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 often find yourself stuck flying in economy, why not use your Qantas frequent flyer points to upgrade to more comfortable surroundings in premium economy?
Just 10,000 Qantas Points is all you need to upgrade to premium economy on routes like Sydney-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong from a flexible economy ticket, or 31,500 Qantas Points from many other economy fares.
Longer journeys like Australia to Dubai and Los Angeles can instead be upgraded for only 18,000 Qantas Points from flexible economy fares, while many lower-cost fares can be upgraded for 56,500 Qantas Points.
Or, jet from Sydney right through to New York or London and part with only 24,000 Qantas Points or 75,000 Qantas Points, depending on your fare type.
Wherever you're headed, here's how to turn those spare Qantas frequent flyer points into a premium economy ticket on your next international Qantas flight.
Qantas premium economy upgrades: the basics
For starters, premium economy is available on all Qantas Airbus A380, Boeing 747 and Boeing 787 flights, although not on Airbus A330 journeys or when flying on the smaller Boeing 737s and 717s.
That means you'll generally find it on the Roo's longer routes plus Sydney-Tokyo and Sydney-Hong Kong, and from 2018, to Singapore too.
No premium economy cabin on your flight? Try for an economy to business class upgrade instead.
Most Qantas international economy fares are eligible for points-based upgrades – including economy 'Flex' and 'Saver' tickets – although not the cheapest 'Sale'-branded fares.
You're also able to upgrade with points on flights which were already booked by using points, known as 'Classic Rewards', but the number of points you'll part with overall will usually be more than simply booking a premium economy journey using points outright.
In any case, upgrade requests on Qantas international flights are exactly that: a 'request', which is entered into the system and decided closer to your flight's departure date.
Also know that when booked on an upgradeable fare in economy, you can upgrade to both premium economy and business class: you're not stuck upgrading 'one-class', as happens on many other airlines.
Qantas premium economy upgrades: the pecking order
While upgrades can be requested until 24 hours before wheels-up, higher-tier travellers should get their requests in as early as possible as upgrades are prioritised by Qantas Frequent Flyer status and can be granted sooner.
For instance, top-tier Platinum One members can have their upgrade requests approved up to seven days before departure, while Platinum members can be upgraded as early as 48 hours out: so by getting in early you may avoid missing out.
Qantas Gold, Silver and Bronze frequent flyers then follow (in that order), with these upgrades processed within 24 hours of departure.
This doesn't mean Qantas will continue processing upgrades until premium economy is full: it's not uncommon for a number of seats to be kept empty for travellers making last-minute reservations or for passengers who may have missed or moved from earlier flights.
In other words, the only way to completely guarantee yourself a spot in premium economy is to book a premium economy seat from the onset – everything else is a gamble, but one that can sometimes pay off.
Qantas premium economy upgrades at the airport
In an ideal world, you'd snag an upgrade long before arriving at the airport: but in reality, this doesn't always happen.
That's why, when submitting your upgrade request via the 'manage my booking' section of the Qantas website, you'll also be given the option to 'upgrade at the gate' if travelling on your lonesome.
It burns the same number of points as when upgrading earlier, but gives you one final chance should another premium economy passenger change their flight, miss a connecting flight or simply not show up at all.
But be aware that if you upgrade only comes through at the boarding gate, you won't be able to choose your preferred seat, nor will you be able to take advantage of any increased baggage allowance normally afforded to premium economy travellers.
Should your upgrade clear at check-in, however, the staff may be able to assist: as can staff in Qantas-operated lounges if you have access by way of your Qantas Frequent Flyer status or Qantas Club membership.
Bidding for a Qantas premium economy upgrade
Don't have enough frequent flyer points for an upgrade but still want a comfy seat in premium economy?
You may also be able to pair as few as 5,000 Qantas Points with an offer of 'real money' for a better seat, such as 5,000 points + $1,000, but whether or not you'll even be able to bid is at Qantas' discretion.
Should your booking be deemed eligible, you'll receive an email from Qantas before you fly with that special invitation to submit a bid.
Frequent flyers, don't fret: bids are considered only after all traditional frequent flyer points-based upgrades have been processed, although these do trump passengers relying on an 'upgrade at the gate', as above.
Qantas premium economy upgrades: important notes
Whichever way you choose to upgrade, you’ll only earn frequent flyer points and status credits as applicable to your original economy class fare, not what would normally be awarded to full-fare-paying premium economy passengers.
Upgrades can also be requested for eligible family members – even when that family member isn't travelling with the person funding the upgrade – although this isn't possible with friends and colleagues.
As an extra perk for the highest of high flyers, when a Platinum One cardholder requests an upgrade for a family member, that upgrade will be given the same high priority level as though the Platinum One member were travelling themselves.
In all other cases, the priority of the upgrade is based on the status the traveller, not of the person requesting the upgrade.
One final tip: if you change your Qantas Frequent Flyer PIN after requesting an upgrade but before it has been approved, you must call Qantas on 13 13 13.
Ask the operator to manually update your existing upgrade requests with your new PIN, otherwise when it comes time to process that request, the upgrade will fail and you'll be left back in economy.