Now that Qantas and Emirates are forging forwards with their alliance, which takes effect from April 1, frequent flyers are considering which of the two airlines' programs makes more sense for Australians — Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards?
With a new Platinum Skywards tier granting benefits equivalent of Qantas' Platinum level, plus the return of the ability to bring guests into Emirates' lounges when flying economy, Skywards might look like a bright new option if Qantas Frequent Flyer has lost its lustre for some business travellers.
After discussing what frequent flyers think of the new benefits from the Qantas-Emirates alliance, Australian Business Traveller continued mulling things over with one of Emirates' most frequent flyers — newly minted Skywards Platinum and moderator of the Emirates Skywards forum on points-and-miles website Flyertalk, Australian Simon Chen.
Australians should stay with QFF...
"I would always recommend a person who is based in Australia to stick with Qantas," says Chen, who recently relocated to the US from Singapore. "Qantas awards lifetime status credits, and being Gold or Platinum on Qantas allows for lounge access globally."
"I achieved Lifetime Gold on Qantas 10 years ago, and I think this is one of the most important benefits because I can use my Qantas card to gain entry into the American Airlines lounges in the US (or BA, Cathay and other oneworld lounges elsewhere)."
Plus, it takes at least twice as much flying to qualify for Emirates Platinum compared with Qantas, Chen notes. "For example, to achieve Platinum on Qantas would take you 6 round trips Melbourne to Singapore in Business. To achieve it on Emirates would require 12 round trips."
The reciprocal Platinum benefits are better with Qantas Frequent Flyer as well, given that it's part of the oneworld alliance.
If you fly enough to qualify, "Platinum on Qantas would allow you First Class lounge access here in Australia, Business lounge access domestically, and then give you Emerald status across oneworld, meaning first class lounge access where available right throughout the oneworld network," Chen points out.
By contrast, Chen observes, "Platinum on Emirates only provides first class lounge access in Australia and Dubai," with the rest of the world either a joint business/first Emirates Lounge or a less impressive contract offering.
...unless they fly over 90% long-haul
The exception to his general advice, Chen says, is if you fly enough to earn status and rack up a large balance of Skywards miles to spend.
"In terms of cost, benefits, and more importantly redemption availability, Emirates offers a lot more options from Australia to Europe," Chen outlines.
Those benefits are partly based on Emirates network, which "flies large capacity aircraft (meaning more reward seats) and you can upgrade any fare (unlike Qantas)."
Australians outside Sydney and Melbourne — who won't be able to upgrade with Qantas Frequent Flyer points on the long leg to Dubai or any other Emirates flights — would do well to consider whether that's a benefit that they're likely to find useful.
And "Emirates is far more generous with operational upgrades," those elusive 'congratulations, you've been bumped up a class' moments beloved of business travellers, "because its business model is very focused on running high economy loads."
But do the earning-and-burning calculations first
With the new system, "my sense is that most people are totally confused and bewildered at just what flight will earn what points/tier miles or status credits," Chen says.
Remember: Qantas frequent flyers will earn full points, status credits and tier points when booking with Qantas for flights beginning with QF, even if the plane used is an Emirates bird.
But if you book with Emirates and your flight number says EK, you'll earn points at reduced rate — and no status credits at all.
The complexity of the system, Chen predicts, will lead to "a lot of arm waving by members who thought they should have received the status credits but didn't."
What's your plan — sticking with Qantas Frequent Flyer or moving wholesale to Emirates Skywards? Or are you considering a third option? Share your thoughts and learn from other readers' strategies in our comments section below.