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.
They are equally generous, and restrictive in my opinion.
- 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
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!
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?