The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Qantas has gutted its frequent flyer program.
First, the minor positives: some short-haul awards, such as Sydney-Melbourne in Coach, will become less expensive (20,000 points down to 16,000 points). They’re also introducing one-way awards and the ability to transfer points to eligible family members.
Alas, those are the limits of the positives.
- Upgrades can no longer be confirmed at booking — they’re day of departure only — and they’re no longer available on discount fares, either.
Elimination of upgrade credits. Instead members will receive 5000 points for every 450 Status credits earned.
An increased cost for many premium class awards. Business class from Sydney to Los Angeles and Sydney to Singapore each went up 20%. First class from Sydney to Heathrow went up 28%. First class from Sydney to JFK shot up a whopping 92% to 384,000 points for a single ticket — the same price as Sydney to Heathrow, and more than three times the points charged by United. (Strangely, it looks as though Sydney to Honolulu in business class will be 10% cheaper, down from 160,000 points to 144,000 points.)
A 2500 point fee for awards booked through an agent, including awards that cannot be booked online such as partner awards.
In Australia an ‘enhancement’ is apparently known as ‘rebalancing’
- Qantas’s head of marketing, Martin McKinnon, said the changes were a “rebalancing” of the program.
Now, this shouldn’t be all that surprising, for several reasons:
- Mileage balances are growing faster than capacity, so cuts are inevitable. I gave a much longer description of this phenomenon just a few days ago.
Business class capacity has even fallen on Qantas as they’ve introduced their new seats. Depending on the route there are 23% – 35% fewer seats available, so demand for those seats has become increasingly mismatched with supply.
Qantas doesn’t face as much competition as carriers in other parts of the world. Sure, Australians can fly Singapore one a one-stop to London. Or they could fly United to the U.S. But there’s little domestic competition outside of Virgin Blue and no single carrier solution for international travel. So they don’t feel substantial competitive pressure that would keep them from making changes to their program.
Details on the Qantas changes can be found here.