UPDATE | Qantas has now launched its Platinum One frequent flyer level, and we've got all the details...
PREVIOUS | Qantas will make a play for the continued loyalty of its most frequent flyers next week when it rolls out the red carpet for a new elite ‘Platinum One’ level at the top of its Qantas Frequent Flyer food chain.
Only the busiest of business travellers will quality for this premium grade membership, which will require 3600 'status credits' to join – equivalent to five first-class return flights between Australia and London per year (or, more realistically, twenty-three business class flights between Melbourne and Auckland).
By comparison, the current top tier Platinum level requires 1400 status credits in the first year (and 1200 after that to retain membership).
Qantas is keeping its powder dry on exactly what perks are in store for Platinum One, but more upgrades are definitely on the cards.
This will include earlier notice of international upgrades as well as the facility for last-minute upgrades to fill vacant seats in the last few hours before departure.
“One of the things Platinums Ones want is as-early-as-possible confirmation of upgrades” explains Stephanie Tully, Head of Airline Loyalty at Qantas, who is leading the team developing Platinum One.
“You can now go online to check your upgrade request about seven hours before the flight, but we're looking at giving days of notice of upgrade confirmation” Tully told Australian Business Traveller, adding that those alerts would be sent vai SMS.
At the same time, Platinum One flyers will have access to last-minute upgrades where seats become available due to ‘no-shows’ at the airport and missed inbound domestic connections.
“The other thing we are going to try to do with upgrades is run them as close as possible to departure. At the moment, the last run is about 10 hours before departure.”
This leads to the annoying situation of walking on board to see empty seats in business and first – seats which Qantas will now seek to fill with its highest-value passengers.
The Ryan Bingham treatment?
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has jokingly set the bar high for Platinum One. "I keep telling people I want this to be like the treatment Ryan Bingham got in that movie Up in the Air."
"It will come on a solid metal card that will be delivered to each passenger by the airline's Chief Pilot...", he said, before continuing, "Of course, I'm joking about that," he said. "I think our Chief Pilot is busy enough as it is, without having to hand out frequent flyer cards!"
All the same, Tully attests that a cornerstone of Platinum One will be “high-touch recognition and service.”
“People who are flying this much are almost living on aircraft, so what can we do to make sure that those people feel totally appreciated every step of the way?”
“I'd like to offer them a phone number they can call to do anything they want through – a one-stop shop. And to know that we’re looking after them particularly when things go wrong, because one of the key drivers is ‘look after me really well in a disruption’.”
Such attention is crucial in retaining the cream of the frequent flyer crop – a crop which earned Qantas a hefty A$1.1 billion last year, with a world-beating revenue of $158 per frequent flyer program member and $27 per passenger.
(By comparison, the world’s three richest frequent flyer programs – belonging to US airlines United/Continental, Delta and American Airlines – averaged just $24 per member and $14.50 per passenger.)
Platinum handcuffs to keep 'em flying
Qantas’ frequent flyer program currently tops out with Platinum, and the risk is that passengers who easily hit that mark may be tempted to shift their flying onto other airlines where they can rack up similarly lofty status levels rather than leave all their eggs in the Red Roo’s pouch.
Platinum One is designed to encourage those super frequent flyers, many of whom travel in business or first class, to stick with Qantas.
Qantas began shaping up Platinum One late last year, Tully says, with an extensive market research program of super-frequent travellers with Qantas and other airlines, “and we understood there was a growing group of people who need more aspiration to keep flying with us.”
“We also spent a lot of time with people who will potentially qualify for Platinum One, understanding what things would mean their loyalty to Qantas would be even stronger. We know the Platinum One proposition has to be damn good, really, to keep them there."
Just how damn good that proposition is, and what platinum-lined privileges are on the menu, will be revealed early next week – and you'll read about it first on Australian Business Traveller.
(And for what it's worth, here's our list of the Top 10 benefits we'd like see Qantas offer to Platinum One frequent flyers.)