We get many queries from readers wondering why the Business or First Class seats they’re searching for cost hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of points when others can book them at a far better rate. The answer: they’re seeing ‘points plus pay’ seats instead of ‘reward seats’.

Clued-up Point Hacks readers will know the difference immediately, but if you’ve paid attention to the mainstream media recently, you might have come across reports of many members who aren’t aware, and believe that their Qantas Points are useless.

Points Plus Pay is on the left, while the Business Classic Reward seat is on the right.

Reward seats are what you should be hunting for with your growing balance of frequent flyer points. These coveted seats are usually bookable with a fixed number of frequent flyer points and a relatively small cash payment.

The main appeal of these rewards is they are not just available in Economy Class, but also in all other cabins, including Business and even First Class! The opportunity to fly in luxury for points and a small number of cash is an alluring proposition for many.

Sign up for our free reward seat newsletter and be alerted on new seat releases before we post it on Facebook! Read our reward seat newsletter example here (sent out on 24 October 2023).

But here lies the problem. Reward seat inventory is often very limited. As a ballpark, we don’t usually see more than four seats on popular flights in premium cabins. Some airlines, such as Qantas, sometimes release fewer or no points-based seats at all on certain flights, particularly the ultra-long-haul routes.

Add to that the millions of other frequent flyer members looking to book the same reward seats as yourself, and it can be difficult to find premium cabin availability on the most popular flights. Here are the basics of reward seats and tips on how to find them.

What are reward seats?

Airlines will call them many different names. But there are a few defining characteristics that apply to most (but not all) reward seats:

  • You primarily book them through frequent flyer points, with a cash component on the side.
  • Availability is very limited, particularly in premium cabins.
  • Demand can be very high, with popular routes selling out shortly after its release.
  • The points needed for a particular cabin and route are fixed based on a region or distance chart (but some programs are transitioning to dynamic pricing).
  • You don’t earn points or Status Credits on reward seats (unless you are a Qantas Points Club or Points Club Plus member flying on a QF flight).
  • The number of points required for Business Class is usually not much more than double the rate for Economy Class (in some cases, it can even be less than double), which makes it a great value redemption for point hackers. First Class rewards are often triple the rate of an Economy reward.
Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suite
Yes, even Singapore Airlines’ Suites are bookable as reward seats – in theory.

Finding and booking one is easier said than done. This guide looks at the various types of reward seats offered by our two main local programs: Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer.

Ad – Scroll down to continue reading.Minimum spend, terms & conditions apply.

How do I book reward seats with Qantas Points?

There are two ways to book flights with Qantas Points — ‘Classic Flight Rewards’ and ‘Points Plus Pay’. Don’t get confused about booking the wrong type of reward, though:

  • Classic Flight Rewards are the true reward seats you should be seeking. The points needed are fixed-rate and there is a cash co-payment as well.
  • Points Plus Pay is essentially when your points are converted to offset a cash fare. You’ll burn a lot of points this way, and it’s not the same as a reward seat. Avoid if possible.

How do I book a Qantas Classic Flight Reward online?

Classic Flight Rewards require a set number of points per flight, based on the travel distance. They are available with Qantas, Jetstar, all oneworld airline partners and many other non-alliance airline partners, such as Emirates, China Airlines and more.

To book a Classic Flight Reward through the usual interface, log in to your frequent flyer account and toggle ‘Use points’ on the booking window while searching for flights.

An example search with ‘Use points’ switched on.

Important: On the next page, be sure to tick ‘Reward Seats’ to filter out Points Plus Pay seats.

Remember, there is limited availability of Classic Flight Rewards available on each flight. Some flights may not have seats available in every cabin, as below. A cash co-payment is also required to cover taxes and carrier charges.

Click ‘Rewards only’ to filter out ‘Points Plus Pay’ seats. This is a rare example of all four cabins being available.

You can calculate the points you need for your Classic Flight Rewards redemption using Qantas’ Points Calculator (easy), or peruse the Classic Flight Reward tables (more advanced users).

Points aren’t earned on Classic Flight Rewards. You also won’t be able to earn Status Credits unless you’re a member of Qantas Points Club and are flying on an eligible fare.

How do I get the calendar view with Qantas reward seats?

This question is another one we see often. If you’re booking multiple reward flights or want to see all available flights, you might prefer the calendar view to book reward seats. To get this, do your search through the multi-city page. Make sure to choose ‘Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only’!

Step 1: Go to the multi-city booking page and enter your flights. You can enter up to six legs online.

Also, be sure to tick ‘Flexible with dates for all flights’ to see the calendar view. On the next page, you’ll see coloured ribbons representing reward availability. Dark gold represents Business Class. In the example below, we can see one day showing the dark gold ribbon.

Step 2: Review the options on the calendar view page.

Finally, choose the desired date to review the results. You’ll find the seat you’ve been looking for if you’re lucky. But be aware that sometimes ‘mixed class’ itineraries can show up, where part of the itinerary is in a lower cabin than what you’re after. These will show up with an alert icon.

Step 3: Review the reward seat options and proceed to checkout if you’re happy.

If you have difficulties booking a Qantas Classic Flight Reward online, you’ll need to call Qantas to complete the booking.

How do I book reward seats with Velocity Points?

Like Qantas, there are two ways to book flights with Velocity points – Velocity Reward Seats and Any Seats. Both are available with Virgin Australia and partner-operated flights. Of course, reward seats are also the best use of Velocity Points for flights.

Any Seats are essentially Virgin Australia’s version of ‘Points Plus Pay’. Unfortunately, there is no way to filter out Any Seat pricing if they are shown on the same screen as reward seats. But look for the ‘Reward Seats available’ icon on flights with reward seats.

How do I book a Velocity reward seat online?

Velocity Reward Seats also require a set number of points per flight, based on the distance travelled. You also need to pay taxes and carrier charges on top. The actual number of Velocity Points needed is less than Qantas for comparable flight lengths.

You can get seats on Virgin Australia and other partners, including Etihad, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines. Some carriers, such as Virgin Atlantic and Hawaiian Airlines, can only be booked over the phone.

To book these seats, simply select ‘Use Velocity Points” on the booking search page. Reward seats will show up in conjunction with Any Seats, where available. Ensure you see the word ‘Reward’ in the fare type to know you’re getting a reward seat.

An example of Singapore Airlines reward seats available with Velocity Points.

Summing Up

Searching for reward seats can be time-intensive and sometimes confusing, given the different ways Qantas and Virgin Australia allow you to use your points.

Knowing the difference between a ‘reward seat’ and an ‘Any seat’ or ‘Points Plus Pay’ seat will help to ensure that you are searching for rewards that meet your needs and frequent flyer points balance.

If you’re looking for the best-value seats with points, it sometimes takes patience and flexibility regarding dates and flight routes. But in the end, it’s one of the best uses of frequent flyer points, particularly when you’re relaxing in the luxurious surrounds of Business or First Class.

What’s next? Read how to search for reward seats efficiently →

What is a reward seat and how does it work? was last modified: October 24th, 2023 by Brandon Loo