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.
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.
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.
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.