Tue, 26 Sep 2023

Classic rewards dry up for high end Qantas frequent flyers

Johannesburg News
18 Sep 2023, 10 GMT+10

SYDNEY, NSW, Australia - Qantas has pitched business and first class seats on almost its entire network at unreachable levels for its millions of frequent flyers.

Flights from Sydney or Melbourne to U.S. destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Houston, are now costing more than two millions points for a return trip on business class. While Qantas maintains there are Classic Reward seats available they are virtually impossible to find.

A relentless search by Big News Network for a return business class flight from Sydney and Melbourne to each of the U.S. destinations for numerous dates over the next 12 months came up with zero Classic Reward seats, even one way.

Instead the lowest cost we found was 2,036,000 points for a Business Saver seat. A Business Flex seat would set customers back 4,346,000 points.

Going on current cash prices for flights to the same destinations, of more than $12,000 for a Business Saver fare, or more than $23,000 for a Business Flex fare, a customer would have to fly 74 return business class flights to one of these U.S. destinations to earn 1 flight, at a cost of around $900,000 for Business Saver flights, or around $1.7 million if flying on Business Flex.

Using Qantas's so-called top-up program where the carrier sells frequent flyer points to customers, even at the top end of the discount scale, buying the maximum 150,000 points in any one transaction, a customer would have to pay $53,320 in cash to buy enough frequent flyers points to obtain the lowest costing return class flight in business class to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston.

Flying Sydney to London, frequent flyers need to cough up around 771,730 points for a one way Business Sale fare, or 1,278,287 for a flex fare. (5 July 2024).

Getting back on 21 July 2024 only Business Saver fares are available, at a cost of 1,041,904 points, or if customers opt for a flex fare the cost would be 1,455,838 points.

Honolulu flights from Sydney are impossible to locate going out 12 months. Business Saver fares go for 744,271 points, or Business Flex fares 886,076.

Return flights from Honolulu to Sydney however are even rarer, with only Business Flex fares available most days at a cost of 1,113,304 points.

There is the rare Classic Reward flight for a cost ranging from 79,900 to 94,900 points but these are on Jetstar, the airline's low cost carrier, and the flights are usually via Melbourne.

Travelling across the Tasman, direct flights to say Auckland can cost 123,387 to 247,156 points business class one way. Average all-up cost for return flights range from 255,000 (Business Sale) to 480,000 (Business Flex). There is the occasional Classic Reward flight for 41,500 points but these are always via another city, mostly Melbourne, more than doubling the flight time from 3.05 hours to 7.05 hours.

Domestically, flyers get a better chance. A flight from Sydney to Perth, while generally costing 451,757 points each way (a total of 903,514 return), can also be picked up on a Clasic Reward basis for 41,500. While most of these flights are via Melbourne (travelling to Perth) and Canberra (returning), we did find a direct flight from Sydney to Perth at the lowest cost of 41,500 points. Using the Qantas top-up-points program to vaue this, the cost equivalent would be $1,106 which was good value compared to the cost in cash.

Despite the scarcity of Classic Reward flights overall, according to the Qantas website, as accessed on 18 September 2023, one in 10 seats across the Qantas network are available as Classic Flight Rewards.*

Note the asterick (*) at the end which when users click on it, reads:

* One in 10 seats is based on the number of Classic Reward seats available for booking as a proportion of the total number of seats available across the Qantas international and domestic network. Some flights may not have any Classic Flight Rewards available. Terms and Conditions apply.

The website notation goes on to say: "We've also extended our commitment of up to 50% more Classic Flight Reward seat availability on Qantas international and trans-Tasman routes until 31 December 2023."

Late last month the Australian carrier said it was gifting more than a billion Qantas Points to Frequent Flyers who have flown at least one Qantas flight in the past 12 months in recognition of their loyalty.

Eligible customers received an email inviting them to choose between 1,000 frequent flyer points or 30 status credits. Those who flew 10 or more times were gifted 5,000 Qantas Points or 75 Status Credits.

Even with the higher offer, to secure a return business class fare to Los Angeles, Qantas would have to repeat this offer every year for the next 400 years.

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