Three years ago Cathay Pacific ran charter flights between Hong Kong and Osaka for frequent flyers. These flights were redemption-only. 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.
Then two years ago Qantas has to reposition an Airbus A380 for a charter flight from Tokyo, so they ran a Melbourne – Tokyo frequent flyer charter with all seats on the plane available at the saver level. Then they offered a second redemption charter back from Tokyo on an Airbus A330.
The first Qantas A380 Arrival at Dallas Fort-Worth
That’s always a limited 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 first class cabin
Now Qantas is preparing to use Airbus A380s for several redemption-only flights as members of the airline’s frequent flyer program are frustrated trying to redeem their miles after nearly two years where they’ve been accumulating miles but their government wouldn’t allow them to leave the country.
Qantas had consigned its 12-strong fleet of A380s to the desert for three years at the start of the crisis, only to retrieve half of them early, with carrier due to dust off six of the double-decker jets next year for long-haul services to Los Angeles and London.
Some will operate as “Points Planes,” where every seat in every cabin can be booked using air miles, Wirth said in an interview at Qantas’ headquarters near Sydney Airport. The A380s can hold almost 500 passengers.
Qantas A380 at LAX
Qantas Frequent Flyer is a Capital One, Brex and Citi ThankYou transfer partner.