Beware: The booking tactics Qantas is using to push Points Plus Pay

Late last month, significant changes were unveiled for the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. At the same time, Qantas announced a range of upcoming improvements to its website.

On the face of it, these website changes are aimed at making it easier for travellers to use and redeem points. Qantas states that the objective is to enable consumers to search, book and manage future flights and hotels with greater ease.

However, I can’t help but notice that the Qantas website has been displaying several new features that arguably have a different aim in mind. Namely, Qantas seems to be using tactics to encourage consumers to part with their hard-earned Qantas Points at very low value.

The first issue? Qantas desktop website flight searches appear to be defaulting to a ‘Points Plus Pay’ view.

Upon logging in to the Qantas website to book flights, it’s possible to select one of two options for a flight search – ‘Use money, points or both’ or simply ‘Book with points’.

When opting to book with money, the Qantas website used to automatically display the cash price of fares, with classic award flight pricing shown to the right.

However, for the past few months, whenever I personally search for cash fares, the Qantas website defaults to displaying the ‘Use points’ option first – with the high priced Points Plus Pay options prominently displayed in the first three columns.

‘Points Plus Pay’ allows Qantas Frequent Flyer members to convert points into cash value as payment for the cost of a flight.

To demonstrate this, here’s what displays when I search an Adelaide to Sydney flight with the ‘Use cash, points or both’ option ticked:

website booking tactics Qantas is using to push Points Plus Pay

And here is the display for the ‘Use cash’ option on the same date, which I need to manually toggle to in order to access it. As can be seen, Qantas is inviting me to use 31,200 points for a seat I could outright pay $208 for:

website booking tactics Qantas is using to push Points Plus Pay

But it doesn’t stop there.

Once I’ve managed to select my $208 Red e-Deal flight and checked ‘continue’ to pay for my purchase, I’m helpfully provided with a message from Qantas, suggesting that I might like to upgrade my red e-Deal flight to business class using cash or Points Plus Pay. This message appears on both the desktop website and mobile app.

The price for an upgrade to one hour of business class on the 737? A payment of $717 cash – or an eye-watering 108,231 Qantas points.

Interestingly, there is no mention on the pop-up of Classic Reward availability, despite my chosen flight clearly showing a 24,000 Qantas point Business Classic Reward seat on the previous screen.

qantas points plus pay cash fare

Most travellers would agree that forking out a six-figure Qantas points sum to upgrade to a one-hour domestic 737 business class flight represents very poor value. This is particularly the case where a cheaper Classic Reward seat is readily available for that same flight.

qantas 737 domestic business class review seat long shot
Qantas 737 domestic business class is pleasant enough, but I wouldn’t fork out over 100,000 Qantas points to spend an hour in it.

And, when we compare the cash cost against the points cost for the upgrade scenario above, Qantas Frequent Flyer members are being offered just 0.66 of a cent in value for each Qantas Point to upgrade to the business cabin.

Clearly, some consumers will appreciate the convenient nature of Points Plus Pay (it can be used for any flight, and Qantas status credits are earned). However, there are usually much better ways to maximise value from Qantas points.

As an example, until 15 September, a one-way Qantas international business class reward flight from selected Australian cities to the USA costs just 96,000 points (excl carrier fees) – arguably providing much greater value.

While most of us are likely to be savvy enough to complete our intended purchase without resorting to a Points Plus Pay option, Qantas may be banking on the fact that less experienced Qantas Frequent Flyers will fall into temptation.

Have you spotted these new ‘features’ on the Qantas website?

While you’re here: Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest tips, deals and news. It only takes a few seconds and we respect your privacy:

6 thoughts on “Beware: The booking tactics Qantas is using to push Points Plus Pay”

  1. Avatar for Susan

    Hi Adele
    Another warning about Points plus Pay.

    I booked a return flight direct Hobart to Perth last year using Points plus Pay.
    I bought 2 economy tickets. Qantas cancelled that route and changed the flight to go through Melbourne. I was subsequently notified again of further changes to the flight times. At this point I requested to go a day earlier in case we didn’t get there in time to meet relatives on an inbound international Qantas flight. This change was made so we flew to Perth on the 26th Feb instead of the 27th. Returning still on 5th March.

    Due to the changed arrangements it became clear today one of us needed to return a day earlier as had to be back in Hobart at the latest in the morning of the 5th, not 9PM as scheduled. I couldn’t change on line and had to call.

    At first I was told there were no ‘points seats’ available on the 4th so I would have to buy a Business Class ticket. Cost $2,564.

    I disputed this as Qantas had never informed me that I would be restricted to ‘points seats’. I couldn’t get an explanation as to what ‘points seats’ are.
    I explained I’d used Points plus pay. And it was economy.

    After another long wait I was then informed I could change to the 4th, same flights and same times Perth to Hobart. But… again I was told I couldn’t get an economy seat and would have to purchase a flex fare – full price flex fare. $1076. No credit from what I’d already paid…oh and $99 change fare. On the Qantas page economy seats were clearly available for that flight for $771. Jet Star seats and Red Eye were also available in economy on other flights for less.

    I went through this with the call centre 3 times but despite there being economy seats available I was not allowed to change to one (and do the usual of paying in cash the difference).

    I could either cancel and rebook (with my points now being worth far far less) or accept a cost of over $1076 plus $99 thank you.

    Why? Because I’d used Points plus Pay.

    Needless to say I’m complaining to the ACC. Please warn people to check clearly and get it in writing on a chat help that they will have the usual rules of change if using points plus pay. Better still I think – avoid this mixed payment option.
    Thank you

    1. Avatar for Adele

      Hi Susan, sorry to hear about your experience using Points Plus Pay. We certainly agree that it should be avoided where possible!

  2. Avatar for Craig & Penny

    Hi Adele
    Thanks for your helpful article
    My partner and I have plenty of points to book 2 x business return to London – Europe for August next year but nothing available
    Happy to consider points plus pay but was wondering your thoughts on best “value” way to do this
    Craig & Penny

    1. Avatar for Adele

      Thanks Craig and Penny. Unfortunately, Points plus Pay almost never offers good value. With significant demand for award seats into Europe next year, your best best would be to demonstrate flexibility on both dates of travel, and the airports you are willing to fly into. Another tip would be to look at paying for a cheap revenue economy flight to an airport in Asia (think Singapore, Jakarta) and then searching for a premium cabin award flight into Europe from there. Best of luck with your trip.

  3. Avatar for Robert Rancie

    Another way to take cash. I recently paid for my wife and I to change our seats from economy to business, at Qantas suggestion. When our flight was cancelled we were put into economy on the next flight. After six calls I’ve given up trying to get a refund for the extra we paid

  4. Avatar for Mark

    Hi Adele ,

    I just became a points plus member while on the face of it it seems ok but when it says you earn status points I had a quick look and I’m pretty sure you have to pay a tonne of points to earn status. Sounds like a con to me. Have you looked into this? I know now is not the time due to covid but when flying gets back to normal?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top