Qantas Classic Award vs Any Seat Award: which is the best value for your frequent flyer points?

By Gary Walter, June 16 2011
Qantas Classic Award vs Any Seat Award: which is the best value for your frequent flyer points?

In the first part of this series I explained the difference between Qantas' Classic Awards and Any Seat Award bookings using frequent flyer points.

As a rule Classic Awards require fewer points than an Any Seat Award. But like almost all rules there are exceptions.

In some situations an Any Seat Award can actually be 'cheaper' or need fewer points than a Classic Awards.

And even when that's not the case an Any Seat Award can prove to be better value for the extra points it requires.

When Any Seat Awards are cheaper than Classic Awards

If you book enough in advance and are flexible with the times you fly, Any Seat Awards can be the better choice.

For example, if I look at the good old Sydney-to-Melbourne hop for eight weeks down the track, there are Any Seat Awards available for 10,745 points and Classic Awards for 11,000 points including taxes and surcharges.

Now if you want to hoard your points and pay Classic Award taxes and surcharges by credit card, our Classic Award seat comes in at just 8,000 points. But you'll then have to pay $23.44 for the taxes, which are included in the Any Seat Award.

And anyway, if you wanted to hoard your points you wouldn't be using them to buy a Sydney-Melbourne ticket when the actual airfares are so cheap anyway.

My point is, it's worth checking both Any Seat Awards and Classic Awards when you're searching for an award flight.

Why Any Seat Awards can be better value than Classic Awards

More often than not an Any Seat Award will cost more points than a Classic Award but they can still deliver better value for your points.

For example: a one-way business class flight between Sydney and Melbourne costs 16,000 points for a Classic Award if you pay $23.44 for taxes and fuel surcharges, or 19,000 points including those extras.

An Any Seat Award on the same flight costs 22,388 points.

But the Any Seat Award also earns you frequent flyer points, which a Classic Award flight doesn't - 1,250 points (regardless of what status level you are on). 

This means the effective cost of the Any Seat Award drops from 22,388 to an effective 21,138.

Any Seat Award bookings also earn you status credits. On this short trip you'll earn 40 status credits to help take you closer to the next level of Qantas Frequent Flyer status.

If you're okay with 16,000 points to get a Classic Award seat plus $23-odd in taxes then the Classic Award is decent value.

But there's little sense in paying the full 19,000 points for a Classic Award seat when for just a few thousand points under an Any Seat Award you can also earn status credits.

Of course the number of points needed for Any Seat Awards is matched to the actual price of tickets on different flights so the number of points needed for any Any Seat Award will vary.

Any Seat Award pricing on our quoted Sydney-Melbourne route varied from 22,388 points to 77,345. At this send of the spectrum, they are poor value compared to Classic Award seats, as long as you can get a Classic Award seat due to their limited availability

Something else to be aware of with Classic Award flights: if you choose an indirect flight with a stop-over you'll pay more taxes than with a direct flight. This is another instance of where an Any Seat Award can be better value.

For the sake of comparison we've profiled some popular routes with both Classic and Any Seat Award points pricing.

  Class Classic Award Taxes &
Classic Award inc taxes Any Seat Award (min)
Sydney-Melbourne Economy 8,000 $23.44 11,000 10,745
  Business 16,000 $23.44 19,000 22,388
Sydney-Adelaide Economy 12,000 $29.17 15,000 15,215
  Business 24,000 $29.17 27,000 31,187
Sydney-Perth Economy 18,000 $23.90 21,000 21,540
  Business 36,000 $23.90 39,000 44,432
International routes
Sydney-Singapore Economy 30,000 $217.27 Not available 57,106
  Business 60,000 $217.27 Not available 115,810
Sydney-London Economy 64,000 $371.77 Not available 101,273
  Business 128,000 $369.02 Not available 756,910
Sydney-LAX Economy 48,000 $354.67 Not available 90,012
  Business 96,000 $374.67 Not available 1,071,268

Are Any Seat Awards good value for international trips?

What's clear from the above table is that Any Seat Awards are pretty good value on domestic routes -- we've highlighted some especially good deals in red.

On international routes, it's a different equation. You'll often pay twice the number of points to get the same route with an Any Seat Award.

At the same time, an Any Seat Award will earn a lot of points and status credits on international routes.

And status credits do have a particular financial value if it means moving from Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver to Gold because Gold membership gives you free access to the Qantas Club. This normally costs about $840 a year as you're an private (non-corporate) traveller buying a Qantas Club membership.

It takes 700 status credits to achieve gold in the first year, so if you divide the $840 cost of Qantas Club Membership by 700, you can get a notional value of $1.20 per status credit.

I've crunched the numbers on how an economy Any Seat Award ticket to London can be valued:

  • status credits earned - 60 (worth $72)
  • Frequent Flyer points earned 10,586 (bringing the effective cost of the Any Seat Award down to 90,687)
  • $371.77 in taxes included

So the effective cost of 90,687 points includes an additional $443.77 of value.

Based on the analysis of what a Qantas Frequent Flyer point is worth -- 1.26c if being redeemed on an international award flight -- that $443.77 is worth about 35,219 points.

Add that 35,219 points to the 64,000 point cost of a Classic Award ticket to London, and the notional value of the Any Seat Award is 99,219 points.

As you can see, the Any Seat Award -- while more expensive at first glance -- can be comparable or cheaper than a Classic Award by the time everything's taken into account.

It's even possible to book an Any Seat Award using a 'points + cash' option which reduces the number of points towards those needed for a Classic Award -- so you're still earning frequent flyer points and status credits into the bargain.

I'll show you how to do that in tomorrow's final installment in this series.

This is the second of a three-part series written for Australian Business Traveller by a professional travel manager on the Qantas' frequent flyer award system and how to make the most of it.

Part 1: Qantas Classic Award vs Any Seat Award: what's the difference?

Part 3: How to save frequent flyer points on Qantas award seats

Gary Walter is a travel manager for a large Australian company, and in his spare time, an enthusiast of squeezing the most out of Frequent Flyer programs.?

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

Just being pedantic, but where the article says "On this trip you'll earn at least 659 points, 880 if you have Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold status and 1,250 if you're Platinum." - Don't Qantas guarantee minimum 1000 points earn on any flight?

Qantas - Platinum One

18 Jan 2011

Total posts 84

I think it's really worth mentioning here that Any Seat Awards are eligible for "Points Plus Pay".

In the case of a one-way business class SYD-MEL flight, an Any Seat Award that would normally be 22,388 points, can be reduced to 16,000 points (the same as the cost of a Classic Award + Tax), with a payment amount of around $60. Considering this is the SAME points spend as a classic award, but you also earn points and SC's for only $40 more money, I feel it represents better value than any option mentioned above.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 735

Nice article with good and clear calculations, thanks!

Being quite a savy traveller myself (QF Platinum) I always use points for premium travel (as value per mile is more). Having heard of the fact you can earn points and sc using any seat I have never seen a clear calculation from which the advantage is shown of using any seat vs classic awards. Again, nice to see it split out so well.

12 Jul 2011

Total posts 76

I think if you have the time to look around and book a reasonable amount of time in advance, then you can find an international any seat award at a reasonable cost.

For example, I'm looking to book to go from SYD-HKG in Business class on Thursday 5th January 2012 (QF127) and return on Thursday 12th January 2012 (QF88) for a total value of 168,942 points, or 120,000 points and $548 (This represents the minimum amount of points that can be used in the Points+Pay scenario. You can use more if you wish.).

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