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.
- 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).”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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