Booking A Round-The-World Award With Qantas Points

Recently I wrote about what I believe to be some of the best uses of Qantas points. I mentioned the Oneworld Classic Flight Reward, which is a round-the-world redemption offered by Qantas Frequent Flyer.

A number of readers asked for more information on this redemption, so here it is.

The points required

You can book this redemption in the following classes, for the following number of Qantas points:

  • Economy – 140,000 points
  • Premium Economy – 210,000 points
  • Business Class – 280,000 points
  • First Class – 420,000 points

You can book a mixed-fare redemption, but you will pay the number of points for the highest class in the itinerary. As for which class to aim for, some advice:

  • Economy – As I will discuss below, while availability would be almost unlimited, the fees and surcharges would mean this will be a poor use of your points. There is so much competition on some of the routes you will be considering, and it could be a better value to just buy a series of mix and match economy revenue tickets from various airlines. This is a time when a REALLY good travel agent will be worth their weight in gold.
  • Premium Economy – This is better value, but note several oneworld airlines don’t offer premium economy, so you may be stuck in economy on certain segments, but paying the premium economy price.
  • Business Class – This is the sweet spot, as I’ll discuss below.
  • First Class – While it would be wonderful to fly all around the world in first class, only about half of the oneworld airlines offer first class (Qantas, British Airways, American, JAL, Malaysia, Cathay Pacific and Qatar) so you will be limited in your routing options. Of these airlines that do offer first class, American, Malaysia and Qatar only offer it on a handful of routes. Beyond that, award availability will be extremely difficult to come by on so many routes. And a lot more points are required.

The rules

They are equally generous, and restrictive in my opinion.

The generous:

  • You are not required to fly Qantas at all, even where they operate a route you are trying to book
  • You can book any oneworld airline that has award availability
  • You can fly up to 16 segments/flights including ‘land overlays’ (see below)
  • You can fly up to 35,000 miles in total distance
  • You can have up to five stopovers of more than 24 hours, and as many ‘transits’ of up to 24 hours as you like
  • You can open jaw from and to your origin city, but the distance between the two is counted towards your 35,000 mile total distance
  • You can backtrack, provided you stay within the segment, stopover, and total distance limits
  • You can change your itinerary as many times as you like before departure
  • In theory, it can all be booked online

And the restrictive:

  • You cannot book any of Qantas’ ‘other’ partners such as China Eastern, Emirates, Jetstar and El Al
  • You need to fly at least two oneworld airlines other than Qantas
  • You cannot repeat a stopover city (though you can transit it)
  • There is a change fee of 5,000 Qantas points each time you change your itinerary
  • Fuel surcharges definitely apply, especially with the likes of British Airways
  • In reality, many itineraries cannot be booked online
Qantas A330/B787 Business Class

So what’s possible?

Because the business class redemption really is the ‘sweet spot’ in this redemption, I’ll be focusing on this.

There is a very handy oneworld round-the-world planning tool to help you determine which airlines fly which routes, and the distances and schedules, which I’d recommend using as you plan.

I haven’t booked one of these itineraries myself, but a friend on an Australian FF Facebook group I’m a part of (hi Jenny!) just did, and she has graciously allowed me to share it with you.

She recently booked the following (with the five stopover cities bolded), all in business class for 280,000 Qantas points:

  • Brisbane – Sydney – San Francisco (Qantas)
  • San Francisco – Chicago (American)
  • Chicago – Doha – Vienna (Qatar)
  • Vienna – London – Bucharest (British Airways)
  • Bucharest – Doha – Mumbai (Qatar)
  • Mumbai – Colombo (Sri Lankan)
  • Colombo – Hong Kong – Sydney – Brisbane (Cathay Pacific)

This itinerary had 13 sectors, and distance wise was around 33,000 miles, so an outstanding use of Qantas points.

You can have ‘land overlays’ where you make your own way separately from one city to the next (by any means of transport), rather than flying it as part of your redemption (such as where you may fly into Madrid, drive to Barcelona, and then fly on from Barcelona). The distance of this land overlay is counted towards the 35,000 mile total, but not as one of the 16 sectors.

Jenny chose not to have any land overlays.

By not stopping in London, she also avoided the UK’s frustrating APD tax. As you can see from the map, backtracking is definitely allowed.

Jenny has a really excellent selection of some of the best oneworld carriers – where possible I’d definitely recommend aiming for Qatar, JAL, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and Finnair, in that order. I’m very attracted to the idea of sampling and comparing several of the best of the best on one trip!

It’s always easier to have your stopovers in oneworld hub cities to avoid backtracking and ‘wasting’ distance. So assuming you are starting and ending in Australia, Los Angeles, New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo seem to be the most popular stopover cities, although be aware a London stopover followed by a long-haul flight means the APD tax will kick in.

The total fees, taxes and fuel surcharges will vary hugely depending on your routing and number of sectors but expect to pay at least AUD$1,200 per person for an itinerary like the one above, increasing to closer to AUD$2,000 per person, if the itinerary includes British Airways and stops in London, as mentioned above.

How to book

Here’s why this is not the most popular and widely used Qantas redemption.

First of all, while some itineraries can be booked entirely online, the Qantas website will not show certain partner flights and destination airports, and may not calculate your total distance in the exact same way that you have.

If you try and book this online but their system thinks you have breached one of the rules listed above (either generous or restrictive), whether you think you have or not, it will start pricing per leg, so far more than the 280,000 points will be required.

So, for these reasons, most people book this by phone.

While you may get an operator who knows exactly how to book this redemption, you can probably guess that booking 16 legs on multiple carriers, calculating all of the fees, taxes and fuel surcharges, as well as checking you are within all of the rules listed above, is going to take a long time. If you are booking by phone I would allow at least an hour per attempt.

You can use ExpertFlyer and/or the Qantas website to check your flights are available, write them down and then feed them to the operator flight by flight, using carrier and airport codes and flight numbers. The Qantas operators have better understandings of geography and oneworld partners than the old dears at US Airways, but understand this is a very complicated itinerary to ticket.

Jenny did mention that she was quoted different total fees, taxes and fuel surcharges each time she went to book, so it’s always worth getting a second opinion unless you are an absolute whizz with numbers and ITA fare breakdowns.

The other big problem is with availability. The best time to book this redemption is as far in advance as you possibly can, i.e. up to 12 months out if your itinerary includes Qantas flights.

Now the problem this raises, is that your are unlikely to complete a 16 sector, five stopover trip in only a week or two, meaning your first few flights will become available well before your final few flights do.

Most people book the first few flights as they become available, and then call to add later flights once they become available. You can do this as many times as you want, but remember there is a 5,000 Qantas point fee for each change. This is really the only way to ensure you get the exact flights you want, especially on difficult routes, like transpacific.

So expect to pay the change fee several times!

The Qantas lounge, London Heathrow

Bottom line

If I had a spare 300,000 Qantas points I would definitely look into booking this. While that is a huge number of points compared with the likes of LifeMiles, considering a return business class redemption from Australia to Europe can be 280,000 points alone, you may as well aim for the scenic route instead!

It’s definitely ‘trip of a lifetime’ stuff and would be ideal for a honeymoon or a big ’round birthday,’ where you can plan more than a year in advance.

Considering that Qantas Frequent Flyer is generally a poor value program, if you are willing to jump through the hoops and have a sense of adventure, then this is a fantastic use of Qantas points.

Have you ever booked a Qantas round the world redemption?

Comments

  1. Vienna – London – Bucharest (British Airways)
    Bucharest – Doha – Mumbai (Qatar)

    that’s awful to get from Vienna to Mumbai? That’s the problem with One World in Europe…

  2. Interesting but I’m not convinced that there’s much of a saving doing it this way rather than sector by sector combined with some paid ones if necessary. Could be marginally fewer points but not as much flexibility.
    BTW, you say that Oneworld route planner is “handy”, I say it’s a nightmare from hell designed by vicious millennial sadists.

  3. @ Frank – Oneworlds coverage in Europe isn’t bad, even after the demise of AirBerlin. BA have a very solid route network, as do Iberia. Finnair’s isn’t bad either. I expect Jenny chose this routing because she wanted to stop in both Vienna and Bucharest and wanted to fly Qatar as much as possible.

  4. @ Paolo – AusBT tried pricing it up individually and it was 410,000 points pp in business class, plus the same fees and taxes.
    Qantas isn’t a great value program (as I’ve written about previously) so this is a good use of points in a poor value program.

  5. @James I strongly disagree with your ranking of OW airlines, particularly their Business Class products. Whilst QR is the industry and alliance leader, I would definitely put CX in number 2 position. QF Business has improved incredibly on A330 (haven’t tried it on A380) so I’d put them at no. 3 and Finnair at 4th if it is a Finnish operated aircraft (not Hong Kong or Singapore). I flew JAL on 787-9 Sky Suite III yesterday and they were TERRIBLE… Soft and hard product need work… UL has great service from the heart but catering and aircraft need a refresh. Just bring your credit card with you. BA Business is terrible within Europe and also longhaul. The airline you missed was Iberia – huge improvement and a great seat on their long haul aircraft!!!

    LATAM, American, RJ and S7 need to send their crew to Qatari flight training!!! MH is so inconsistent! Flying them tmr on A350 but their flights within Asia are good even if they don’t serve alcohol on flights less than 3 hours AMAZINGLY!!!!

  6. @ Anthony – I’ve flown CX and QF J on the same route and while I love the privacy of the CX seat, I find the service really distant and their food pretty lazy. The fact that they can’t do dine on demand speaks volumes. I love the QF service, although admittedly I’m Australian.
    I’ve loosely chosen each airline’s ‘best product’ for my list so for JAL it would be their Apex Suite which lucky identified as one of the worlds best business class hard products.
    Some people love the Finnair A350, others hate it.
    Nothing wrong with healthy discussion of best and worst airline products!

  7. JAL didn’t offer dine on demand for this Australian either on JL724. Although not corporate policy, if you ask upon boarding to eat after a few hours of sleep and tell them which main course you’d like, they’ll “save” it for you. Recently, big food changes have been happening in Business.

    Each person is different but I prefer to fly my 200K Miles each year with QR & CX because they are the standouts! Maybe time to try CX again, this time on A350 longhaul, James!

  8. James, last week I offered my opinion that it would be great to hear more from you about points redemptions or other practical insights instead of more reflective pieces. This is exactly the type of article I meant: It’s informative, clearly written, intelligent.

    The weird thing is that it seems that some of the comments are somewhat more argumentative in nature, but to me that’s even better because I get to learn about different opinions. Thanks also, James, for responding to the comments as the discussion is oftentimes just as elucidating as the piece itself.

  9. I’d be grateful for a column comparing ALL of the different alliances/airlines round-the-world on points options.
    A perfect column for Tiffany, with James and Ben weighing in.

  10. I still find ANA’s round the world award the best value (plus Star Alliance gives you access to more places IMO).
    https://www.ana.co.jp/en/us/amc/reference/tukau/award/tk/zone.html (go to Round the World Itineraries)

    You could fly around the world for about 115k-125k in J or 180k-200k in F depending on how many hops you take.

    E.g. LAX-EWR-LON-FRA-PEK-HKG-NRT-LAX would run you 115k in J or 180k in F, which is significantly cheaper than any other FFP with round-the-world programs.

  11. Worth noting that the change fee is now 6,000 (another fee applies for economy – which makes it even poorer value) and all oneworld carriers should now be available online with QF (not all ports though unfortunately).

  12. Super article, really fascinating. I’ve found so far best way to fly Qantas on a RTW itinerary (halfway through it now) is by redeeming AA miles. Next flights are Noumea – Sydney – Johannesburg. That said Katie’s comment makes me want to start hoarding ANA miles!

  13. A wonderful article, thank you. However, the opening sentence is very misleading. This Qantas oneworld award product DOES NOT require you to travel round the world so it should not be framed as such. Similarly, the oneworld timetable is a better tool (http://onw.innosked.com/(S(2pwf1fz11oz3iqctsbj2eskb))/default.aspx?show=MAP). Also, while you allude to it, I think it’s worth pointing out in the “restrictive” section that once travel begins, you cannot make any changes whatsoever.

  14. Last two international flights I flew both booked with AA points on Qantas much better than booking with Qantas, both F Class LHR/MEL and SIN/MEL saving over 100,000points using AA points.
    Pity that Qantas both hard and soft product is so bad, both flights A380 aircraft very worn in need of refurbishment, both flights left late evening so crew wanted everyone to go to sleep, food offered in first could only be called “ greasy spoon variety” and made mockery of Qantas claim that Neil Perry acclaimed famous Australian chef oversees the food,he would be ashamed.

  15. Used OneWorld Explorer fare for “280,000” (actually a lot more) six years ago (even less operators knew about it then), all booked over the phone. Began with first leg Syd-Jo’burg at 11.5 months in advance. Overlanded a lot, paid for a few segments, ended up doing the Berlin-London-Vancouver leg in First (whoops… that upped the total and nobody, least of all me, knew that it took it everything to the next points level). Trained across the USA and down to Miami, cruise, paid segment to Vegas, then SFO to Cusco, Peru… eventually, after South America, flew Santiago to Sydney. Would do it ALL differently now with the benefit of hindsight but still had the most incredible year travelling around the world. Advice? We didn’t book our final two legs until a month or so before we left as soon as SFO to Cusco and Santiago to Sydney came available. Not on the dates we wanted as that was over a month away from opening up… So had to take the chance that there would be availability the exact day space opened up… All worked out despite hopping around trying to find high ground and a mobile signal in the depths of Tanzania when phoning QF service in London on the day space opened. Be prepared for change fees as you build out your trip of a lifetime – but what you get in return for lots of points and a couple of grand in fees (for two) – Incredible! (if not quite Priceless!) We’re retired youngsters now housesitting around the world… lack of income means much harder to build up a points balance to do another RTW extravaganza… but still squirrelling away QF miles for another RTW Explorer ‘one day’.

  16. Nice article and well done to Jenny! Would be interested in a similar article on BA RTW Oneworld tickets.

    For UK APD remember that if you have >24h in the first place you’re flying to that’s all that counts for APD. I did that on my my last SQ redemption – Suites to NZ, all in one ticket but EDI-FRA in economy with 25h in FRA meant I only paid £13 in APD!

  17. Question regarding Steven’s Post: How do you book the Qantas RTW itinerary using AA points. I have a boat load of AA points and would love to do this in a couple of years.

    **********
    Steven M says:
    May 21, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Super article, really fascinating. I’ve found so far best way to fly Qantas on a RTW itinerary (halfway through it now) is by redeeming AA miles. Next flights are Noumea – Sydney – Johannesburg. That said Katie’s comment makes me want to start hoarding ANA miles!
    ****************

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