Qantas offers free first class upgrade to Hong Kong

By Chris C., August 8 2013
Qantas offers free first class upgrade to Hong Kong

If Hong Kong is on your travel agenda through to January next year, Qantas has a deal that’s worth looking into – provided you do your homework and think before you click!

The “Buy Business, Get First in one direction” promotion is fairly self-explanatory: book a return business class ticket from Sydney to Hong Kong for a free upgrade to Qantas’ superb first class on one leg of the journey.

The special fares are on sale now through September 30, although travel is permitted until the end of January next year.

It sounds appealing, but let’s flag a few caveats that could catch out unwary travellers. 

Focus on the fine print 

First of all, a footnote in the Qantas deal advises that the upgrade to first class is “subject to availability” – in other words, it’s not guaranteed.

If you’re flying on a day when the first class cabin is already booked out – and that includes other travellers who took up the “Buy Business, Get First in one direction” promotion ahead of you – you can forget about living it up in the pointy end.

And to make the most of this first class experience, you’ll want to be flying on Qantas’ Airbus A380 superjumbo, which runs between Sydney and Hong Kong only on Thursday through Sunday.

The other three days of the week see a Boeing 747-400 scheduled onto this route, and its dated first class cabin simply doesn’t compare.

With this in mind, if your timetable is sufficiently flexible, at least one leg of your trip should be booked for a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Update: from 4 November 2013 Qantas will also run the A380 on Mondays, leaving only Tuesday and Wednesday as the route's 'Boeing 747 days'.

The biggest catch of all, however, is that the “Buy Business, Get First in one direction” deal applies only to certain types of Qantas business class fares – specifically, tickets in the C, D or J ‘buckets’. 

Read: Expert tips – working with ticket booking classes & 'fare buckets'

Not all business class fares are equal 

Qantas sets aside a certain number of business class seats for each booking class, with the most expensive fares belonging to J-grade tickets, followed in order by C and D.

These roughly correspond to the Business and Business Saver categories which appear when you search for Qantas flights.

The cheapest fares – Business Sale and Exclusive Business – fall into the smaller and more restrictive allocation of I-grade tickets, which don’t qualify for the free upgrade. 

Click the image below to see the four categories of Qantas international business class fares

If you can land an affordable Business Saver or Business return fare for your trip to Hong Kong, consider the potential bump into first class as a bonus.

If you’re not fussed about flying in first class then stick to the cheaper Business Sale and Exclusive Business deals. 

This offer isn’t available to those travelling on an award ticket, though if you choose to book one of the cheaper Business Sale or Exclusive Business fares, you can still follow the more traditional path and try your hand at a points upgrade.

Want to fly First? Then buy First!

 It should be noted that Qantas also offer several categories of first class fares, including the discounted First Suite Saver.

Click the image below to see the three categories of Qantas international first class fares

A quick search on the Qantas website for a Sydney-Hong Kong jaunt – in this case, departing October 14 and returning October 20 – revealed the cheapest qualifying ticket for the “Buy Business, Get First in one direction” offer was $8,483 (a C-class Business Saver return fare).

But for the same dates, Qantas was offering a First Suite Saver return fare for $7,484.

That’s almost $1,000 cheaper than the business class ticket and you get first class on both legs of the trip – no need to worry about a ‘based on availability’ upgrade!

Cost and comfort aside, there are a few notable differences between the expensive business class and (relatively) cheap first class fares.

For instance, the discounted First Suite Saver fare doesn't permit a full refund and has a $50 change fee, though one could still apply the full value to a future booking by changing flights (as opposed to asking for a refund).

Nevertheless, if you can live with the tighter conditions of a First Suite Saver fare, then it’s the only way to fly!

Now that you’re all set for for Hong Kong, don’t miss our handy business travel guides to this vibrant city.

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

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

A clever forensic dig into this deal Chris! I've been starting to fly to Asia more this year on business, mainly to Singapore but also Hong Kong, was tempted to buy this deal so I could get try QF first class but you're right, better to save $1,000 and travel in F all the way instead of J up and maybe F back!

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Al, incredibly now a convert to the value of an informed and well written and analytical article after your frequent personal slants when I have sought to encourage such from AusBT!

Go AusBT, go Al!


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 734

Nice article Chris and indeed proper research done on the details of the promo and the pricing.

The crown of most useless promotion this week goes to Qantas for sure!!! Especially since they also launched a business class companion sale (2 or more). Prices are perhaps half of a full fare ticket C class ticket, but there are at least 4 airlines out there who offer the same price when not having a promo on.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 1

While much of the article is correct, there is one major error.  With the combined Business / First offer, the First Class seat is guaranteed.  It’s booked and confirmed into First Class at the time the booking is made. 

Also, with the discounted First Class offer, and the companion business class offer, these are both available for only a few days (13 August)  while the Business / First offer is available until 30 September.  Secondly, availability for both short-term offers is restricted (in I class which Chris talks about above, and A class for First).  With J, C and D class bookings used by the Business / First offer, there are many more seats made available. 

So while not necessarily arguing with the comments above, knowing all the facts makes a difference.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

BA is better! When they have similar deal you have to call them to book and you will know upfront if you successful or not. And AFAIK there was no difference what kind of business fare you buying as long as seat available you can get it. Furthermore - I had been granted for an update for ticket that I bought before the deal started! Though of course flight time restriction still apply. And indeed definitely there was no such insane as "proper" business is more expensive then discounted first. In short - sometimes Qantas doing incredibly funny things and one should be aware of pitfalls. Thanks to Chris to pointed on them.

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Brilliant! Many thanks Chris! Analysis, synthesis of information, pertinent advice, relevant caveats, nicely written...

...excellent work!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

Did anyone else see the ad in SMH the other day from BA offering a free upgrade to First one-way on return Business tickets to Singapore and London?

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