Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A bit of history!

Whilst Qantas was the first frequent flyer program that I joined, it wasn't the one that I first started realising the benefits from.  When I did my first big trip overseas back in 1993 (NZ is only classed as a short O/S trip for me!) we went to the UK for the "working holiday" trip on a one way ticket, and stopped off to say hi to family in NZ.  We were travelling with Air NZ (who would still be my 2nd favourite airline after Qantas) so went to the UK via LA and stopped over for 24 hours there!  It was a few years later travelling on this route that I discovered the benefit and drawbacks of using points to upgrade flights.

We were in LA for the flight back to Auckland and had requested an upgrade, but unfortunately when we were at the gate, all excited for the upgrade to travel home in Business class, we discovered that there were no seats available!  And I do mean no seats!  You know when a NZ multi gold medal Olympian (Mark Todd) is standing at the counter requesting (rather loudly!) his upgrade and is being told there are no seats, then there is no hope for us mere mortals!!  The 15 hour trip home in economy wasn't that memorable, but what I did learn was that I didn't enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not I had received an upgrade!

So the moral of this story is that now I always use my points to get the class of travel that I want to travel in, not waiting until the day before travel to know what class of travel I'm flying in!  (side note here - some airlines do confirm upgrades on booking - Cathay for one, but Qantas don't anymore!).  This however is not for everyone, and I have lots of friends who want to confirm that they can get on the plane first and foremost, and then the upgrade is the added bonus!!

Getting upgrades and where you are sitting on the plane all depend on your current frequent flyer status.  This in turn is decided by your status credits, which unlike your FF points, can only be earned on paying flights.  One of the most important things to know is when the anniversary of your joining the program is, as that is the date to which your status credits are linked!  You need to get a certain amount to achieve the higher levels of silver, gold and platinum, and once you get to that date if you haven't achieved your status goal, then its tough luck and back to zero to start again!!  Of course if you have maintained a certain status for a number of years, then Qantas may decide to award you the higher status even if you have not quite reached your target (very nice of them to do this I reckon!!)

So I strongly suggest that if you are in a position to plan your annual travel, then you can work out which trips you need to pay for, and which ones you can do using points.  The chances of you getting your ff ticket or even your upgrade and where you sit on the plane is all to do with your status level, which of course is a clever way of Qantas ensuring your loyalty.  So its not just about having lots of ff points earned on big spends on credit cards, if you have the status level, then you are more likely to be able to spend the points in the way you want to.  I'm also not a fan of using points to purchase goods and/or services - I find the best way of spending them is on long distance high value tickets!

That's all for now!  Time to leave the comfort of the Qantas Business lounge (another perk!) and get on with the day!!  Next time, a couple of tips to stretch your dollars for maximum credits (and comfort of course!!)

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