Qantas Points can be used to book flights not only with Qantas, but also with its web of airline partners, including Oneworld alliance member British Airways in its ‘Club Europe’ business class cabin.
While BA has only one flight per day into Australia, its hubs at London Heathrow and Gatwick link passengers to a range of destinations near and far – and if you’re already visiting London, such as on a business trip with some time to spare, using your Qantas Points to book short BA flights can be a particularly good-value way to explore Europe.
For example, I recently found myself in London on St. Patrick’s Day at short notice, so decided to dart over to Dublin as a day trip.
A quick search of flights showed one-way business class fares around the £400 (A$731) mark, and economy flights not terribly cheaper, given this was a last-minute booking for travel on a busy Saturday morning.
That’s where my frequent flyer points came in handy: 18,000 Qantas Points, to be precise.
Paired with a payment of £45.30 (A$83), I snapped up a one-way business class ticket on the exact flight I wanted, returning a reasonable value of 3.6 cents for every point burned: costing me significantly less in actual money than purchasing an economy ticket, but for a flight in business class.
BA ‘Club Europe’ business class: what’s included?
Given I was only going for the day without a checked bag, that $83 layout still provided for access to Heathrow’s Fast Track channel to skip the morning queues, along with a visit to the British Airways lounge on departure – the same lounge used by business class passengers on longer flights, including to Singapore and Sydney.
Naturally, priority boarding was also part of the parcel, along with an inflight lunch service offering Champagne, so that I could make the most of my limited time in Ireland and hit the ground running.
Now, it’s fair to say that the seats in BA’s ‘Club Europe’ business class aren’t much better than economy – well, they literally are economy seats with legroom to match, except with a cocktail table next to you instead of another person:
AusBT review: British Airways' Club Europe business class
Accordingly, if you’re a Qantas Gold or Platinum frequent flyer, which already entitles you to business class perks like fast-track security, lounge access and priority boarding, you may decide that using 10,000 points to book the same flight in economy is better value, keeping 8,000 points up your sleeve for another day.
BA ‘Club Europe’ business class: booking tips and tricks
The value of this approach comes from booking last-minute flights, when paid fares in both business class and economy can be pricey – because the number of points needed, and the amount to be paid on the side, remain the same.
The hard part is finding flights that can be booked using points in the first place, but a trick to keep in your back pocket for British Airways is that extra frequent flyer reward seats are often made available within a few days of each flight, which applies not only on BA’s European legs, but also on other routes like Sydney to Singapore and London.
If you’d previously tried to book a reward flight – and were unsuccessful – that means you may have better luck by trying again closer to departure.
With my Dublin flight, for example, I originally couldn’t find any reward flights at a suitable time on the day I wanted to travel, but three days before departure, I logged in again, and several peak-time British Airways flights popped up, so I booked the best fit.
The other aspect to consider is what you’ll pay in taxes and fees on the side, as British Airways usually applies very hefty ‘carrier surcharges’ on reward bookings, including flights purchased using Qantas Points, which can significantly add to the cost.
On top, the UK Government levies Air Passenger Duty (APD) on most flights departing UK airports, increasing with the distance of your flight and if you’re travelling in business class – so naturally, using your points to book shorter flights out of London keeps these costs to a minimum, even if you do fly up front.
Finally, don’t forget to check the price of paid tickets, too: I found that on my flight home (on a quiet St. Patrick’s Day night from Dublin Airport), I was able to get a low-priced fare on Qantas partner Aer Lingus, so it made more sense to buy a ticket back to London and keep my remaining points for a future trip.