Qantas Frequent Flyer shake-up: what's your plan come July 1?

By Chris Chamberlin , June 16 2014
Qantas Frequent Flyer shake-up: what's your plan come July 1?

The Qantas Frequent Flyer program faces significant changes in just a few short weeks, with travellers earning points according to the value of the fare they buy rather than the distance flown.

Members on the most expensive tickets will generally come out ahead, but those spending less will earn fewer points – and in many cases, considerably less than they do today.

The number of status credits earned when flying on the Red Roo’s Oneworld partners is also being slashed, and the allocation of Qantas Points on these flights is expected to follow suit.

In light of the dramatic changes we asked a number of informed Qantas Frequent Flyer members to share their loyalty plans come July 1. Here’s what they had to say.

Malcolm Sharp

  • Managing Director of an international business in the manufacturing sector
  • 115 business flights last year – 58 domestic and 57 international, totalling 260,000 miles
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Lifetime Gold, Platinum One (since 2012), Platinum (2006-2012)

With a travel schedule heavily geared towards business class and premium economy flights to both Asia and Europe, UK-born Sharp will move to British Airways’ Executive Club loyalty program after re-qualifying for Qantas' Platinum One status – partly through a series of final 'marginal' Any Seat Award bookings before those are also axed.

“I’ll start crediting to British Airways from August 1 2015 and begin booking BA flights to the UK from then, while using my Qantas status for seat assignments,” Sharp tells Australian Business Traveller.

As a member of the Oneworld alliance, BA's Executive Club carries the same perks as Qantas Frequent Flyer – which means Sharp can wave his Qantas card for creature comforts such as lounge access and priority boarding while building status with BA.

“If I stayed with Qantas, I’d probably be reaching Partner Gold under the new system, which in reality whilst far from simpler is certainly ‘fairer’ for my travel patterns" he explains.

“I'll finish up paying for three BA return business class flights to London and will reach BA Gold (Oneworld Emerald), flying on what I believe is a superior business class product (to Qantas).”

Nick Cairns

  • IT Consultant in the financial services industry
  • 10 domestic business trips each year
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum (since 2012), Silver (2005-2012)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cairns says he is satisfied with the revised Qantas Frequent Flyer program and intends to maintain his Platinum status, but is concerned that other members are being short-changed.

“No doubt commuters who find themselves at the airport twice a week, every week, would benefit from the additional perks of status."

“But with the changes, status for the regular commuter will be more difficult to retain and hence will result in many commuters reconsidering their loyalty,” Cairns says.

Often flying Qantas between Australia’s capital cities, he resorts to Jetstar when heading to the Gold Coast for more flexible flight times than are offered by Qantas.

However, after taking advantage of Etihad’s recent status match offer, Cairns will “probably switch to Virgin Australia until (his) Qantas review date” once his Qantas Platinum status is secure for another year.

Etihad Guest Gold and Gold Elite members enjoy priority check-in and boarding on Virgin Australia flights, along with lounge access – the same perks enjoyed on Qantas through Platinum membership.

Fiona Downes

  • Physician
  • 3 international trips and 8 domestic business trips per year
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Lifetime Silver, Platinum (since 2008)

Like Sharp and bemused by Qantas' lack of Lifetime Platinum, Fiona Downes is edging towards BA’s Executive Club for future international travel while maintaining Velocity Platinum status for domestic flights.

“It makes sense to keep a foot in both camps as Qantas has the greater international network via Oneworld and Virgin Australia is a better option for me domestically as Qantas has replaced many of the routes I fly with Jetstar,” Downes shares with Australian Business Traveller.

On her own calculations and despite the Qantas overhaul, she’ll reach Qantas Lifetime Gold status in about two years, which is when she’ll make the switch to BA.

“The changes will not delay my route to Lifetime Gold – if anything they have increased my resolve to get there quickly as a backup plan.

“I have dual citizenship and strong ties with the UK so it makes sense for me to look at Executive Club as an alternative to Qantas Frequent Flyer, particularly as it offers the opportunity to achieve Lifetime Oneworld Emerald (status).”

Downes’ current and future travel plans would see her reaching Lifetime Executive Club Gold status – that’s Oneworld Emerald and at the same level as Qantas Platinum – in around 15 years.

Leigh Wallace

  • Quality Manager, Support Services in the aerospace and defence industries
  • 18 return domestic trips each year
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Lifetime Silver, Platinum (since 2011), Gold (2010-2011)

Leigh Wallace regularly flies between Adelaide and Sydney – one of the routes facing a status credit reduction from July 1.

With these flights dropping from 15 status credits to just 10 in each direction in discount economy, Wallace now finds it impossible (and impractical) to maintain Qantas Platinum on his regular route.

"To qualify as Velocity Platinum requires 1000 status credits, and then 800 to re-qualify (each year)," Wallace points out.

"Based on flying Adelaide-Sydney return every week, this would take me 50 weeks to qualify, and then 40 weeks to re-qualify, which to me is achievable."

Under the changes, it would now take "60 weeks to re-qualify (for Qantas Platinum), which does not fall into the QFF membership year requirements" – so Velocity Platinum becomes the logical target.

Wallace also won't miss the Qantas lounges. "Even though the Adelaide Virgin Australia lounge is much smaller than the Qantas lounge, the food and beverage on offer is (in my opinion) more than adequate for a domestic flight.

"In Sydney, I have seen very little difference in what is offered in the Qantas Business Lounge compared to the Virgin Australia lounge, apart from spirits."

With no international travel, losing access to Qantas' First Class Lounges isn't a grave concern for this high flyer, although he admits that "access to the Qantas First Lounges would be missed" if international economy flights were back on the agenda in the future.

Candida D’Arcy

  • Partner in a medium-sized law firm
  • 8 domestic business trips each year with occasional international travel
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Lifetime Gold, Platinum (since 2012), Gold (2001-2012)

Adelaide-based Candida D’Arcy sees the changes having less of an impact on her travel choices than Qantas’ decision to withdraw international flights from South Australia, along with her reaching Lifetime Gold status.

“Qantas made it hard for me to stay loyal to Qantas International by cancelling international flights from Adelaide in April 2013,” D’Arcy tells Australian Business Traveller.

When heading abroad, “loyalty is out the window”, with D’Arcy instead choosing flights based solely on convenience, comfort and price.

On home soil, the Lifetime Gold status is put to good use through the “Qantas Club access and other benefits, even when work is only paying for a discount economy fare.

“The Virgin lounges in Sydney and Melbourne rival Qantas', but not in Adelaide. Pricing is usually so similar that the difference is inconsequential.”

As a result, D’Arcy remains loyal to Qantas on the domestic front, as in her opinion, “Virgin doesn't compete at the same level as Qantas in routing, timetables, fleet or on-board service.”

Where do you stand under the Qantas Frequent Flyer changes? Are you planning to jump ship to Virgin Australia or another airline and its loyalty program, or will you be better off under the new Qantas system?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Excellent article Chris! It's great to have feedback from real people and hear their perspective.

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 219

Had enough of these non stop Qantas changes to the detriment of customers and the web site is a joke, moving my international travel to CX from now on.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 3

Nice article. The issue is as all my airmiles are going to my Qantas account it will be hard to start a fresh with a new airline until I have spent them. 

Until there is some real competition for Australian domestic travel - I am not sure if I would change to another airline. 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Really interesting article and a good selection of viewpoints. For all the changes I am sticking with Qantas, they cover my domestic flight needs pretty well and I will actually be better off with status credits on those. For international flights I'm mainly Singapore, Hong Kong and the USA this year and am fine to fly Qantas with those and take advantage of their very good lounges too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 469

My travel booth International an domestic is well in excess of all the parties listed.I suggest you ask the question to parties who make travel desisions at the respective companies.It all comes down to fares.All points however attained should remain the domaine of the party that purchased the ticket or services. 

Hi Robert,

Many of those that we interviewed were able to make decisions on company travel, but that's more of a 'cost' comparison rather than a loyalty comparison (switching to other Oneworld loyalty programs while still flying Qantas doesn't need the company to change any flights).

On your last thought, I suppose it's a matter of opinion.

Qantas has Aquire for businesses to earn points on company travel (while also earning credit card points when booking the fares), although frequent flyer points earned on flights belong to the traveller.

The T&Cs of both Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer state as much, and asking employees to 'family transfer' or 'family pool' points and status credits to a non-related company manager would violate the T&Cs.

Many travellers often see their points and status as a reward or restitution for company travel – say, catching the 6am Brisbane-Melbourne flight to reach the office by 9am for no extra pay.

Take away the points, and many employees could easily say "nope, I'm only travelling during office hours unless you pay for my overtime"... easier to just let them keep the points, which are 'free' anyway. ;)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 469

Chris,

I thahkyou,I have a Law Office and cover 12 staff travelling booth US domestic and multi International to Australia.I would love to see an article from you or David on corperate travel policy and what  means in the world of Australian business.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1227

Fantastic reading.

am
am

15 Apr 2011

Total posts 586

Really interesting to read some different perspectives, though it does boggle me slightly that some people are reaching Platinum with only a handful of domestic flights a year while the most frequent traveller profiled is concerned that he will only reach Gold. 

There is one perspective I think you've missed though, being people who will actually benefit from the changes. I still do a fair bit of domestic travel but the vast majority of my points/status credits come from international travel in business class. 

I'll continue to earn the same number of status credits across the board (except in one or two cases with Asia where the hit will be about 20 status credits per return trip) but am expecting to see a 10-20% boost in the number of points I earn. There is also the chance that I'll actually earn more status credits depending on which fare I book, with the creation of the new flexible business bracket (generally I'll just fall into the standard business fare class though). 

The one thing that does really irk me though is the major reduction in what I'll earn for flying with partner carriers on routes where they compete with Qantas. I manage to retain my platinum status fairly comfortably at the moment so I might think about crediting those flights (ie Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, which will be a must now that Qantas are swapping the A380s back to 747s from Sydney) to another programme and starting to build towards shifting allegiance altogether once I've reached Lifetime Gold (probably about 4 years away). 

Overall though, I'm not bothered by the changes at all. I'll earn a few less status credits but earn a big pile of extra points (about 50,000 extra per year) which I think are more valuable (at least until they decide to change burn rates!)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

If you're referring to Malcolm Sharp's comment on only reaching Partner Gold, I think he means Platinum plus the extra benefits at 2400 status credits (which includes the benefit of gifting Gold status to a friend, family member or partner - hence "Partner Gold").

Hi am,

In all of our interviews, we asked only for the number of business-related trips/flights (given the nature of AusBT), as people often fly for leisure as well.

An annual Sydney-London-Sydney trip on QF1/2 in business class would pull in 480 status credits at today's rate, which could very easily bump a business traveller up to the next status level.

(That's not an example from anyone in particular, but when the status levels represent a person's full travel history – rather than only business trips – that's one example of how the two might not line up entirely, with another being flexible vs cheap fares.)

:)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2014

Total posts 3

am, as one of the persons in the article I recognise that there is certainly some people who will either be unaffected by the changes, or who will benefit from the changes.

As Chris noted  in a response above, he was asking about the number of business related flights; the 18 return flights referenced to me are only the QF flights paid by the Company I work for.

It doesn't include the other 30-odd ADL-SYD return flights that I will personally pay for to commute between ADL-SYD each week until November, as it is my choice to live in ADL and work in SYD.

To me this is the key change; QF have aligned their FF programme to VA for both SC earn and points earn based on cost of flights.

Why should I continue to pay an extra (approx) $80~$100 a week to fly QF when I can gain and maintain status with VA for less flights and less cost for little difference in service and delivery?

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 310

Agree great article to hear real travellers. But I too am one of those that will benefit from the changes. I am Platinum and travel to key Asia cities and USA in biz class regularly from Sydney so works for me, but I can understand others' point of view, like I wouldn't be happy ex Adelaide or Perth. What I think is a bit rich of Qantas is slashing partner status/points on routes Qantas don't fly, which these days is a lot. If I fly Intra-Asia I shouldn't be penalised for flying CX when Qantas don't fly SIN-Hong Kong for example, or Hong Kong-London on BA,CX (Qantas pulled out of that one top). I understand Qantas want us on their aircraft, which is perfectly fine, but more and more Qantad are pulling out of what would seem fairly major routes like Perth-Singapore. I have SQ Krisflyer Gold as a back up and I'm they do a good job too. I'm happy Qantas or SQ in this part of the world. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Yes, it's a shame Qantas wants to benefit both ways - punishing disloyalty yet cutting services (including downgrading a/c - like the regular A380 service withdrawal from the HKG route). Makes for hard choices!

I think the tier credit/mile point system has perhaps had its day now too, and that Qantas may be better off moving to simple dollar value system (spend more, get more - like Singapore's PPS). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2011

Total posts 182

Very interesting article.  I am also close to lifetime gold with QFF.  For those waiting to move their business after they attain lifetime gold, and this is pure speculation, I wouldn't be surprised if another 'enhancement' AJ and his cronies rolls out will be to stop any new lifetime gold members in the near future. Just speculating though.

A comment I have that is not speculation though is that for those looking to join BA, as far as I am aware, and I haven't checked for the last few weeks, but BA do not accept applications from Australian residents.  I am either moving to CX or BA and with residential addresses in UK amd Aus, I can join, but double check before you rely on BA.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2011

Total posts 182

In fact, I just tried to join BA using a Perth postal address and was greeted with an error message and the following link.

 

https://www.britishairways.com/travel/ecswpclose/public/en_gb

Correct – so use your UK address. ;)

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 140

Easy if you happen to have one. 

All but the highly privileged appear to have been ignored in this draft of the article... 

 

 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2011

Total posts 266

Mine will be VA (Virgin Australia) from now on.

Only $300 for an annual Lounge membership, with being a VA Silver frequent flyer.  Not bad.

Can't complain about the food in the VA lounge, at least its a quiter place to be than in the open areas.


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