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.
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!
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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