Nothing beats the feeling of booking a cheaper flight and then using your hard-earned frequent flyer points to leapfrog ahead to a higher cabin class. After all, upgrades and reward seat bookings are one of the main reasons we all want to collect frequent flyer points in the first place.

But at what point after booking your ticket can you actually start the upgrade process? The answer varies depending on the airline and fare you book — but usually, you can lodge an upgrade request as soon as your booking is ticketed.

Qantas Airways Logo Qantas upgrades

Qantas applies different rules for domestic and international flights. But crucially, you can upgrade Classic Flight Rewards (booked with points) to a higher cabin, using points! The only exception is from International Business to First Class.

  • Domestic: You can request upgrades immediately after ticketing. Upgrades can clear instantly if reward seats are available in the higher class, otherwise, a waitlist applies.
  • International: You can request upgrades immediately after ticketing. Upgrades will clear from a waitlist before departure.
  • Alliance/partner upgrades: Oneworld alliance upgrades are not yet possible.

Waitlist rules for Qantas upgrades

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum One card Platinum One: Highest frequent flyer priority, with upgrades clearing from 7 days prior departure. This also applies to upgrades you request for eligible family members, even if you’re not travelling.
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum Card Platinum: Upgrades clear from 3 days before departure
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold Card Gold: Upgrades clear from 24 hours before departure
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver Card Silver: Upgrades clear from 24 hours before departure
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Bronze Card Red: Upgrades clear from 24 hours before departure

Read our full guide to upgrading Qantas flights with points

Virgin Australia Logo Virgin Australia upgrades

Virgin Australia allows immediate-confirmed upgrades on a variety of domestic and international routes, although the latter is not expected to return until at least mid-2021 for flights to New Zealand.

  • Domestic: You can request upgrades immediately after ticketing. Upgrades can clear instantly if reward seats are available in the higher class, otherwise, a waitlist applies.
  • International short-haul: [returning mid-2021] You can request upgrades immediately after ticketing. Upgrades can clear instantly if reward seats are available in the higher class, otherwise, a waitlist applies.
  • International long-haul: [suspended] Only Velocity Gold and Platinum members can request upgrades, anytime after ticketing. Upgrades can clear instantly if reward seats are available in the higher class, otherwise, a waitlist applies.
  • Partner upgrades: [suspended] Velocity Members were previously able to upgrade select Delta flights, but this is currently unavailable.

Waitlist rules for Virgin Australia upgrades

  • Velocity Platinum Card Platinum: Upgrades clear from 5 days before departure
  • Velocity Gold Card Gold: Upgrades clear from 3 days before departure
  • Velocity SilverCard Silver: Upgrades clear from 2 days before departure
  • Velocity Red Card Red: Upgrades clear from 2 days before departure

Read our full guide to upgrading Virgin Australia flights with points

Summing up

If you have no elite Qantas or Velocity Frequent Flyer status, then we would recommend upgrading domestic flights (and short-haul Virgin Australia flights) when there is reward seat availability in Business Class.

Otherwise, if you end up on a waitlist, chances are someone else with higher status in the program could nab the upgrade.

If you have no option other than to go onto a waitlist, our general advice is to lodge your upgrade request as soon as possible. With all things being equal, chances are someone who requested the upgrade earlier will get it over someone who asks for it last-minute.

In the domestic marketplace, Rex will be the only other airline with Business Class once it launches capital city flights on 1 March 2021. However, as the Rex Flyer personal loyalty program isn’t yet active, we don’t have any information on whether upgrades will be possible.

Once international travel starts to open up from Australia again, we’ll gradually add more airlines to this list.

When can I upgrade my flight with points? was last modified: February 16th, 2021 by Brandon Loo