Using your points for a flight upgrade is one of the best ways to maximise their value.

The downside? Not every ticket can be upgraded. Even if you have the points you won’t be able to upgrade unless you’ve also purchased the right fare class, and there’s upgrade availability on your chosen flight.

You need to be particularly aware of this if you book your base flight through a travel agent since they will often place you in a discount class of fare that is not upgradeable.

In this guide, I explain which fare classes you can and cannot upgrade for Qantas and Virgin Australia. This is one to reference if you’re making a booking which you’re planning to try and upgrade using your points.

Using Qantas Points to upgrade

You can use Qantas Points to book award tickets with a number of different partner airlines, including Jetstar and Emirates – but upgrades are only possible on Qantas-operated and marketed flights. You will need to have booked and paid for a ticket on a Qantas plane, with a QF flight number on your ticket, to be able to upgrade.

Qantas has two upgrade schemes, Classic Upgrade Rewards and Bid Now Upgrades.

Bid Now Upgrades are, in my opinion, not fantastic. No one is eligible for a Bid Now upgrade until they have been invited to make an offer, and Qantas will invite people ‘in its sole discretion’.

So there is no guide as to which fare classes will or won’t get invited. But if you are eligible you will be told, and you should never bank on getting an invitation.

Qantas Frequent Flyer
To be eligible for a Bid Now Upgrade you need to be invited.

As for Classic Upgrade Rewards, well they are much more available, but still not guaranteed. If you plan on upgrading, check out our article on how Classic Upgrades get given out.

Qantas Domestic Upgrades

Qantas in recent years changed their policy to allow passengers to upgrade from Reward flights (flights that you booked with points).

This change means that all Qantas domestic flights are now eligible for an upgrade to Business Class as long as they have a QF flight number.

The full list of fare classes can be found here.

Qantas will clearly show whether you can request a points upgrade at time of booking.

Qantas booking
A green tick will tell you whether the fare can be upgraded.

Even though all fares are upgradeable, it will cost you double the points to upgrade from a discount fare as opposed to a flexible one. You can see how many points you need to upgrade here.

If your booking has both domestic and international flights on it, even if your international leg is not upgradeable, your domestic leg will be.

International Upgrades

Not all international fare classes can be upgraded.

Fares in the E, N, O, P, Q class cannot be upgraded using points. These are discount economy fares.

All international fare types can be found here.

As with domestic, if booking through the Qantas website, the green ticks will clearly show whether a fare is upgradeable or not.

Qantas International Booking
The difference in price between the sale and saver fares shown here is only $35, so if you are keen to upgrade, pay a little extra

If you are booking through a travel agent and you want to be able to upgrade, you must double-check your fare class since you are likely to be placed in one of these ineligible fare classes.

If you are in an eligible fare class, you can request the following upgrades.

Upgrade fromEligible upgrade classesUpgrade to
Classic Reward
Economy Saver
Economy Flex
X, G, K, L, M, S, V, B, H, YPremium Economy
Business
Classic Reward Premium Economy
Premium Economy Sale
Premium Economy Saver
Premium Economy Flex
Z, T, R, WBusiness
Business Sale
Business Saver
Business Flex
I, D, C, JFirst

You can see how many points you will need to upgrade to/from each class using the calculator here.

From time to time Qantas may allow upgrades from ineligible fare classes, but it’s up to them.

Using points to upgrade with Virgin Australia

If you’re thinking of using your Velocity Points for an upgrade, be sure to check out our guide for Virgin Australia upgrades.

Virgin has three upgrade schemes: Upgrade Me PointsUpgrade Me Bid and Upgrade Me Pay Now.

You can check your eligibility for the latter two here.

For points upgrades, in addition to making sure your ticket is in the right fare class, your flight also needs to be operated by Virgin with a VA flight number to be upgradeable.

You will also need to make sure you have put your Velocity Frequent Flyer number on the booking to be able to request any upgrades.

Fare Structure

Virgin changed their fare structure at the start of September 2016. The ‘fare brands’ are Getaway, Elevate, Freedom, Premium Saver, Premium, Business Saver, and Business.

The ‘fare brands’ are easy to understand and do not require any fuss over specific fare classes (indicated by letters).

I’ve simplified your search for points tables in the categories below.

Domestic Flights

All domestic flights are upgradeable. See what it will cost you here.

Trans-Tasman and International Short-Haul Flights

All Trans-Tasman and short-haul flights are upgradeable. Short-haul flights are international flights departing to or arriving from countries within South East Asia and the Pacific.

From New Zealand, short-haul includes flights to Nuku’alofa and Rarotonga.

See what it will cost you here.

International Long-Haul Flights

Virgin long-haul international flights have the biggest restriction on upgrading with points. Unless you are a Gold or Platinum Velocity member, you will not be able to upgrade any flights with points.

Fare BrandUpgradeable?
GetawayNo
ElevateNo
FreedomGold and Platinum members only
Premium Economy

Summing up

Using points to upgrade is a great way to make use of points, but if that is your plan you need to make sure your base ticket is in the right fare class.

Although most fares are upgradeable, many discount fares are not. If you book through a travel agent, it is likely that you might get placed in one of these fares unless you ask not to be.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are both generous with all domestic flights being upgradeable.

Virgin is also generous having made all international short-haul and Trans-Tasman bookings eligible to be upgraded with points.

Virgin long-haul flights have the most restrictive upgrade policy, only allowing Gold and Platinum members to upgrade some limited fares.

Have you scored yourself a points upgrade with Qantas or Virgin Australia? Let us know in the comments below.

Which fare classes to book with Qantas & Virgin Australia to upgrade using points was last modified: July 18th, 2019 by Daniel Kinnoch