With the historic Qantas-Emirates alliance now all but a done deal, and the Red Roo already selling tickets for shared Emirates flights, what can members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program look forward to when travelling with Emirates?
Not all the details are yet known – for instance, the airlines are yet to finalise which Qantas Frequent Flyers will get into which Emirates lounges – but here's a rundown of what we know so far.
Frequent flyer points
You’ll be able to earn Qantas frequent flyer points on all Emirates flights, just as you currently can do when travelling with Qantas or partners such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
(And yes, Qantas is dissolving its joint venture relationship with BA on March 31, but you’ll still be able to earn Qantas points on BA flights because both airlines remain members of the oneworld airline alliance.)
You’ll also be able to use your frequent flyer points to snare a ‘free’ award seat on Emirates flights.
However, the ‘class bonus’ – which can boost your haul of frequent flyer points by 25%, 50% or even 100% depending on what class you’re in and the type of fare you purchase – is yet to be determined for Emirates flights.
While Qantas frequent flyer points can get you free flights, it's status credits which deliver prized perks such as access to airport lounges, higher luggage allowance, queue-busting priority checkin and, if you’re lucky, the occasional free upgrade.
Status-seekers can rack up full status credits on Emirates flights as long as their ticket is booked under the Qantas QF flight number rather than Emirates' EK flight number – in other words, the ticket must be bought from Qantas and not Emirates.
A spokesman from Qantas Frequent Flyer advised Australian Business Traveller that for bookings made under an EK flight number you'll earn frequent flyer points but not status credits, although that information is yet to appear on the Qantas website.
This is one part of the Qantas-Emirates alliance that's still taking shape.
There's no doubt that Qantas Frequent Flyers with Gold and Platinum status will enjoy lounge access along similar lines as they do today, but the exact details are yet to be shared.
At the time of writing the only sold commitment made by Qantas is that Qantas Club members flying with Emirates "will have access to the Emirates lounge in Dubai". A spokesperson for the airline told Australian Business Traveller that the possibility of Qantas Club access to other lounges remains a work in progress.
Shaping this puzzle is that Qantas has three main tiers of frequent flyer membership – Silver, Gold and Platinum – of which the top two enjoy access to lounges run by Qantas and oneworld partners.
Emirates' Skywards rewards scheme has two similarly-named tiers – Skywards Silver and Gold – both of which have varying degrees of lounge access.
At the press conference announcing the Qantas-Emirates alliance, in answer to a question from Australian Business Traveller, Emirates president Tim Clark said his airline would introduce a new top-tier of Skywards to match Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum.
A high degree of reciprocity between the airlines' frequent flyer schemes is a cornerstone of the partnership, and in instances where Qantas Frequent Flyer and Emirates Skywards status privileges aren't in sync, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said "we’ve agreed to make the higher benefit our standard."
The catch is how the respective frequent flyer programs line up.
Emirates Skywards Gold qualifies for access to the Emirates Business Class Lounge at Dubai plus all Emirates Lounges and partner lounges around the world, while Skywards Silver is restricted to one Emirates business lounge at Dubai.
If Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver matches to Emirates Skywards Silver then this would include access to that same Dubai lounge, along the same lines as Qantas Club members.
Stacking Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold against Emirates Skywards Gold would then provide access to Emirates' business lounge network in Dubai and around the world.
What about Qantas Platinum (and Platinum One) cardholders? Their lot is less sure, because we don't yet know what the lounge privileges of the promised equivalent level for Skywards will shape up.
Complicating a clean match is that while the Red Roo permits Platinum access to Qantas first class lounges regardless of what class you're flying on, the Emirates First Class Lounge is restricted to travellers holding a first class ticket.
(One might also assume that the august members of the Qantas Chairman's Lounge could bask in the same glow as Emirates IO, but both airlines are typically loathe to discuss anything connected with these elite levels.)
Other privileges and perks
As far as luggage allowances, priority checkin and other treats for the traveller, Qantas Frequent Flyers will againt receive the same benefits as their counterparts in Emirates’ Skywards rewards program.
[This article has been revised and updated to clarify issues regarding lounge access based on Qantas Frequent Flyer status]
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.