What's next for Qantas frequent flyers with Lifetime Gold status?

By Chris Chamberlin, January 4 2014
What's next for Qantas frequent flyers with Lifetime Gold status?

Lifetime Gold status is a milestone in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme.

It's awarded to travellers who've clocked up a staggering 14,000 status credits during their QFF membership – the equivalent of 700 return Sydney-Melbourne trips in discount economy, or qualifying as a new Platinum-grade member ten times over.

And it lets you enjoy Gold-plated perks such as priority checkin and lounge access on all flights with Qantas and any of its oneworld partners for the rest of your life.

A real Qantas Lifetime Gold membership card. Angus Mordant (edited)
A real Qantas Lifetime Gold membership card
Angus Mordant (edited)

But assuming you've still got plenty of travel ahead of you, it's worth pausing to consider where you go from here in the frequent flyer stakes.

Qantas has no plans to introduce Lifetime Platinum status, which means Lifetime Gold is as good as it gets. That's why many travellers shift their frequent flyer affiliation to another oneworld program once they've got that Gold card in their pocket or purse.

A popular choice is American Airlines’ AAdvantage program, which offers competitive flight redemption rates when compared to Qantas Frequent Flyer – although AAdvantage miles are harder to earn than Qantas points on Australian soil.

Whether you ultimately decide to utilise a second oneworld program will largely depend on where and how far you travel, along with how you’d like to use your points or miles.

Earning miles: flights

When travelling on Alaska Airlines and nearly all members of the global alliance, Gold-level members of AA’s loyalty program (oneworld Ruby) enjoy a 25% mileage bonus, while Platinum and Executive Platinum members (oneworld Sapphire and Emerald, respectively) enjoy 100% bonuses across all participating airlines.

Conversely, the Qantas approach is to restrict this to only Qantas, Jetstar and American Airlines flight codes, though offers their Ruby (Silver) members a 50% bonus on their own metal (and that of Jetstar), with status bonus rates matching AAdvantage for Silver members travelling on AA, and for Emerald (Platinum) members travelling on eligible flights.

Qantas offers a status bonus of 75% at the Gold (Sapphire) level, making it less generous than the equivalent tier in AAdvantage – something to consider.

Frequent travellers in Qantas’ economy cabin don’t fare as well in AAdvantage, with some of the cheaper tickets earning no mileage credit at all – specifically those in the N, Q and E buckets – and many other economy fares earning at only 50% mileage.

International travellers will find fewer mileage-qualifying fares on Cathay Pacific; however the AAdvantage earning rates for flights taken on British Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways are significantly better than the Qantas Frequent Flyer earn rates for travel on the same airlines.

Emirates joined forces with Qantas earlier in the year, allowing travellers to earn and redeem points on Emirates flights, with status credits attainable when travelling on a Qantas codeshare service operated by Emirates.

Similarly, American Airlines has cosied up with Etihad Airways to provide mileage opportunities for travellers to the Middle East and beyond, with 'elite qualifying miles' (an AA equivalent of status credits) attainable when travelling on an AA codeshare.

IN SHORT: If you spend the most time on Qantas, Jetstar or Cathay Pacific flights, you'd be advised to continue crediting these to Qantas Frequent Flyer, while travellers spending more time on other oneworld airlines should consider the merits of AAdvantage...

Not only will you earn more miles than you would Qantas points, but you'll find that fewer miles are required when it comes time to redeem them – which we detail further below.

Earning miles: other spend

Though AAdvantage miles can be earned at certain hotels, on Diners Club spend and with participating car hire partners, broader opportunities similar to the Everyday Rewards program aren’t available in Australia.

Given this, you'd likely continue to earn some Qantas points – even if you move AAdvantage to pole position.

Redeeming miles: flight awards

Flight redemptions can be a somewhat complex comparison, so we thought it best to compare them visually.

We’ve chosen three popular oneworld routes – Sydney-Hong Kong with Qantas Airways, Sydney to Singapore with British Airways and Chicago-London on both American Airlines and British Airways – highlighting the differing redemption costs on the same exact flights to Asia.

You'll notice a staggering difference between the Qantas Frequent Flyer and AAdvantage rates, though it's worth noting that AA miles can't be redeemed for travel in the premium economy cabin.

Click on the table below to enlarge the image.

On the North American side, the fuel surcharges applicable to award flights on British Airways do make these a less favourable choice, particularly when American Airlines operates flights on the same route (as tabulated).

AAdvantage is also a viable choice for many Australian domestic flights, with Hobart-Perth (via Melbourne) in economy available for 10,000 miles plus US$21.70, with 18,000 Qantas points plus AU$69.78 required for the same journey.

Only Qantas Frequent Flyer allows members to earn points and accumulate status credits on certain types of award travel, though unless you're aiming for Qantas Platinum status, this probably won't interest you.

Redeeming miles: flight upgrades

Both programs allow travellers to upgrade flights on their airline’s own ‘metal’, with AAdvantage also catering for upgrades on both British Airways and Iberia.

In the same way that you can’t use Qantas points to upgrade on American Airlines flights, it’s worth remembering that your AAdvantage miles won’t help to secure a seat at the pointy end on Qantas-operated flights.

Qantas members can waitlist for upgrades on both domestic and international flights – though confirmed upgrades are only offered on domestic flights – while AAdvantage members can enjoy confirmed upgrades on all upgradeable flights, with waitlisting also available on AA metal if no upgrades are available.

Upgrade costs vary, as we compare below for flights in comparable upgrade zones.

If you can reach the heights of AAdvantage Executive Platinum status (oneworld Emerald), you’ll qualify for an unlimited number of space available ('500-mile') upgrades on flights within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, The Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and between the U.S. and Central America.

Every membership year, you’ll also receive eight ‘systemwide upgrades’ at the Executive Platinum level, which are each valid for a single cabin upgrade on any domestic or international American Airlines flight – either confirmed or waitlisted, depending on availability.

Bring your Qantas status across to AAdvantage

Through a 'status challenge', it is possible to attain AAdvantage Platinum (oneworld Sapphire) status without reaching the usual qualification levels in the program – though these details can be highly complex, so we'll defer to the team at Flyer Guide on this one.

Lounge access caveats

As there are a few conflicting lounge access rules between the two programs, it's best to keep both cards in your travel wallet – particularly if you're planning flights on Jetstar, Emirates, or within North America... if one elite card doesn't convey lounge access, the other will!

You decide...

Is AAdvantage a program that you would consider using for your future travel, or are you more than comfortable with Qantas Frequent Flyer? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Nicely done, Chris, thanks for the article.

A couple of further points for folk to consider:

To earn AA points:

  • you can buy points at very favourable rates on AA
  • you can use the "mileage accelerator" effectively buying points for AA flights taken
  • you can transfer from hotel programs (SPG, Mariott, Hilton, etc)

Buying points on QF is far too expensive. There is no mileage accelerator on QF. You generally get more point value on hotel points transfer to AA.

On status:

This year AA introduced ways to "buy" any shotfall in requalification. QF offers a "soft landing" (Platinums step down to Gold, etc), but otherwise you're left with the need to do a status run (with the option of "marginal" any seat awards) or the discretion of QF to overlook a small shortfall in credits.

It's a very risky strategy, but you can currenlty "buy" status on US Airways in the hope that this will transfer to AA during the upcoming merger an expensive ploy with no guarantee of result.

Hotel bookings:

QF points can be earned at high rates using the hotelclub 10 pt per dollar offer if you have American Express Membership Rewards (e.g. Gold ro Platinum charge card) with accrual to Amex and thence tramsfer to QF.

Otherwise US sites such as rocketmiles and points hound offer opportunity to accrue AA (and other airline) points, sometimes at very high rates of earn.

Credit cards

The big problem with AA is lack of credit card in Australia. Amex MR points can be transferred via a hotel chain (e.g. SPG) losing 50% on the transfer but gaining a bonus from SPG to AA (20,000 SPG = 25,000 AA).

Obviously several QF focused crads offer nice sign up bonuses.

Amex MR points offer much better value if transferred to prorams other than QF - Malaysia, Singapore, etc.

Short flights

QF awards are cost effective for short business class flights.

For my personal travel patterns I'm leaning towards a mixed strategy, spread the FF portfolio and put less focus of status. Money saved by prudent travel choices can be reinvested in point purchases on airlines other than QF.

Both QF and AA should be expected to introduce devaluations!

We all face interesting choices!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

I knew you'd comment, PLATY - when this came up on the homepage I thrift you'd have something to do with it! 

03 Jan 2014

Total posts 1

So that's 1400 flights that net 10SC. At $99 currently for a one way flight MEL-SYD that would mean $138,600 in flights and 1.4m points.

I've seen some qantas link flights cheaper, maybe around $59 one way. $82,600 then. 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

So realistically only achiveable by flying in business domestically without flying twice a week for ten years in economy!

Fo example BNE-CNS (a cheap business class route currently due to competition with VA) would require 234 fight sectors at around $250,000 spend, or $500,000 at the QF prices before VA business class kicked in!

Alternatively...

..and perhaps ironically, the equivalent of only 120 flight sectors in the USA/Caribbean/Central America on AA (and not QF!) with a price tag of $40,000 and first/business class.

The maths for accruing huge status credit totals on QF only really becomes compelling by combining double status credit offers with "marginal" anyseat awards on the very few routes left (after the unadvertised and unreported mid 2013 changes) that don't require large numbers of points! Unless of course work is paying for you to fly endlessly...

Any aspirational flying with QF needs to be considered against the risk of possible changes to their frequent flyer scheme and airline services in tackling the underlying near $1 billion predicted losses for 2013/2014.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2012

Total posts 72

The point that you make in the early part of the article is important. Once you get to lifetime gold there is nowhere to go except qualify for Platinum each year. I have been life gold for several years but have to qualify to retain my platinum each year. Additionally i cant get to plat 1 as my type of  flying means that i travel a lot on 1W partners rather than all QF. Last year for example i had over 3000 status points but alas still a P [not P1]. Also interesting to note is that there is a limit on loyalty bonus points. As these should be proportionate to your loyalty it seems to make no sence to cut them out as soon as you prove that you are loyal.

I have been a life member of Q club since the scheme was introduced [ 4 digit membership number] but never less than a gold FF so have had no benefit from that. I pay for all my own fares so dont rely on Govt or employer to earn points or status. 

To add insult to injury, if I choose to pay for upgrades or fares using points rather than cash I get no status points depsite displaying loyalty by flying 1W. Thus although travelling wih the group to prove my loyalty, I am potentially penalised by reducing my chances to get to P [or p1]

Yep, you are right. I feel rather let down by QANTAS with regard to loyalty [do you remeber when a platinum member could access the lounge even when meeting someone?]

Perhaps they will think of a way to reward loyal 1W customers but every time they announce a change I shudder as it will someway erode the points or status that I have already earned. 

I would like to hear of others comments re this.....cheers :)

 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Yes, Dave...and, yes, Dave.

So, where does that leave you (actually us given a similar situation, albeit with less international for me, thus the P1)?!

A few ideas to throw out there...

Out of 9 million QF FFs, the LTG (lifetime gold) and multi Platinums are in the minority, maybe 1000s or 10,000s. So not representative of the customer base at all. Whereas it is nice to think and assume individual high end customer should equal loyal appreciation from QF this cannot be assumed, in fact such record is only partially recognised, hence all the valid observations in your post, the two line letter on reaching LTG, the after hours P1 line being run by one person, QF being run on superficial cost saving analysis alone, the obsession with JQ, etc, etc.

What to do - the core of the article.

Given you are travelling extensively on OneWorld, why wouldn't you transfer your loyalty to the AA scheme which gives 100% bonus at Gold level (AA Platinum) on ALL OneWorld carriers, gives two to three times more value in redemptions, etc. You can achieve that in a couple of flights (read Platinum Challenge).

I would confess to a difficult and lengthy catharsis in letting go of over 20 years of loyalty to QF myself (despite the assumptions of many on this web site who go into an apoplexic volley of wailing accusations the moment you question QF or level any critique) but now belong to 20 FF schemes and have significant point balances in about 6 of them, all within a few months.

Loyalty is out. Do the maths. Don't look back. Support QF when it suits you, but don't hesitate to spread those FF wings.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

I have just left this message on the FEEDBACK part of the QF site.  I will look forward to see if I get a response.........

"Hi There  ..... I tried to find a place to leave a suggestion but it was not too easy to find.  I am LIFETIME GOLD (XXXXXX).  I have noticed a number of articles on Australian Business Traveller remarking on the disincentive to use QF once Lifetime qualified.  I am kind of in that situation. I live on Sunny Coast so have no QF services. naturally I migrated to VA and have been Platinum for a couple of years. Because of this, when I venture down to BNE for travel I use VA.  If (for example) you had the incentive of asking only for an annual (Status) sector usage of the difference between GOLD and PLATINUM I would most certainly make sure that booked enough flights to qualify.  One thing that astonished me was that not once I have I been asked as to why I stopped using after years of heavy usage. "

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Try being Platinum One and not flying with QF for some months...they still don't show any interest...go figure

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

I swear to god PLATY is a computer with all the details preloaded into his mind.


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