there reeves35.  I don't recall in the 1980s or even to mid-1990s that broad/consumer/traveller online access to the latest fare prices was as it is now (unless a corporate with an inhouse travel purchaser who had a dedicated 'terminal', as one of my former employers did).  We now live in a highly informed market place (courtesy of internet), and 'fiscal promiscuity' probably drives at least 40% of purchasing decisions (excluding the Public Service at C'wlth and State levels).  

I can't see this type of initiative getting enough traction to last with Virgin or Qantas, but it could work quite well with Rex and Bonzair.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 684

Would Corporate accounts buy this type of product ? Definitely not, given they generally have negotiated discounted fares.

Would SME's (small / medium sized enterprises) buy? Possibly, but the discount would need to be sufficient to offset the existing retail price (whatever that may be) as well as the additional (client) tracking and administration hurdles associated with monitoring this 'program'.

Would 'leisure travellers' take advantage of this program? It would be a relatively small subset of this market. Who goes to the same domestic network location 6/12/24 times a year? Unless Grandma is seriously ill or your kids are living with / or  visiting your spouse (living in another city) on a regular basis, then a particularly small segment.

Would 'Frequent Flyers' buy this ? Only if it operated as a 'travel bank', but even then, why provide an airline with an interest-free annual loan? After all, you won't get ff points or status credits until you've actually flown segments.

The biggest problem I see here would be a sense of public distrust with airlines generally, with many of the public having been burnt with no or extended refunds during the time of Covid. Not the 'right' time to be considering a program which would require a dollop of consumer 'trust'.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 106

As a strictly leisure traveller, I would want to see the details of such a scheme, because with international travel about to fully open up, who would want to go to Perth, Darwin, Cairns more than once a year? Throw in a return to/ from Singapore and LA plus the potential destinations of the Sunrise Project ( in J)........lock in costs with foreshadowed increases by AJ might be interesting, but complex.

Otto, there are a LOT of people including 'leisure travellers' who do a LOT of domestic flights.

I think we can assume the price for a Qantas or Virgin multi-flight pass subscription would be competitive, because that's the only way this would have a hope of being picked up in the market. I would just hope that your flight pass is valid to be redeemed against any seat on any flight, instead of there being only a set number of seats assigned to an equivalent 'flight pass' fare bucket, or the flight pass not being valid during designated peak hours etc. Anyway to answer the question I would definitely be keen to look more closely at this. If it ticked the boxes against my business or personal spend I would love being able to lock away say a dozen domestic flights at a good rate.

tonyw so who you going to fly with ?

lost

there could be 20 different version, just like ski lift season passes by Epic & Ikon. Have a search for these online. Epic have about 20 different ones & shortly they will announce next northern seasons passes (which inc southern hemisphere in 2023) & might be a few others with more restrictions. It's all about cash flow. Some will like them, some won't. Some will buy them & use them a lot. Some will buy them, but not use them much, as it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is why they need to have different versions, like peak & off peak. Retirees who want to eg. visit kids interstate on a regular basis, would love offpeak.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2022

Total posts 4

Clever way by the listed airlines of pulling forward some cashflow as we exit the pandemic.

Shades of an old offering, I think in the 80s / 90s, of lifetime biz / first for something like $100k at the time offered by some of the US carriers.

Would make sense for some of the heavy sectors like SYD - SIN, especially if businesses could book them and issue as "vouchers" to staff when and as needed. Likewise for some of the subsidiary businesses here where you know certain execs will need to be doing certain sectors back to base every month / quarter.

@emfsyd The guy who brought the life time offer in the US had a great lurk, it was actually for 2 people. He would advertise to take someone first class with him and get paid by the person travelling with him, of course it was at a discounted rate.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 90

Air Canada offered a similar thing. From memory the statement divided Canada into three regions. A basic pass got you to a neighbouring region, but you'd needed an up graded pass to fly coast to coast. Given 80% of their business passengers were flying coast to coast.... I lived in Winnipeg (bang in the middle) so the passes were excellent value for us. AC caught on and suddenly governments weren't allowed to buy passes, we had to go on "government contract". AC living up to its reputation "we are not happy until you're not happy"

As for the Qantas variant. At the moment I fly Sydney cairns frequently, pre purchase at a guaranteed price would be very useful, but given the seasonal nature of prices to fnq, I think there would be interesting "black out" dates.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 81

Air Canada still does offer an extensive range of passes, both intra-Canada, North America, and a range of international passes. They mostly come in various classes (assorted Economy levels, Business) and can be very good value. A few of them are Latitude (fully flex Economy), which are eligible to be upgraded with eUpgrade points immediately you book the flights (not a few days before, or at the gate), meaning you can be sure of travelling in Business vastly cheaper than buying it, and even cheaper than buying the same number of tickets individually in Latitude. Info on the various passes here: https://fp.aircanada.com/wallet/servlet/CTO5SearchServlet/booklet_landing#/shopping/ALL. (I don't work for AC; but I've bought one of their limited-edition Worldwide flexible Business Class passes in the past).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2015

Total posts 27

After  Qantas's behaviour with a "refundable" credit of some $18K I don't intend to ever fly with Qantas again. Virgin can no longer be bothered to fly into our regional airport. I guess that makes for a NO1 doesn't it

@TonyW It’s a very sad state of affairs, I can’t see myself being loyal to one airline or alliance for a long time. It’s week by week which airline I decide to fly and pointless being loyal when they give the same status to people who aren’t travelling as to people who are hitting the status targets.

Vail resorts, probably the biggest ski lift company in the world, has around 20 versions of their Epic pass (season & multiday passes). The top one has unrestricted ski lift access at certain resorts all around the world. Then there are versions with blackout dates over holidays & weekends, military, kids, seniors etc.

Big boys, don't want anyone getting cheap peak hour flights on the golden triangle Mon-Fri, but maybe outside of peak hour might work for some.

Some might say (those who pay for their own flights), do I really need to be on that 5am flight BNE/SYD that arrives at 7.30am due to daylight saving ? From BNE during daylight saving peak hour might end at 6.30am or 7am.

It would certainly help with cash flow, getting big lump of cash upfront.

Some cash up airfare wholesalers around the world & in Australia, buy big blocks of airline seats from airlines, as drastically reduced rates now.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Would you buy an annual Qantas or Virgin Australia ‘flight pass’?