The ultimate Qantas upgrade guide: how they work and how to get them

Using your Qantas Points for an upgrade to premium economy, business class or even first class makes any trip more comfortable.

By Chris Chamberlin, February 28 2020
The ultimate Qantas upgrade guide: how they work and how to get them

When it comes to air travel, one thing's for certain: nobodylikes to fly in economy, if they can help it.

Fortunately, Qantas Frequent Flyers can use Qantas Points to bump themselves up to premium economy or even business class – and, if already flying in Business, further forward into first class.

Here's why you might consider upgrading your next Qantas flight, and how to go about it.

Five reasons to upgrade your seat on Qantas

When you upgrade to premium economy, business class or first class, you get far more than just a different seat on the plane.

From better inflight service and dining through to pre- and post-flight perks and privileges, here are five reasons to consider upgrading on your next Qantas flight.

1. Skip the queues with priority service

Forget about joining the back of the economy queue: flying in business class means your journey begins with priority check-in, followed by fast-track security screening.

Then again at the boarding gate, you'll be one of the first to take your seat, so you can settle in and relax.

2. Pack more with extra baggage

As well as the other perks that a business class ticket provides, you'll have the freedom to travel with more luggage, which may be more bags, heavier bags, or both.

On domestic flights, upgrading from economy sees your 1x23kg bag boosted to 2x32kg bags – 64kg in total – while on flights to North and South America, the allowance of 2x23kg in economy and premium economy becomes 3x32kg in business class.

Most other international flights provide a base allowance of 30kg in economy, increased to 40kg in business class: although here, that's the same as in premium economy.

In many cases, having a Qantas Silver or higher frequent flyer card or a Qantas Club membership gets that baggage allowance boosted even more.

As an added bonus, business class passengers on international flights can bring up to two pieces of carry-on at up to 14kg total (max. 10kg per piece), again the same as in premium economy, but higher than the strict 1x7kg allowance in economy.

3. Head to the airport lounge before your flight

Whether taking a one-hour hop between Sydney and Melbourne or a 24-hour journey to the likes of London, a business class upgrade provides complimentary access to airport lounges, wherever available.

On domestic flights, this includes the dedicated Domestic Business Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth, as well as all domestic Qantas Clubs.

When jetting abroad, access is provided either to a Qantas-operated business class lounge or to a partner airline lounge, as varies from airport to airport.

If you've upgraded to first class on an Airbus A380 flight, many airports have a dedicated first class lounge you can access, too.

4. Relax in extra comfort on board

Take your seat in business class and enjoy the extra space and comfort, whether that's a reclining chair on most domestic flights or a fully-flat bed on some cross-country routes and many international services.

Of course, travelling business class also means upgraded inflight service, with complimentary beverages and meals suited to the length of the flight and its departure and arrival times.

5. Make a faster exit

At your destination, you'll be one of the first off the plane, which means getting to your next meeting – or home – even faster.

If travelling with checked luggage, those bags will be priority-tagged, and may arrive on the belt earlier than other baggage.

The two methods of upgrading on Qantas

When planning to swap your seat in economy or premium economy for the much more comfortable surroundings of business class, there are two possible routes to take.

One is to use frequent flyer points, and the other is to bid cash plus points for an upgrade. Here's how each works.

1. Using Qantas Points

On all domestic and most international flights and fares, passengers may be able to use Qantas frequent flyer points for a well-deserved upgrade.

Upgrades on domestic routes can be confirmed instantly if an upgrade is available, or waitlisted for consideration later on, if not. On international flights, all upgrades are waitlisted and are assessed closer to departure.

When travelling domestically, it's possible to request a points upgrade at the airport, although international upgrades can only be requested online or over the phone.

2. Using Bid Now Upgrades

If you don't have as many points – or would rather save them for another day – it's possible to make an offer of both cash and points for your desired upgrade.

Through this process, you'll need to offer at least 3,000 points per domestic flight or 5,000 points for international flights, plus an amount in cash of your discretion within a pre-set range for each flight.

Naturally, the higher the offer, the more likely it'd be accepted, but there's still no guarantee.

How much does an upgrade cost?

The number of Qantas Points required for an upgrade will depend on which type of fare you've purchased for your flight, where you're sitting on board (economy or premium economy), and the distance of the journey.

For example, swapping from economy to business class on a short domestic route like Sydney-Melbourne would cost 5,400 Qantas Points from a flexible economy fare, 10,900 Qantas Points from all other paid tickets, or 13,000 Qantas Points if your travel was already purchased using points.

On a longer flight such as Sydney to Singapore when booked in premium economy, you'd need 24,500 Qantas Points on flexible fares, 27,200 Qantas Points on mid-priced tickets, 29,900 Qantas Points on the most affordable reservations, or 39,200 Qantas Points when travelling on a reward ticket booked with points.

From economy on the same route, expect to part with 29,900 Qantas Points from a flexible fare, 54,500 Qantas Points from regular economy, or 58,800 Qantas Points from an economy ticket booked with points.

Note that on international flights, upgrades are not available on 'discount economy' fares, which generally includes 'sale'-branded airfares.

Upgrade waitlist rules

When you can't lock-in an upgrade straight away on a domestic flight, or when upgrading an international journey, there's a pecking order and process that determines who gets upgraded and who stays down the back.

Here's how that works.

1. Higher-tier frequent flyers are upgraded first

When waitlisted on a domestic flight, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers can have their upgrade considered within three days of their flight's scheduled departure, whereas Gold, Silver and Bronze members will have their upgrades assessed within 24 hours of wheels-up.

On international routes, Platinum One cardholders may be upgraded up to seven days before departure, while for Platinum members, as early as three days out.

All other frequent flyer upgrades are processed within 24 hours of the flight's scheduled departure.

2. A higher-priced fare also helps

As the number of upgrades available on each flight may be limited, not every upgrade request will be successful – and when there aren't enough to go around, Qantas goes beyond your frequent flyer status when determining who gets the bump.

This means the price or type of fare you've purchased may also be taken into account: for instance, if only one upgrade is available and two Platinum members have requested it, the upgrade would often go to the traveller booked on the higher-priced or more flexible ticket.

Beyond this, Qantas' computers also assign each passenger an internal 'value' on each flight, relative to other passengers, where other factors such as Qantas Business Rewards membership, past spend or forecast revenue can be taken into account.

It's the same process as determines which passengers are assisted first during a cancellation or offered seats on an earlier flight when there's a disruption – but of course, those rankings and the exact formula remain confidential.

Read: Flight cancelled? Qantas treats you based on 'customer value' formula

Checking for possible Qantas upgrades

Although there's no way to confirm whether international upgrades will be available before you book – given these are assigned closer to departure based on availability, in a rank order as above it's a different story when seeking to upgrade a domestic flight.

That's because these upgrades can be confirmed immediately, for frequent flyers of all tiers: so if there's an upgrade waiting in the system, it's yours for the taking.

Savvy frequent flyers hoping to upgrade may even check whether a bump-up is available before booking their domestic economy flight, with the plan being to upgrade as soon as the booking comes through. Here's how that's done.

Search for a frequent flyer upgrade

On domestic flights, there's a golden rule: if a flight can be booked in business class using frequent flyer points, then points can also be used to confirm an upgrade on that same flight.

This means that if you were to search for your flight as though you were hoping to book business class using points, you'd see whether that was indeed possible: and by extension, whether you're able to upgrade.

For a detailed look at how this works, read our Executive Traveller guide.

Read: How to check for Qantas business class upgrades before you book

Getting an upgrade on Qantas

Depending on which cabins are available on your flight, it's possible to upgrade from economy to both premium economy and business class; from premium economy to business class; and from business class to first class.

On some flights and routes, not all fare types are eligible for upgrades: and of those that are eligible, the number of points required may differ depending on the type of fare you've purchased. Here's what you need to know.

Premium economy

Upgrading to premium economy is possible on both domestic and international flights, although the only domestic route where premium economy is routinely available is Melbourne-Perth on QF9, which continues as the non-stop Perth-London service.

On those domestic flights, upgrades are possible from discount economy (Red e-Deal: 10,900 Qantas Points), flexible economy (Flex: 4,300 Qantas Points), and points-based bookings in economy (Classic Flight Reward: add 19,600 Qantas Points).

When travelling internationally on flights with premium economy, the lowest rung of economy fares aren't eligible for upgrades: only mid-range and flexible tickets, and Classic Flight Rewards.

As above, the number of points needed for your upgrade increases with the length of your flight, and the price of your ticket. Expensive fares on short flights require the fewest points, and lower-priced tickets on long flights require more, for example.

Keep in mind that Qantas only offers premium economy on Airbus A380, Boeing 747 and Boeing 787 flights, so if you're travelling on a Boeing 737, Airbus A330 or other aircraft type, there are no premium economy seats to upgrade into.

Read: Qantas premium economy upgrade guide

Business class

Unlike some airlines which restrict points-based upgrades to one class only, Qantas allows passengers flying economy to upgrade straight to business class, including on flights with premium economy.

Again on domestic flights, this is possible from any paid ticket and any seat booked using frequent flyer points, but on international routes, the lowest-priced economy fares are ineligible for upgrades.

On international flights with premium economy, you may also be offered a premium economy upgrade as a backup: that is, should your business class upgrade not clear, you may be upgraded to premium economy instead.

You can choose whether to opt-in for this or not: choose 'yes' and you may be upgraded to either business class or premium economy, or choose 'no' and you'll either be upgraded all the way to business class, or retain your original economy class seat.

Read: Qantas business class upgrade guide

First class

Although you can jump from economy up to business class – skipping premium economy in between – you can't do the same 'double jump' from premium economy through to first class.

Instead, you'll need to have booked a business class ticket on that flight: and one that's paid-for, not secured using frequent flyer points.

All paid discount business, business and flexible business fares on Qantas flights are eligible for a first class upgrade, subject to availability: although Qantas only offers first class on its Airbus A380s, and these upgrades are in high demand, so Platinum One and Platinum frequent flyers are more likely to receive one than those with lower statuses.

Read: Qantas first class upgrade guide

Qantas upgrade FAQ

Can Bronze frequent flyers get Qantas upgrades?

Yes! On domestic flights where upgrades are already available, all frequent flyers have an equal chance of securing them, as they're offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

On international flights, although higher-tier frequent flyers enjoy a higher priority when requesting an upgrade, that doesn't mean you'd never be upgraded as a Bronze member.

Can you upgrade from economy to first class?

No. Upgrades to first class are only possible from business class. If flying economy, you may instead be able to upgrade to premium economy or business class.

How do you request an upgrade on Qantas?

Head to the 'manage my booking' section of the Qantas website and log in to your frequent flyer account. If upgrade requests are possible on your flight, you'll see a button labelled "upgrade".

Can you upgrade other people travelling on the same booking?

Yes, but they must be eligible family members only. You cannot upgrade friends or colleagues, unless they are eligible family members.

To upgrade yourself only when other people are also travelling on the same booking, you may be able to split your passenger record into a separate reservation, either online or by calling Qantas, before processing or requesting an upgrade.

Can you upgrade on Emirates?

Qantas Points cannot be used to upgrade on any flight operated Emirates, either with a QF or an EK flight number.

Emirates instead allows its own Skywards members to request upgrades on Emirates-operated flights, but Qantas Points can only be used to upgrade Qantas flights, and a few select codeshare flights operated by partners.

These currently include LATAM's flights from Australia and New Zealand to Santiago, and Aircalin's flights from Australia to Noumea, when booked on a Qantas QF flight number.

Can you upgrade on Oneworld airlines?

Generally, no. As above, Qantas Points can only be used to upgrade Qantas flights, and a small number of QF codeshare flights operated by airlines such as LATAM, but there's no alliance-wide ability to use Qantas Points for an upgrade.

Does Qantas use upgrades to fill every seat?

Not usually. As you'd expect, passengers paying full fare for travel in premium economy, business class or first class are naturally the airline's priority, and if an airline believes it can sell a seat for money, an upgrade is unlikely to be processed.

However, upgrades are handy from the airline's perspective if it believes the higher cabin will have plenty of empty seats, particularly if the lower cabin is full or oversold.

In these circumstances, processing an upgrade not only benefits the passenger, but also the airline, because it can sell the same lower-class seat to another traveller at times when there isn't as much commercial demand at the front of the plane, or, avoids upgrading travellers for 'free' on oversold flights.

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.