Qantas, the Australian flag carrier, has been criticized for charging its business class passengers with astronomical amounts of frequent flyer points for redeeming flights on its international network. The airline, which claims to have “invented business class” in 1979, has been offering its premium seats at unreachable levels for its millions of loyal customers.
Qantas business class seats cost more than two million points
According to a report by the California Telegraph, Qantas has been pricing its business and first class seats on almost its entire network at more than two million points for a return trip. Flights from Sydney or Melbourne to U.S. destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Houston, are now costing more than two millions points for a return trip on business class.
The report said that the airline has been making it virtually impossible for its frequent flyers to find Classic Reward seats, which are the cheapest option for redeeming points. A relentless search by the California Telegraph for a return business class flight from Sydney and Melbourne to each of the U.S. destinations for numerous dates over the next 12 months came up with zero Classic Reward seats, even one way.
Instead, the lowest cost they found was 2,036,000 points for a Business Saver seat. A Business Flex seat would set customers back 4,346,000 points. Going on current cash prices for flights to the same destinations, of more than $12,000 for a Business Saver fare, or more than $23,000 for a Business Flex fare, a customer would have to fly 74 return business class flights to one of these U.S. destinations to earn 1 flight, at a cost of around $900,000 for Business Saver flights, or around $1.7 million if flying on Business Flex.
Qantas top-up program offers no relief
The report also said that Qantas’s top-up program, where the carrier sells frequent flyer points to customers, offers no relief for those who want to book a business class seat with points. Even at the top end of the discount scale, buying the maximum 150,000 points in any one transaction, a customer would have to pay $53,320 in cash to buy enough frequent flyers points to obtain the lowest costing return class flight in business class to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston.
The report also highlighted that Qantas has been charging exorbitant amounts of points for other international destinations such as London and Honolulu. For example, a return flight from Sydney to London on business class would cost between 1.8 million and 2.7 million points depending on the fare type. A return flight from Sydney to Honolulu on business class would cost between 1.5 million and 2 million points.
Qantas faces backlash from customers and regulators
The report said that Qantas has been facing backlash from its customers and regulators for its frequent flyer program and other practices during the pandemic. The airline has been under scrutiny for failing to refund flight credits accrued during the pandemic, which is the subject of a class action, and allegedly cancelling flights as part of a strategy to hoard slots at major airports, for which the competition regulator is seeking penalties of $600m.
The report quoted a Qantas spokesperson who defended the airline’s frequent flyer program and said that it offers “great value” and “flexibility” for its members. The spokesperson also said that Qantas has been adding more Classic Reward seats across its network as travel demand recovers.
However, the report also quoted some frequent flyers who expressed their frustration and disappointment with Qantas’s frequent flyer program and said that they felt “cheated” and “taken for a ride” by the airline.