Qantas Chartering an A380 ‘Points Plane’ for Redemptions to Tokyo

Last summer Cathay Pacific ran charter flights between Hong Kong and Osaka for frequent flyers. These flights were redemption-only. But it wasn’t the first time that an airline made flights available exclusively for its frequent flyers.

Air Canada ran redemption-only flights to Hawaii years ago. And when Aeroplan was plotting its future as an independent frequent flyer program, before it was reacquired by Air Canada, it harkened back to this playbook and promised to charter flights to popular destinations to ensure award seats for members.

That’s always a limiting strategy. A program might charter a flight or four, but not enough capacity to really give members choice. Still, it’s a great stunt to highlight the efforts a program is going to for members. And with limited capacity these flights can prove popular.

What’s more, the economics can even work.

  • Redemptions have value, properly valued miles can cover the cost of an aircraft especially when the flight is full.
  • This is especially true with spare aircraft or, even better, re-positioning of aircraft.

Qantas needs to position an Airbus A380 to Tokyo for a charter flight and so it’s making at A380 available to frequent flyers for redemption. Apparently it doesn’t see as much of an opportunity selling the A380’s capacity to Tokyo for cash as a one-off.

Qantas A380 at LAX

Here’s the flight details:

    10/21 Melbourne – Tokyo Narita, 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.+1, Qantas flight QF79

All seats on the aircraft will be available for saver redemption:

  • Coach: 35,000 miles + AU$182 (371 seats)
  • Premium economy: 54,000 miles + AU$257 (35 seats)
  • Business: 72,000 miles + AU$272 (64 seats)
  • First class: 108,000 miles + AU$272 (14 seats)

Qantas first class cabin

They’ll be offering a second redemption charter back from Tokyo on an Airbus A330. Of course members are free to redeem for other flights.

    10/26 Tokyo Narita – Melbourne, 8:05 p.m. – 8:35 a.m., Qantas flight QF80

The airline plans to make the flights extra fun with “a bespoke cocktail and meal service, signature pyjamas and inflight giveaways.”

Redemptions go on sale May 16 at 7 a.m. local time in Sydney (Wednesday, May 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern). Qantas promises that if this idea works out they’ll repeat it in the future.

The first Qantas A380 Arrival at Dallas Fort-Worth

Qantas Frequent Flyer is a Capital One and Citi ThankYou transfer partner. If you hit the transfer during the business day on Monday, May 13 there’s a very high likelihood points will be in your account for this redemption.

Tokyo is worth visiting — if only for the sushi and for incredible beef. Admittedly this flight isn’t going to be super useful for most readers who are based in the United States. It’s an interesting frequent flyer concept — and one that’s been done by other airlines before and which will be done by others again.

Takashi Ono preparing sushi at Jiro Roppongi

(HT: @SavageViv)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. In a perfect world, points would be equivalent to cash and every flight would be 100% available for either currency. Wasn’t that the initial premise of points? Between the ongoing trend of devaluation of points earned in the past, the extreme limitation on the number of seats available for redemption, and bogus “fuel surcharges”, they’re just an institutionalized bait-and-switch tool.

  2. No, the initial point of a frequent flyer program was 1) a promotion, 2) monetizing what would otherwise be unsold, wasting inventory, which would 3) lock in brand loyalty by giving an incentive to steer future flights to the same airline.

    They seem to have forgotten this, mostly, as bean counters just look at the “retail value” of those seats and try to minimize giving stuff away, ignoring the whole gambit.

  3. Thanks Gary,

    Inspired me to actually book.. and while I wasn’t quick enough to get a First or Business seat (they sold out in the first 5-10 minutes), I did get a Premium Economy one and now just have to figure out how to get back from Tokyo!



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