Australia’s largest airline loyalty scheme, Qantas Frequent Flyer, is about to get a big shakeout.
In a busy week for Qantas and hot on the heels of announcing their new Dreamliner flights from Brisbane to Chicago and San Francisco, the airline has scheduled another media conference tomorrow, Thursday 20 June, to announce some big changes to their loyalty scheme.
Over 12 million people, mostly Aussies, are members of Qantas Frequent Flyer. Through the airline’s 450 odd partners there are plenty of opportunities to earn points and many people, including this writer, take full advantage of it.
It also works well for the airline. Qantas Loyalty earned the airline AUD$175 million in the first half of the 2018/19 financial year, and is a significant contributor to the carrier’s bottom line.
Qantas frequent flyer members like myself use points as a buffer against some outrageously high cash fares. I’m flying Qantas this afternoon between Melbourne and Sydney using points. The cash equivalent is AUD$1,121. It’s a 90 minute flight. That fare can go higher.
Portents of gloom
Local frequent flyer forums are abuzz with portents of gloom and fatalistic scenarios but it is worth remembering that while frequent flyer schemes are designed to benefit the airline (a point a lot of frequent flyers forget), Qantas would most likely quietly drop really bad news rather than voluntarily announce it at a publicised media conference.
Australian Business Traveller are astute observers of Qantas and expect impacts on earning status, upgrades, and redemptions. One likely change is that number of points needed for classic reward redemptions would rise, but be offset by an increase in seat availability and a decrease in carrier charges.
Difficulty finding award seats on Qantas, particularly on long haul flights in the premium cabins is a constant annoyance to Qantas customers. High carrier charges and taxes are also a bugbear.
Difficulties redeeming points lead customers to accumulate significant amounts of them, and then when changes like this arise that could devalue them, customer discontent and uncertainty grows.
Qantas has done some innovative things lately to help customers burn points lately, including running a points plane to Tokyo. The considered view is that tomorrow’s changes will positively impact the majority and negatively impact a minority.
What the forums are saying
But for regular travellers with big points balances who value their status, the uncertainty is making them twitchy.
There is some wild speculation and plenty of worse case scenarios circulating, but some of the more sensible possible change scenarios include ;
(i) The introduction of variable price classic reward redemptions.
(ii) Domestic points earn based on spend like Virgin Australia have.
(ii) A recognition of your spend across a variety of Qantas products – hotels, insurance, credit cards as well as flights.
Qantas will surely expect some flack for any changes, but they will have done the numbers and will have determined that the benefits to the airline will outweigh any criticism they get.
Alan Joyce is pushing hard at Qantas
There is a lot of admiration in Australia for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. He’s a pugnacious Irishman (now also an Aussie) who came in from Jetstar to turn Australia’s ailing national airline around.
His transformation program yielded spectacular results. There were some bumps along the way, including the infamous grounding of the airline for 24 hours, but he gets things done. The locals like that.
The Qantas CEO and his team are in an expansionary mood at present as Qantas looks to the future and Alan Joyce probably looks to his legacy at the airline. Qantas is strong enough to take any blowback from tomorrow’s changes.
We’ll be keeping an eye on that media conference tomorrow and will report any significant changes. Have an opinion on Qantas Frequent Flyer or any possible changes? Post a comment. We’d love to hear from you.