Qantas now allowing award bookings to be upgraded using Qantas Points

Qantas announced yesterday that you can now request an upgrade using your Qantas Points for Classic Award bookings (i.e. bookings you’ve made with your Qantas points).

This new ability to upgrade Classic Award flights has introduced another layer to the question of ‘how should I redeem my Qantas Points’, and has the potential to extract more points from your hard-earned frequent flyer balance.

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

Also read our guide to how Qantas Point upgrades work and who gets upgrade priority →

The difference between paid fare upgrades and Classic Award 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 seems reasonable.

As opposed to upgrading a paid ticket using your points (which may be useful, for example, 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’re upgrading an award flight what you are doing is spending more points to upgrade something that you have already spent points to book.

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 some reason, but for upgrading classic award flights they are the same.

The points costs for these tables are below, as well as the original point cost of the the booking you would be upgrading, and the outright cost of a redemption of the class you are upgrading to.

Domestic Fares

As Qantas domestic only has economy and business class, the table is relatively simple (as there is only one type of upgrade available):

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-6008,00012,00020,00016,0004,000
2601-1,20012,00018,00030,00024,0006,000
31,201-2,40018,00026,00044,00036,0008,000
42,401-3,60022,50035,00057,50050,0007,500

As you can see, there’s a hefty premium attached to upgrading your Economy award flights to Business as opposed to redeeming Business class flights to start with.

In fact, given that domestic award flights are upgraded instantly (meaning there has to be business class redemption availability to upgrade), for all but the shortest domestic routes you would be better off paying the 5000 point fee and changing your flight booking to the Business class flight, or cancelling your redemption and rebooking in Business if it is available.

International Fares

Given that Qantas fly more classes on their international routes, the upgrade options between the classes are understandably more complex!

I have separated these into three tables for simplicity, again to show the upgrade costs vs outright redemptions. It appears that you can’t use this upgrade process to upgrade from a Business booking to First, so I’ve not put a table in for that.

Economy to Premium Economy

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to Premium EconomyTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Premium Economy redemptionDifference
10-6008,0008,00016,00012,0004,000
2601-1,20012,00012,00024,00018,0006,000
31,201-2,40018,00018,00036,00027,0009,000
42,401-3,60022,50026,00048,50037,00011,500
53,601-4,80028,00038,00066,00045,00021,000
64,801-5,80035,00048,00083,00054,00029,000
75,801-7,00040,00056,00096,00063,00033,000
87,001-8,40045,00070,000115,00072,00043,000
98,401-9,60055,00080,000135,00084,00051,000
109,601-15,00060,00090,000150,00096,00054,000

Economy to Business

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-6008,00012,00020,00016,0004,000
2601-1,20012,00018,00030,00024,0006,000
31,201-2,40018,00026,00044,00036,0008,000
42,401-3,60022,50035,00057,50050,0007,500
53,601-4,80028,00054,00082,00060,00022,000
64,801-5,80035,00064,00099,00072,00027,000
75,801-7,00040,00080,000120,00084,00036,000
87,001-8,40045,000100,000145,00096,00049,000
98,401-9,60055,000110,000165,000112,00053,000
109,601-15,00060,000124,000184,000128,00056,000

Premium Economy to Business

ZoneOne-way milesOriginal Premium Economy CostCost to upgrade to BusinessTotal Cost of upgraded flightCost of outright Business redemptionDifference
10-6008,00012,00020,00016,0004,000
2601-1,20012,00018,00030,00024,0006,000
31,201-2,40018,00026,00044,00036,0008,000
42401-3,60022,50035,00057,50050,0007,500
53,601-4,80028,00054,00082,00060,00022,000
64,801-5,80035,00064,00099,00072,00027,000
75,801-7,00040,00080,000120,00084,00036,000
87,001-8,40045,000100,000145,00096,00049,000
98,401-9,60055,000110,000165,000112,00053,000
109,601-15,00060,000124,000184,000128,00056,000

Again, there is a steep premium attached to booking a lower class award booking and then upgrading rather than just booking the higher class outright.

In addition, on an international flight, any upgrade request will go through the wait list system, so if there is redemption availability for Premium Economy or Business on the flight you are booked on, you are much better off paying the 5000 point fee to change your flight and selecting the higher cabin, than using this upgrade system. Not only do you save the points, but travelling in a higher class cabin is guaranteed.

Summing up – Qantas Classic Award Upgrades

While Qantas have launched this with much fanfare, in reality the points premium to use this upgrade process mean that in almost every case where there is redemption availability in the higher class, you should pay the change fee to change your booking to that class rather than the upgrade process.

The sole exception to this is a single-sector booking on the shortest routes, where using the upgrade process will cost you 1000 points less.

The time this may be worthwhile is if you are booked in Economy (or Premium Economy) on a specific flight and you have no flexibility on alternatives; and there is no availability in higher classes on that flight; you could try your luck to request an upgrade and hope that the waiting list system is in your favour.

Whether or not you want to spend the inflated points cost for the upgrade request over a guaranteed booking is up to you – but if you do this, check back regularly to see if a redemption spot has opened up, and do a flight change instead if it has!

Qantas now allowing award bookings to be upgraded using Qantas Points was last modified: February 13th, 2018 by Jason Belcher