Using Qantas frequent flyer points to upgrade to first class

Using Qantas frequent flyer points to upgrade to first class

Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.

If you normally travel overseas in Qantas business class, why not indulge yourself by using your frequent flyer points on an upgrade to first class?

Just 45,000 Qantas Points is enough for a first class sojourn from Sydney or Melbourne to Dubai or Los Angeles from a flexible business class ticket, or either 50,750 or 56,500 Qantas Points from all other paid business class fares!

On those slightly longer longer flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, first class sets you back an even 50,000 points from a flexible business fare or either 56,250 or 62,500 points from all others, and at the top end of the scale, a first class journey from Australia to London is just 60,000 points (67,500-75,000 points from non-flexible tickets) – a terrific deal given the 20+ hours you'll spend in the suite.

Here’s what you need to know to turn those spare Qantas frequent flyer points into a first class seat on your next international flight.

60,000 points is all you need for a first class upgrade on Qantas Sydney-London or Melbourne-London flights

Requesting a Qantas first class upgrade

From the cheapest sale prices through to the most expensive flexible fares, all business class tickets are eligible for an upgrade to first class on those routes where first class is available: including flights which were initially booked using frequent flyer points.

However, travellers in economy and premium economy can upgrade only to business class, not first class.

Read: Qantas business class upgrade guide

Business-to-first upgrades are also limited to Qantas flights – upgrades are off the table if you’ve booked with Emirates or Oneworld partner airlines.

The same is true even if you’re travelling on a Qantas codeshare flight, such as an Emirates flight carrying a QF number.

Requests to upgrade from business to first class are exactly that: a request. It's not locked in until very close to the flight.

On the Qantas Airbus A380 there are only 14 seats in the first class cabin, and with the airline usually holding back a few seats for last-minute sales, you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Upgraded to first class? You'd be smiling too...

Upgrades are allocated based on your Qantas Frequent Flyer status. Platinum One flyers are atop the pecking order, with upgrades awarded from seven days prior to departure.

Unlike other travellers, these members can also request upgrades for family members on separate tickets, which receive the same Platinum One priority treatment.

Qantas Platinum members aren’t far behind, with requests processed up to 48 hours before departure.

Gold, Silver and Bronze frequent flyers follow in that order, with upgrades processed within 24 hours of departure.

Qantas first class upgrades at the airport

When requesting an international upgrade through the ‘manage my booking’ section of the Qantas website, solo travellers can also opt-in for a last minute upgrade if one becomes available.

Sometimes no-shows or missed connections create a short-notice opening in first class, which is where last-minute upgrades can be handy.

If your upgrade comes through only at the boarding gate, you naturally won’t be able to choose your seat... but if you’re bumped up earlier, the lounge or check-in staff may be able to help with this.

Unless your upgrade clears before you check-in, you also won’t be able to relax in the first class day spa or make use of any higher baggage allowance – although Qantas Club members and Gold/Platinum frequent flyers already have similar perks, even when stuck in economy.

Top tips for your Qantas first class upgrade

If you’re lucky enough to wing an upgrade to first class, you’ll only earn points and status credits as applicable to your original business class fare.

Also, points upgrades aren’t available when travelling on most frequent flyer award tickets, although Any Seat Awards are treated as a regular (paid) fare under the upgrade system.

One final tip: if you’re waiting out that first class upgrade but happen to change your Qantas Frequent Flyer PIN before it’s been approved, you must call Qantas on 13 13 13 and ask the operator to manually update your existing upgrade requests with the new PIN. Otherwise you’ll have to stay put in business class.

Also read: Expert tips for making the most of the Qantas first class lounge

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • gippsflyer


    19 May, 2014 07:50 pm

    The best thing about First on Qantas (apart from the SYD/MEL lounge access, if you don't get it already) is the wine (although the great bottles tend to go before the flight is finished these days). I'm not a fan of the seat though, finding it fairly hard, but I'm glad they went with fabric rather than leather - like most other airlines - as it doesn't heat up like leather can on a long-haul flight. Most people in First are there on upgrades, it's rare to find full paying pax, and if you've got the points I reckon its a great way to use them (might not be the most efficient use, but then life is meant to be fun!).

    No member give thanks

  • 521303


    20 May, 2014 04:30 am

    If going to the USA, my tip would be to use your 45,000 points to upgrade from Sydney to LAX but avoid using points on return LAX to Sydney as the food served from the USA is not up to Scratch for a full First-class experience.  They don't seem to do the tasting menu on the way back.  Also, try to avoid seat 5L on the A380 as there is some kind of wierd noise from above and behind that seat.  It sounds like a hair-dryer being turned on and off at a frequency of about every 20-30 seconds, and lasts for about 10 seconds each time.  It definately is not condusive to a good rest!  Otherwise Qantas First class is fab!  Staff are always brillinant.

    No member give thanks

  • crosscourt


    20 Apr, 2016 12:56 pm

    Gotta say while the food and wine is extremely nice, I'm not flying first for that reason, for me its the servie and the space. Recently flew LAX-SYD and didnt eat dinner, went straight to sleep for 8hours. each to thier own but that's the priority for me and I might think majority of others. By the eay, where is seat 5L? Not heard of it or was it a typo and should be 5K?

    No member give thanks

  • nik911sc


    30 Jun, 2014 10:45 am

    It all sounds great in theory but in practice I have never had any success using points to upgrade even though my travelling companions have on the same flights. Its been a bone of contention that I have taken up with Qantas but they have never responded and as a consequence I have never flown with them again.

    No member give thanks

  • markpk


    18 Apr, 2016 10:58 am

    Minor point Chris, but wouldn't Chairmans Lounge be top of the pecking order for upgrades?

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin


    18 Apr, 2016 11:09 am

    As you'd expect, Qantas has never published the upgrade order concerning Chairmans Lounge members, so we go by what is published.

    (You can also be both a Chairmans Lounge member and a Platinum One (or other tier) frequent flyer, so without confirmation from Qantas it's not for us to say that a CL+Gold would be above a non-CL Platinum One member, for example.)

    No member give thanks

  • Matt_01


    18 Apr, 2016 05:56 pm


    I only ticked over to P1 this earlier this year so have not yet tried to upgrade to F. I rang Qantas to enquire about upgrade to F for an upcoming flight, the information I was given was the only members who would be prioritised above a P1 is a CL P1. Not sure if this 100% accurate, there is always the possibility that the person I spoke with provided incorrect information. 

    No member give thanks

  • fallingflat


    16 Mar, 2017 08:20 pm

    > You can also be both a Chairmans Lounge member and a Platinum One (or other tier)

    Just a slight clarification on this one - Chairmans lounge is it's own tier that sits above Plat One. Above CL is Chairmans Lounge Plat One. You cannot be 'Chairmans Lounge Bronze' as the CL ranking would trump that.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin


    17 May, 2017 10:23 am

    Actually, Chairmans Lounge is a separate profile flag, much like Qantas Club (e.g. you can be a Qantas Club Silver member or a Chairmans Lounge Bronze, for instance), even though you also get Oneworld Emerald status regardless.

    Alan Joyce has previously commented that although he's obviously a Chairmans Lounge member, his frequent flyer tier remains at Bronze as duty/staff travel flights don't earn status credits - so he's a Chairmans Lounge Bronze, as it were. :)

    (Members may not always be able to see their frequent flyer tier in addition to their CL status, but it's still there in the computer and appears on passenger manifests etc.)

    No member give thanks

  • John


    18 Apr, 2016 03:00 pm

    Im  QF Gold and the only upgrade i didnt receive was LAX-SYD  from J to First

    Not suprised   and J was great anyway.

    The other four flights Perth -Sydney and Syd-Singapore  return were sucessful   so i cant complain really

    No member give thanks

  • jamessanders


    19 Apr, 2016 01:34 am

    Any one else had trouble recently selecting seats after an upgrade to F has cleared? I used to be able to do it online no problem but the last two flights has not allowed me to select seats. Therefore ended up in 5L which is not a great location

    No member give thanks

  • mos


    20 Apr, 2016 10:08 pm

    I had the same problem on my most recent trip. Website would allow me to select a different seat but when I clicked ok, it kept reverting back to the one originally allocated. I wasn't too fussed since I was just trying to change from 2K to 5A, in the end I think 2K was better.

    Only happened with business to first upgrade (was able to successfully change seats on a more recent premium economy to business upgrade).

    No member give thanks

  • mos


    20 Apr, 2016 10:12 pm

    Ps I think 5A is the bassinet seat, perhaps this was why it wouldn't let me select it.

    No member give thanks

  • Adam T


    19 Apr, 2016 06:12 pm

    Such a shame they don't have F to Asia anymore. I know I know not viable, not economical, no paying passengers in F anymore only but ghee wiz it would be nice after a heavy week work in SG to fly home on QFA380 (in F). 

    No member give thanks

  • JOHN


    22 Apr, 2016 06:47 pm

    I have found when looking for premium class flights more success doing a multi stop search but only having a few hours between flights which means more options and providing you don't "stopover" for more than 23 hours the total points required for the entire trip is the same as if it were just a one-way flight.

    I don't know why the results I get from a multi segment flight don't show up when I search one-way as that is what they really are.

     And yes I find the mixed class search results to be frustrating if I am looking to fly business class from Brisbane to Los Angeles giving me business from Brisbane to Sydney and then economy from Sydney to Los Angeles is useless.

    No member give thanks

  • Richard R


    17 May, 2017 07:49 am

    Well one of my dreams is to fly F on the QF A380 between MEL and LHR. QF seems intent on destroying that dream by removing F and the A380 from the route from late March next year.
    No member give thanks

  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    17 May, 2017 12:19 pm

    Sadly, the number of First Class seats from Australia to Heathrow will be cut from 28 a day to 14, once the MEL-LHR A380 is cut, to apparently be followed by a reduction to 12 a day when the A380 refurb is done.

    And I’d dispute the widely-held opinion that hardly anyone pays for First class seats.  My experience is that the majority of First seats on QF are sold at least several weeks before the flight.


    No member give thanks

  • turbojezz


    17 May, 2017 03:45 pm

    yeah this is dissapointing... more devaluisation...
    No member give thanks

  • Harry


    17 May, 2017 03:48 pm

    Recently I got a requested upgrade from Business to First from LA to Melbourne, it was worth the 45,000 points. the best part was the First Class dinning at LA airport, we very much enjoyed this as my friend was travelling in Economy, a great treat ! as for on the plane, it missed the mark and I was not wowed at all, yes it was nice, there was no wow factor at all. I will not request this upgrade again. A bit of been there and done that.

    No member give thanks

  • mitchimus


    17 May, 2017 04:24 pm

    I did the J to F upgrade from LHR to SYD. Found it to be great. I enjoyed both the soft and hard product. I like the confusion of the seats, lots of space but also plenty of privacy without the need for a door.
    No member give thanks

  • Joe


    19 May, 2017 01:27 am

    I think one other point Chris is the earlier you place your request for an UG to F the better your chances by way of being prioritised, so I've been told.
    No member give thanks

  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    19 May, 2017 07:59 am

    Not correct Joe.  As long as you put your Request in at least a week before the flight, Points Upgrades are essentially  prioritised on one's Status. 

    It was nearly 10 years ago that Upgrades on international flights were often confirmed weeks and months ahead.

    No member give thanks

  • mos


    19 May, 2017 08:04 am

    My understanding is that within a status band, the priority is according to how early you place your request - so for example, of all the platinum FFs that request a seat, the priority will be assigned in order of request date.  
    No member give thanks

  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    19 May, 2017 08:09 am

    That's partially correct mos.  Along with other factors like what fare class you paid for (not cabin class), the date you booked, how long you've been a FF member, and perhaps other unknown factors.  How the system makes these decisions isn't fully known to people like you and me.
    No member give thanks

  • Bengo


    3 Jan, 2018 01:15 pm

    Lifetime Gold needs to add more perks, as once you have it whats the point of flying Qantas - how about free access to Business Class Domestic and First Class International Lounges regardless of ticket - any other ideas?
    No member give thanks


19 Jul, 2019 10:40 pm


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