Qantas rolls out huge change to its reward bookings

The move brings Classic Rewards to the fore, while Points Plus Pay fares take a back seat.

By Chris Ashton, March 1 2024
Qantas rolls out huge change to its reward bookings

Made your way to the Qantas website armed with a lofty stash of Qantas Points to exchange for a reward seat, only to find your flight of choice going for hundreds of thousands of points – one way?

You wouldn’t be the only one, with limited Qantas reward seat availability (something it’s working to fix) and the airline’s prominent Points Plus Pay option creating a perfect storm of confusion among its frequent flyers.

That feeling snowballed last year, with high demand and low capacity of overseas flights meaning numerous frequent flyers only saw the Points Plus Pay options, making it appear as if the only way to use Qantas Points was at this overly-inflated amount.

However, that experience should hopefully be a relic of the past, with the Red Roo relocating its Point Plus Pay option to its rightful place on the payments page – several screens into the booking process. The move makes a lot of sense. 

A sliding scale allows you to choose how much is paid in points or cash.
A sliding scale allows you to choose how much is paid in points or cash.

Another welcome change is you can now easily toggle between Cash and Rewards flights on the search page, with the previous Points Plus Pay button completely removed.

That means, given Points Plus Pay now lives solely on the payments page and not in search results, you’ll never see a flight advertised at that inflated Points Plus Pay rate at first glance – and that’s the crucial change here.

Of course, once you progress through to payment, you will still have the option to exchange some or all of the required Qantas Points for the flight, but it wouldn’t be the best value.

Before getting into that though, here’s a quick explainer on exactly what Points Plus Pay is and how it differs from Classic Rewards.

 

Explained: Points Plus Pay vs Classic Reward

Points Plus Pay fares are essentially normal cash fares, but instead of paying for your ticket using cash, Qantas frequent flyers can pay using Qantas Points instead, with those points converted to an equivalent cash value.

And that conversion rate is key, because Qantas converts the cash cost of the airfare into points at a very unfavourable rate of 0.6 cents per Qantas Point.

This means in some instances you could be paying significantly more for the same seat, with the points-based price fluctuating in the same way as regular airfares do.

Classic Rewards, on the other hand, are a fixed price based on the distance from origin to destination. The Qantas Classic Flight Rewards Calculator gives you a clear indication of how many points are needed, excluding taxes.

Business class rewards can be hard to track down; if you find a good deal, grab it.
Business class rewards can be hard to track down; if you find a good deal, grab it.

However, they’re often much harder to find, with only a limited number of Reward Seats on any flight. As such, they’re often snapped up within hours or even minutes of release.

For Qantas Frequent Flyer, its reward calendar opens up 353 days in advance. If you see a Reward seat available, you’d best snap it up as soon as you can – or face losing out.

The Flying Kangaroo has released several ‘points plane’ bonanzas in the past, adding more Classic Flight Reward seats across select international routes. However, these are only ever offered for a limited time.

How do Classic Reward and Points Plus Pay fares compare?

To put these two different payment options into perspective, a one-way business class fare between Sydney and Melbourne would (at the time of writing) set you back:

  • Cash - $450
  • Classic Reward - 18,400 Qantas Points, plus $45 in taxes
  • Points Plus Pay - 75,000 Qantas Points

Looking further afield, one-way Sydney to Hong Kong business flex fare would be:

  • Cash fare - $5,867
  • Classic Reward - 68,400 Qantas Points plus $150 in taxes
  • Points Plus Pay - 977,833 Qantas Points

As you can see, your points’ worth is slammed when using the Points Plus Pay option, and you’d be best to hold onto them unless you absolutely needed that flight.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when you have a specific travel period in mind. If you plan well in advance though, you may be able to find a Classic Reward seat as soon as it becomes available.

For Qantas Frequent Flyer, its reward calendar opens up 353 days in advance. If you see a Reward seat available, you’d best snap it up as soon as you can – or face losing out.

Try searching individual sectors

Rather than searching ‘Sydney to London’ and calling it a day if there’s no Reward Seat availability, you may have more luck finding one by checking the individual sectors. 

For example, there could be a business class reward flight from Singapore to London, but only a premium economy from Sydney to Singapore. If you don’t mind switching, you could save a hefty swathe of points. 

And if you can’t find availability on the same day, that’s as good an excuse as any to enjoy a brief stopover (and perhaps a couple of Singapore Slings at the Raffles) en route to London. 

To make your hunting a little easier, Qantas offers a useful multi-city tool allowing you to search across multiple sectors. It also gives you the option of selecting whether you’d like to use ‘money, points or both’, or ‘points only’.

When doing your initial search, be sure to tick ‘Flexible with dates for all flights’, as that will bring up a calendar view showing reward seat availability across the month, rather than one specific date.

Cabins can be filtered by ticking/unticking reward ribbons along the top. Once you’ve selected your dates, hit continue to see more details of the reward seats available.

If the cabins or airlines don’t work for you, click ‘change search’. Do not hit the back button, as you’ll likely end up on an error page and need to start your search from the beginning. 

Aside from being rather clunky to use, another drawback of the tool is it also displays mixed bookings where one leg of the journey may be in a different cabin, as shown in the screenshot below. There’s no way to filter these out. 

Above all, flexibility will be your biggest asset. Unless there’s a firm reason to travel on a specific day, searching close to your preferred travel time may yield better results.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2014

Total posts 23

I agree that this is an improvement to remove the PPP flights from the "home pages" as it was misleading to customers who do not understand the difference between CR and PPP. 

The points plus pay screen moved to the "checkout" more than a year ago, quite frankly this is annoying as you have to go through an entire booking to see how much you can reduce a price with points. Prior to this this calculator was at the bottom of your chosen flights. 

The multi city booking "calendar" as per your screenshot has also been a downgrade from a few years ago, you use to be able to just hit the "flexible with dates toggle" which would take you to these screens, now you need to muck around with multi Citi. From roughly 2010 to 2017 I was successful in getting RTN J BNE/SYD/MLB to London annually on either QF, CX or BA. Released like clockwork 1000 AEST 353 days out, always booking outgoing/incoming legs separately. Since then it's been a joke and I have been P the entire time. 

$450 J class SYD-MEL is a cheap fare. It is usually over $700 OW and can be more. So, this is going to be very interesting. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 22

They have thee fares now for all of Melbourne-Adelaide, melbourne-Brisbane, Melbourne Sydney, Sydney Brisbane and Brisbane to North Queensland.

Definitely a huge improvement and probably bright upon by cheap Rex and virgin business fares on these routes.

Melbourne Perth is still $1800 each way for a three hour direct flight tho…

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 385

QF have definitely responded to VA and REX’s business class fares by reducing their own fares.

It’s not uncommon to see $449 Brisbane to Sydney in business. Far more realistic and it what a 90 min flight should be priced at in business.

They have been taking the p&$s for too long.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Aug 2015

Total posts 9

Nice but not “huge”.

Is it just me or is there a massive disconnect on what is available on the calendar view and then the day by day ‘tab View’

Even what displays on an alternative tab sometimes doesn’t show when you click on the tab


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