This week in frequent flyer news

By Chris C., April 24 2015
This week in frequent flyer news

For the first time Aussie travellers can now redeem their Qantas frequent flyer points for business class upgrades on a partner airline, with Oneworld member LAN rolling out the red carpet for Qantas frequent flyers on its Sydney-Santiago flights.

Or if you're firmly in the Virgin Australia camp, whipping out your Velocity Frequent Flyer card at BP now nets two points per litre on petrol and two points per dollar on snacks and other goodies, over and above the 'two points per litre' deal currently offered through Qantas Woolworths/Caltex.

Also in this week’s wrap, we dive into the secret and invitation-only frequent flyer tiers of Qantas, Virgin Australia, Emirates, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines to show just how the world’s VVIPs travel in style.

Finally, there’s a way to nab cheap upgrades to business class on Virgin Australia via the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while rival IHG will also revamp Rewards Club to include a new top-tier loyalty status and to make it easier for Gold and Platinum members to keep their shiny cards.

Virgin Australia, BP partnership kicks off

Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer members can now earn two points per litre when buying fuel at BP service stations.

Grabbing a cold drink or some snacks for the road? Each dollar spent on in-store shopping will earn an additional two Velocity Points, up to $100.

The points-for-petrol partnership is intended to help equalise retail opportunities for Velocity members, against Qantas' dominant alliance with Woolworths and Caltex.

Read more: Earn Velocity points at the pump with BP

Qantas launches frequent flyer upgrades on LAN

Aussie travellers can now use their Qantas frequent flyer points to upgrade to business class on Oneworld partner LAN’s Sydney-Auckland-Santiago flights.

To upgrade, passengers must have booked their flights through Qantas as a QF codeshare – that’s QF321 from Sydney to Santiago (via Auckland) and QF322 when homeward bound – rather than directly with LAN as LA800 or LA801.

Upgrade and relax in business class aboard LAN's Sydney-Santiago flights
Upgrade and relax in business class aboard LAN's Sydney-Santiago flights

But upgrades aren’t available on any other LAN flights beyond the Sydney-Santiago route, including onward connections within South America even when booked under a QF flight number.

Here’s how it’s done: Qantas launches frequent flyer upgrades on LAN

IHG revamps Rewards Club

IHG will rejig its Rewards Club loyalty program from July with a new elite tier and revised qualification requirements for its existing Gold and Platinum levels, with points expiry rules to also kick in from 2016.

Under the changes, IHG’s most frequent guests will qualify for the as-yet-unnamed level after spending 75 nights each year at hotels including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, or notching up 75,000 ‘elite qualifying points’ in the same period.

At the same time, Gold will require just 10 hotel nights or 10,000 elite qualifying points and Platinum 40 nights or 40,000 elite points in a calendar year.

Read more: IHG revamps Rewards Club

The secret world of VIP travel

Private invitation-only airport lounges behind unmarked doors, the lofty privileges and perks that come with 'Very VIP status' – welcome to the world of the high-flying elite.

But relatively little is known about these cosy cliques: like Fight Club, it often seems that the first rule of belonging to these high-flyer clubs is that you don't talk about them.

However, we've pulled together what we can to bring you this guide to the world's most exclusive airline clubs and elite status tiers.

Read: The secret VIP tiers the airlines don’t talk about

Also read: 'The Club', Virgin Australia's secret VIP tier

Buying Starpoints for cheap Virgin Australia business class upgrades

Fancy not one, but three business class upgrades with Virgin Australia for just $680?

Under the latest Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) promotion, Starwood points are currently for sale at discounts of up to 25%, which can then be converted to Velocity points on a 1:1 basis.

During the discount window, bounty of 25,000 Velocity frequent flyer points can be yours for US$525, and redeemed for a return business class upgrade between Sydney and Perth, plus a one-way upgrade between Sydney and either Melbourne or Brisbane.

Read more: Buying Starpoints for cheap Virgin Australia business class upgrades

Qantas unveils new frequent flyer upgrade calculator

Travellers can now easily and more visually see how many frequent flyer points they’ll need for an to upgrade to premium economy, business class and first class with Qantas’ launch of a new upgrade calculator:

Simply plug in your desired route and select your fare type to see what’s possible, but be aware that the calculator simply crunches the numbers: it doesn’t check which service classes are offered on your desired route.

For example, both premium economy and first class appear when searching for ‘Sydney to Singapore’ (below), although Qantas serves the Lion City using aircraft equipped with only business class and economy.

Try it out for yourself on the Qantas website.

Getting the most from the Commonwealth Awards program

Whether you’re chasing frequent flyer points with Qantas or Virgin Australia, the Commonwealth Bank Awards program gives you the flexibility to earn with either airline without having to switch credit cards if your preferences change.

CBA customers can swipe their Awards credit cards to earn Commonwealth Awards points on their everyday transactions, which can then be converted into Virgin Australia Velocity points or automatically shipped across to Qantas each month.

But there are few quirks to the program that can both help and hinder your points haul – here’s what to look out for.

Continue reading: Maximising the Commonwealth Awards program

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

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