Back in 2016, Qantas made it possible to request an upgrade using your Qantas Points for Classic Flight Reward bookings (i.e. bookings you’ve made with your Qantas points).

This ability to upgrade Classic Flight Rewards has introduced another layer of complexity when looking to redeem your Qantas Points but has the potential to extract some value from your hard-earned frequent flyer balance.

Here’s how it works, and how it stacks up against redeeming for a flight outright.

The difference between paid fare upgrades and Classic Flight Reward upgrades

The points cost to upgrade a paid fare varies on the type of fare (i.e. it costs more to upgrade a Discount Economy fare than a full-fare Flexible Economy ticket), which is reasonable.

As opposed to upgrading a paid ticket using your points, which may be useful if your employer has paid for an Economy ticket and you wish to use your points to upgrade, it’s important to remember that if you elect to upgrade a Classic Flight Reward,  you will spend more points overall to upgrade to the higher cabin class than if you redeemed for that class outright.

What does it cost to upgrade a flight?

Qantas has published two tables for flight upgrades – Domestic and International. These tables have different amounts for the same distance band for standard cash fare upgrades but are the same for upgrading Classic Flight Rewards.

The points cost for these tables are shown below. These tables highlight the total cost in points of upgrading a Classic Flight Reward ticket against upgrading directly into the higher cabin class outright.

Domestic Fares

There are two Qantas Domestic tables available, one for upgrades to Premium Economy and the other to Business.  While domestic aircraft do not include a Premium Economy cabin, the former is used for domestic segments of international flights that offer Premium Economy.

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to Premium EconomyTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Premium Economy redemptionDifference
10-6008,0008,70016,70013,8002,900
2601-1,20012,00013,00025,00020,6004,400
31,201-2,40018,00019,60037,60031,0006,600
42,401-3,60020,30028,30048,60042,2006,400
ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-6008,00013,00021,00018,4002,600
2601-1,20012,00019,60031,60027,6004,000
31,201-2,40018,00028,30046,30041,5004,800
42,401-3,60020,30038,10058,40057,0001,400

The last column of both tables clearly shows the increased points costs when upgrading from a Classic Flight Reward vs an outright redemption into the higher cabin class. Therefore, If you are looking to redeem points for a flight and have an inkling that you may wish to travel in a premium class, make sure to redeem for the premium class seat directly rather than first going through an Economy Class redemption.

Remember that domestic award flights are upgraded instantly where reward availability exists. Therefore, if you find yourself regretting your Economy redemption and looking to upgrade, for all but the shortest domestic routes, you would be better off paying the 5000 point fee and changing your booking (if looking to also change flights) or 6000 points to cancel and rebook (if looking to stay on the same flight) to a Premium Economy or Business Class seat.

International Fares

Qantas makes available four upgrade charts for International travel, which cover the following upgrades:

  • Economy to Premium Economy
  • Economy to Business
  • Premium Economy to Business
  • Business to First

As Classic Flight Reward upgrades from Business to First are not available, we have split these up into three tables below. The points cost for each are shown in the tables below, and again highlight the total cost in points of upgrading a Classic Flight Reward ticket against an outright redemption into the higher class.

Economy to Premium Economy

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to Premium EconomyTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Premium Economy redemptionDifference
10-6008,0008,70016,70013,8002,900
2601-1,20012,00013,00025,00020,6004,400
31,201-2,40018,00019,60037,60031,0006,600
42,401-3,60020,30028,30048,60042,2006,400
53,601-4,80025,20041,40066,60051,30015,300
64,801-5,80031,50052,30083,80061,50022,300
75,801-7,00037,60061,00098,60071,10027,500
87,001-8,40041,90076,300118,20081,30036,900
98,401-9,60051,20087,200138,40094,90043,500
109,601-15,00055,20098,100153,300108,40044,900

Economy to Business

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-6008,00013,00021,00018,4002,600
2601-1,20012,00019,60031,60027,6004,000
31,201-2,40018,00028,30046,30041,5005,200
42,401-3,60020,30038,10058,40057,0001,400
53,601-4,80025,20058,80084,00068,40015,600
64,801-5,80031,50069,700101,20082,00019,200
75,801-7,00037,60087,200124,80094,90029,900
87,001-8,40041,900109,000150,900108,40042,500
98,401-9,60051,200119,900171,100126,50044,600
109,601-15,00055,200135,100190,300144,60045,700

Premium Economy to Business

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Premium Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-60013,8007,60021,40018,4003,000
2601-1,20020,60011,40032,00027,6004,400
31,201-2,40031,00017,40038,40041,5003,100
42401-3,60042,20024,50066,70057,0009,700
53,601-4,80051,30039,20090,50068,40022,100
64,801-5,80061,50043,600105,10082,00023,100
75,801-7,00071,10058,800129,90094,90035,000
87,001-8,40081,30073,500154,800108,40046,400
98,401-9,60094,90081,700176,600126,50050,100
109,601-15,000108,40092,600201,000144,60056,400

As was the case with Domestic upgrades, there is a premium attached to upgrading your seat via a lower class reward redemption that booking a Classic Flight Reward directly into the upgraded cabin of choice.

A thing to consider with International upgrades is that upgrades are not awarded immediately, rather, they follow a wait-listing system. Therefore, if a Classic Flight Reward seat is available in the upgraded class, you are again better off paying a 5000 or 6000 point fee to change or cancel your flight respectively, depending on whether you wish to change or remain on the same flight.

Summing Up

While there is a greater cost to upgrade Classic Flight Reward bookings than redeeming for the upgraded cabin class straight up, having this option is still welcome. I’m sure there have been many instances where you may have booked a non-upgradeable Economy ticket and wished we had just spent that little more so you could upgrade the flight. With Classic Flight Reward redemptions, this option is at least always open, whereas previously, these reward redemptions acted the same way as the cheapest non-upgradeable ticket.

As shown above, however, in nearly all cases, you are better off bypassing this option and proceed to change or cancel your original Classic Flight Reward to upgrade to a higher class.  The sole exception is a single-sector booking on the shortest routes, where using the upgrade process will cost you less.

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Original article written by Jason Belcher and featured image is courtesy of Qantas.

Upgrading Qantas Classic Flight Reward bookings was last modified: January 20th, 2020 by Daniel Sciberras