A major complaint with the Qantas Frequent Flyer program is the amount of taxes and surcharges that you have to pay with a points redemption.
While a portion of these fees will be genuine airport taxes, often a significant chunk of it is airline-imposed fuel surcharges and ‘carrier charges’ which are arbitrary amounts that specific airlines charge for their flights.
Let’s take a look at ten popular routes, flown by multiple airlines, that you can book using Qantas Points, along with a comparison of their associated fees and surcharges.
NB: All figures are correct as of June 2019, but are set to change from September 18.
Melbourne to London (one-stop)
|Qatar Airways||Business||One-way||~$522 AUD||139,000|
|British Airways||Business||One-way||~$435 AUD||139,000|
|Cathay Pacific||Business||One-way||~363 AUD||139,000|
|China Eastern||Business||One-way||~265 AUD||139,000|
Our pick: Cathay Pacific is our all-rounder pick due to its relatively low taxes and excellent lounge network if you have elite status. Otherwise, for the lowest co-payment on a one-way trip to London, consider Qantas partner China Eastern Airlines.
Qantas and Emirates both levy an incredible $1,080 in carrier charges for a return Melbourne-London redemption in Business Class, and that’s on top of the normal taxes.
On a one-way route, as shown above, the vast majority of the $660 co-payment is a Qantas-imposed surcharge, rather than actual taxes.
Sydney to Hong Kong
|Cathay Pacific||Business||Return||~$402 AUD||130,000|
Our pick: Qantas actually takes the lead here with lower taxes and Qantas Points needed overall. Cathay Pacific used to be known for its low taxes on all flights, but it appears to have increased in recent times for specific routes like this one.
Sydney to Singapore
|British Airways||Business||Return||~$452 AUD||130,000|
Our pick: British Airways’ taxes are $200 lower than Qantas’ and reward seats are more readily available in general, but at the cost of 10,000 more points. Some people may prefer the hard product and onboard service of Qantas though.
Melbourne to Singapore
Our pick: If the timing of Emirates’ daily flights to Singapore matches up, go for that option. It is the same price as Qantas, but you might get to experience the inflight bar on an Airbus A380.
Sydney to Los Angeles
|American Airlines||Business||Return||~$155 AUD||192,000|
|American Airlines||Economy||Return||~$155 AUD||83,800|
Our pick: Definitely American Airlines if you can find the reward seat availability.
In addition to the true taxes, Qantas adds ‘carrier charges’ to all reward bookings, with bigger fees for flying Business or First. This is a huge surcharge compared to American Airlines, which only passes on the taxes.
Sydney to Santiago
Our pick: Since Qantas and LATAM share similar taxes and identical points needed, we’d stick with Qantas for the better standard of service.
Sydney to Christchurch
Our pick: All three airlines on the Sydney-Christchurch route have taxes of about $215 return. That rules Jetstar out of the running since you could book an economy sale fare at that price, so use your points for Qantas or Emirates premium cabin.
The latter even has First Class which can be booked for 54,000 Qantas Points one-way.
Sydney to Fiji (Nadi)
|Fiji Airways||Business||Return||~$273 AUD||72,000|
Our pick: Jetstar’s fees are particularly high for an economy return trip, so consider using Qantas or Fiji Airways. Both those airlines need the same number of points for Business Class, but Fiji Airways is slightly lower in taxes.
Melbourne to Tokyo
|Japan Airlines||Business||Return||~$330 AUD||156,000|
Our pick: We are a fan of Japan Airline’s unique inflight service. Although the points cost is slightly higher for comparable Qantas flights, the taxes in Business Class are nearly $200 lower.
Sydney to Shanghai
|China Eastern||Business||Return||~$154 AUD||156,000|
Our pick: China Eastern Airlines continues to shine by charging an incredible $350 less in taxes for a return Business Class trip, per person. That is a significant saving for a slightly higher increase in points needed compared to Qantas.
In general, Qantas’ Asian partner airlines, particularly Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, but also American Airlines, offer the best bang for the buck in terms of minimising extra co-payments with reward seat bookings.
You will usually need to part with slightly more Qantas Points, but that might be worth it if you can save cold hard cash for your next business trip or holiday.