EXCLUSIVE | It’s already known that Qantas is working towards enabling points-based upgrades on American Airlines flights from later this year. But that’s just the start of what Qantas has in store. Once the integration with AA is bedded down, the Roo wants to allow upgrading with points across all of its current and future oneworld Alliance partners.

For instance, if everything goes to plan, you could ultimately use Qantas Points for an upgrade when flying Cathay Pacific. Or when travelling with British Airways, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and even Qatar Airways. The list goes on. And beyond the scope of oneworld, upgrades could extend to Emirates flights as well.

To learn more about this multi-year project at Qantas, I sit down with two of the airline’s most senior executives on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) AGM in Dubai. I’m joined by Vanessa Hudson – CEO and Managing Director of Qantas Group – and Cam Wallace, CEO of Qantas International and Freight. Let’s get to it!

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Points upgrades on Qantas’ oneworld partner airlines

Using points from one oneworld airline to upgrade on another has been a long time in the making. It’s something the Alliance has been planning since before the pandemic. Translation: It’s taken half a decade to get to this point. Linking IT systems in a new way between so many different partners certainly isn’t an easy task.

As previously reported, a trial began earlier this year between American Airlines and Qantas. Members of AAdvantage can already use miles for upgrades on Qantas flights. And soon, Qantas Points can be traded for upgrades when flying American. But where to next for upgrades between Qantas and its oneworld family?

‘We’re looking for our biggest partners where we have the maximum traffic,’ Wallace shares with Point Hacks. ‘We’ll do that in a prioritised type of way.’ Wallace doesn’t hint which partners would be targeted sooner than others. But given their presence in the Australian market, we wouldn’t be surprised to see heavy hitters like British Airways, Cathay Pacific – and perhaps, Japan Airlines – linked up sooner rather than later.

But here’s a thought. Would Qantas also roll out points-based upgrades for its members flying with Qatar Airways? After all, Qatar has a much closer relationship with Virgin Australia than with Qantas itself, given Qantas is closely aligned with Qatar Airways’ competitor Emirates.

‘Our ambition is to do it with all the 15 (oneworld) partners,’ Wallace says. For context, the Alliance currently has 13 full member airlines – Qantas included. Oman Air is set to join later this year as #14. Fiji Airways will also transition from its current oneworld Connect membership to be the 15th full member of oneworld.

‘We’ll go through the different oneworld partners, connect to their digital teams, and see where we can do that.’

More to come from Qantas

As many Point Hacks readers would understand, Emirates isn’t a oneworld member. But it does have a close partnership with Qantas. Travelling on Emirates mirrors many of the same arrangements as Qantas members experience aboard oneworld carriers.

But will Qantas also extend reciprocal points upgrades beyond oneworld to Emirates flights? I had to ask…

‘We’ll be looking at ways and means to connect with Emirates as well,’ Wallace tips. ‘And that might be a different system. This is a oneworld proprietary program,’ he says of the Plusgrade integration on the alliance side.

Speaking more broadly, Hudson underscores the importance of points redemptions. An area ‘we’ve been investing in – which is really important – is providing redemption access for our frequent flyers.’ The goal is for members ‘to be able to fly when they want, where they want in the cabin that they want.’

Using Qantas Points to upgrade across oneworld
Hudson speaking earlier at a oneworld Alliance IATA event.

‘As a new leadership team, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to customers and our people around where the pain points are, and we have been absolutely relentlessly focused on addressing them.’ Hudson adds that ‘we’re really happy with our progress … but having said that, the job is not done.’

The news comes as Qantas rolls out a new boarding process on domestic flights. Business Class, Platinum One, Platinum and other oneworld Emerald travellers are now invited to board first. That’s followed by others with priority (e.g. Gold and oneworld Sapphire), before general boarding begins. Hudson suggests the new system isn’t just better for frequent flyers but should help aid on-time performance. Time will tell.

Also read: You’ll soon be able to upgrade on American Airlines using Qantas Points

Imagery courtesy of IATA/Natalia Mroz. Chris Chamberlin attended the IATA AGM as a guest of IATA and Emirates.

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Qantas eyes points upgrades right across oneworld – and on Emirates, too was last modified: June 7th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin