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Upgrade Qantas flights with Citi ThankYou points: How and when it makes sense

by on Wed April 27, 2016 • No Comment
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Qantas is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, letting you transfer ThankYou points into Qantas miles, and while Qantas a great way to get to Australia, its award chart isn’t very generous.

A Business Class award seat with Qantas miles costs a startling 96,000 points one-way, plus fuel surcharges when you depart the U.S. (there are none when departing Australia).

QANTAS POINTS CALCULATOR_700

You’re better off using other ways to get to Australia and New Zealand, like these.

96,000 points for a one-way trip is a lot, but that’s not even the worst part. Availability for awards is often non existent.

But if you’re set on Qantas, because you need to earn OneWorld miles, or just don’t have another option, it flies the following U.S. – Australia routes:

  • Los Angeles – Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
  • San Francisco – Sydney
  • Dallas – Sydney

GCMAP LAX-AUSTRALIA

It is extremely difficult to find Qantas premium class availability in advance, and both upgrades and awards come from the same inventory.

So if you find award space, there will be space to confirm an upgrade.

In order to try and find availability, log on to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account, and start by filling out your travel information on the left.

QANTAS SEARCH BNE-LAX 1_700

 

At the top of the results, check “Business” and uncheck “Economy,” and the page will change to show you availability…

QANTAS SEARCH BNE-LAX 3_700

Unfortunately, most of the space doesn’t really exist in any useful form. The calendar page displays all flights including partners. In most cases, there is no availability on the non-stop leg over the ocean, and with the connecting flights you will usually see this.

QANTAS SEARCH BNE-LAX 4_700

The “i” symbol means some of the segments are in different classes, and guess what – that different class is usually Economy Class for the longest part of the trip, a non starter.

QANTAS SEARCH BNE-LAX 5_700

The bottom line is: It’s extremely difficult to get a Business Class award on Qantas. And this is why you might want to consider an upgrade waitlist.

Upgrading Your Flight with Citi ThankYou Points

Upgrading a paid fare on Qantas is not a great, good, or even lukewarm deal.

A one-way upgrade from economy to business on flights from the U.S. (deep discounted classes are excluded) will cost you 72,000 points (there’s a calcualtor here), so that’s only 24,000 points less than the Business Class award rate you would pay outright (if you found availability, of course).

qantasupgarde

The key is Qantas lets you waitlist upgrades, and will clear upgrades right up until you reach the gate, so generally if there are seats left at the last minute, they will be made available to upgrade requests on the wait list.

It gives you the chance to snag seats that aren’t available for award booking in advance of the flight, which increases the odds you can ultimately fly in Business Class.

Keep in mind:

  • Getting an upgrade at the last moment is far from given.
  • Transferring Citi ThankYou points to Qantas Frequent Flyer takes around two days.
  • Holding an award is not allowed.
  • The only discount Economy classes eligible for upgrades to Business are: K, L, M, S, and V (though these are often the typical fares available for flights to and from the U.S.).
  • You need to buy a ticket with a Qantas flight number – a ticket you buy via American Airlines with American flight numbers isn’t eligible for an upgrade using Qantas miles.
  • Unless you’re an elite, you’ll be behind every elite member of Qantas’ program in priority for your upgrade.
  • Upgrades for non elites start clearing at 24 hours before departure, and up until you start boarding the flight.
  • Upgrades at the airport only work for reservations that have one passenger – so split your tickets up if you want to upgrade with family.

When Using Citi ThankYou Points Might Make Sense

Transferring points to an expensive airline program without any guarantee that you will be able to use them in the way intended is far from ideal.

However, there are some limited circumstances when it might make sense.

  • You have a lot of Citi ThankYou points.
  • You’re pretty much stuck buying a Qantas Economy Class ticket (and have checked out other options like using Singapore KrisFlyer, which is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, to book Business Class outright on Star Alliance carriers via Asia)
  • You fly Qantas regularly and will be able to use the 72,000 Qantas miles even if your upgrade doesn’t clear.
  • The flight is close to departure, and looks pretty wide open (but beware seat maps are deceiving)

Once you decide to do this, login to your reservation at Qantas.com under Your Bookings and request the upgrade. You’ll be able to select whether you want your upgrade to be considered for processing at the gate by selecting ‘upgrade at the airport.’

You can cancel your upgrade request without penalty up to 24 hours before your flight.

You Can Upgrade an Award Flight, Too

There aren’t many airlines that allow you to upgrade an award flight booked with miles or points, but Qantas is now one of them. While it’s a great development on principle, the value is poor.

You will pay 145,000 points (45,000 points for the original coach booking plus 100,000 miles for the cost of upgrading) vs. 92,000 points if you booked a Business Class seat outright.

What you get is the ability to waitlist and be seated in Business Class if seats open up on the day of departure.

And when you’re staring down 14 hours in Economy Class, any option that doesn’t cost $5,000 starts looking good.

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