TALKING POINT | Business travellers clock up a lot of frequent flyer points, and when it comes to spending those hard-earned Qantas Points, they often come up against a common quandary: should they use them to book a flight outright, or funnel them towards applying for an upgrade?
Upgrading a paid ticket can cost fewer points than the alternative. However, on international routes, most travellers only learn whether their upgrade offer was successful within a day or two of departure – resulting in disappointment and a less comfortable journey if you remain stuck down the back.
In favour of making a firm points-based booking? Yes, it requires more points up front, but you know that your travel class of choice is locked in.
It also provides the opportunity to travel with many of Qantas’ partner airlines – such as Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Qatar Airways – where upgrading using Qantas Points isn’t possible.
Which approach is best? That depends on the individual, and to an extent their indulgence in 'risk factor'.
While one could do the maths on the ‘value per point’ that each option generates, there's a far simpler approach which I've long since adopted: upgrades are for business trips, points-based bookings are for holidays.
My philosophy is that a leisure trip is about relaxing and unwinding from the moment you leave home until you return. Using points to secure a business class (or even first class) flight provides that certainty up to a year before the journey, rather than rolling the dice in the ‘upgrade lottery’ in the hours or days before heading to the airport.
A points-based booking also lets you cherry-pick where and when you fly, based on the best airline for the journey or which flight provides the best opportunity for using points. As a result, you won't be bound flying with only one airline in an attempt to secure an upgrade which may or may not eventuate.
On business trips, I find I'm more focussed on work and spend much of the flight typing away on my laptop – so an upgrade from business to first class, for example, simply doesn’t offer as much time to enjoy the experience as on a holiday.
Using your points wisely is key to getting the most from what you've got – so it can make more sense to spend more of your points towards booking flights, with an occasional upgrade put through for good measure.
Do you regularly partake in the Qantas international ‘upgrade lottery’, use your points to secure firm domestic business class upgrades, or spend those points securing your preferred flight from the onset, taking chance out of the equation? Share your strategy with fellow readers via the comment box below.