Qantas points program revamp: the good, the bad and the ugly

Qantas has announced a major overhaul of its rewards system, but what’s in it for the average Aussie traveller?

Qantas announced a complete restructure of its rewards program late last week, including a new program called Classic Plus and more flights available to reward members. 

“We’re adding over 20 million new flight rewards with the launch of a new type of reward seat called Classic Plus. It’s one of the biggest expansions we’ve made to the Frequent Flyer program in its 35-year history,” Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson said.

“We know how much our members love the existing reward seats and have been booking them in record numbers, so the new Classic Plus product is over and above our commitment to five million Classic reward seats.”

The program was released with much fanfare and media attention, but like many changes in consumer rewards programs, when you get down to the bare brass figures, it doesn’t always add up as an ‘improvement’.

Some customers are definitely less than impressed. Comments on social media included labelling it a ‘Rewards Points Pilfering’ program and claiming it was just rebranded points plus pay. 

“It’s a complete con that the dumb media is lapping up,” said Nigel, who clearly doesn’t like to mince words.

What can consumers expect?

Let’s take a closer look at what it means for Qantas’ 14.7 million loyalty members.

The flying kangaroo’s new program, Classic Plus, will sit between its existing Classic rewards and Points Plus Pay programs. 

One of the most common complaints about Qantas’ reward system is that despite having enough points, it’s almost impossible to book a rewards flight.

However, with the changes Frequent Flyer customers will have access to more than 20 million more reward seats, which Qantas claims is one of the biggest ever expansions in the program’s history.

Classic Plus reward seats are also eligible for upgrades.

The points required to book Classic Plus reward seats will vary like normal airfares, which means they’ll be lower during off-peak periods or when booking early, and higher during peak periods. During sales and promotions, Classic Plus reward seats may drop below a Classic reward seat on the same route.

Like usual flights, Classic Plus reward seats will be cheaper on return tickets than one way. 

In comparison, Classic rewards flights are set at a static level, mostly based on flight distance. 

Classic Plus seats can be booked for international travel now and for domestic travel from 1 July. They are available across all travel classes.

Cash comparison

However, according to the Australian Financial Review, Classic Plus seats require the redemption of more frequent flyer points than Classic rewards seats. And using cash figures, they are also worse value.

A Classic Plus booking redeems at 1c per point for an economy seat and $1.5 per point for a premium economy, business or first-class seat. This does not include fees and taxes. Classic Reward bookings can exceed 3¢ per point for business and first-class seats.

For example, using Qantas’ own figures, you can buy a one-way Sydney to New York via Auckland fare for 55,200 points plus $253 for a Classic reward booking, compared to 105,000 points plus $253 for a Classic Plus reward booking.

Classic Plus is also only available on Qantas flights and cannot be redeemed on Jetstar or any of Qantas’ partner airlines. 

Our verdict, releasing more seats for rewards is always welcome, but consumers will have to weight up if it’s worth the extra costs before booking their next flight.

Are you a member of a flight rewards program? Do you think it’s worth it? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Australia’s tardiest airline named

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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