Qantas has unveiled sweeping changes to its frequent flyer program which are due to take effect from September 2019. The changes are a mixed bag, with travellers who chase premium cabin bookings and upgrades set to pay more.

We’ve crunched the detail on what this means for savvy frequent flyers. Read on to discover everything you need to know.

So, what’s changing in Qantas Frequent Flyer?

The shakeup announced today by Qantas is significant. We can expect to see an impact on the earning and redemption of miles, with Qantas also unveiling some new initiatives designed to appeal to different membership groups.

Here’s our overview of the key changes:

More reward seats are coming (5,000,000 per year)

Qantas has indicated that they’ve listened to member complaints about inaccessibility of award seats, particularly during peak travel periods.

They’ve promised to ramp up the number of seats available to be booked with points in all cabins, across every route, with a particular focus on international flights.

Frequent Flyer members will be able to access up to 5 million Qantas Classic Flight Reward seats annually. This will include “up to” a 30 per cent increase in International Premium Cabin reward seats including during peak travel periods to popular international destinations.

Carrier surcharges are in for the chop

The carrier surcharges (aka ‘fuel fines’) that Qantas levies on award bookings are notorious as being up amongst the highest in the world. Qantas is seeking to redress this by reducing down the fees on key international routes by as much as 50%.

Qantas states that travellers will save an average $200 per return journey, halving the out of pocket expenses associated with reward travel. A return Classic Reward flight from Sydney or Melbourne to London will see carrier charges reduced from $1080 to $700 in business class. A return economy flight from Sydney to New York will see carrier charges reduced from $360 to $180.

Travellers can access the reduced rates on international economy reward flights from today. However, for award bookings in all other cabins, you’ll need to wait until September 18 2019.

Qantas is launching a ‘Points Club’

Members will soon be able to take advantage of increased opportunities to earn status and rewards from spending, with Qantas looking to court those who earn lots of points through non-flying related activities.

The entry-level Points Club tier will be accessed through earning 150,000 points (primarily on the ground) in the membership year. A second level ‘Points Club Plus’ tier, with richer member benefits, will have a (yet to be announced) higher annual threshold.

Points Club members will be able to unlock flight and travel benefits such as lounge access and bonus status credits, plus member-exclusive offers and discounts.

Lifetime platinum status is coming

Qantas will launch Lifetime Platinum in August this year – but to get there, you’ll need to earn an eye-watering 75,000 status credits. Those lucky enough to reach the lofty levels of LTP will be rewarded with full Platinum Status benefits for life, regardless of how often they fly.

To the relief of many, there will be no changes to the existing Lifetime Gold and Lifetime Silver frequent flyer tiers.

Use your points for Air NZ, Air France, KLM, and Bangkok Airways

Qantas is opening up over a million more reward seats through partner airlines. This includes selected routes on Air New Zealand and recently opened up award seats on China Airlines. In the near future, members will also be able to use points to book flights with Bangkok Airways, Air France and KLM.

UX improvements to the Qantas website

Qantas has launched a new ‘next available flight’ feature showcasing reward seats to over 1,200 destinations. The website has also been streamlined to make it easier for members to search, book and manage future flights and hotels, as well as redeeming points at the Qantas Store.

Expect to see further changes here, with more improvements be added in the near future.

Economy redemptions will cost up to 10% less…

The number of points required for International Economy Classic Flight Rewards to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe will be decreasing by up to 10%.

…with premium cabin redemptions to cost up to 15% more

And now the kicker.

Travellers booking award seats in premium economy, business and first class will pay more points from 18 September 2019. The points increase percentages vary by travel zones. However, expect to be slugged up to 15% for outright award bookings, and up to 9% extra for upgrades.

The extra points cost is most significant for long haul first class. As an example, a return first class flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles currently costs 288,000 points. From 18th September, the points outlay will rise to 325,600 – an increase of 37,600 points.

The points cost of our favourite Qantas Points redemption, the Oneworld Classic Flight Reward, will also increase. A business class redemption will increase from 280,000 to 318,000 Qantas Points, while the cost of a first-class itinerary will jump from 420,000 to 455,000 Qantas Points.

The new Classic Reward Flight Tables are now live on the Qantas website and can be accessed here.

Our initial thoughts on the changes

It’s refreshing to see Qantas promising to open up more award seats, whilst also reducing down carrier surcharges on international flights. That being said, we’d note that the new carrier surcharges are still significantly higher than some other leading airlines.

In theory, 5,000,000 award seats each year sounds great – but we’ll be watching with interest to see how this is implemented in practice, particularly for premium cabin availability across peak travel periods.

Initiatives such as lifetime Platinum are arguably long overdue, and the Qantas ‘Points Club’ is a compelling concept that will appeal to members who primarily earn points through non-flying related activities.

At the end of the day, members who chase premium cabin award bookings and upgrades will lose out, as an increase in points costs won’t be fully offset by carrier surcharge savings. However, the devaluation here isn’t as extreme as I’d feared.

What are your thoughts on these changes?

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