Qantas overhauls loyalty scheme

CAROLINE ZIELINSKI AND MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 14:45 28/03/2014

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Qantas has overhauled its Frequent Flyer programme so that members now receive fewer points for spending less on fares for some flights.

Under the changes, points are awarded based on where travellers fly, how much they pay and the carrier they select, rather than how far they travel.

Qantas says the programme will become "fairer" and "simpler". It says the changes, which come into effect on July 1, mean consumers will "earn more Qantas points and status credits when [they] choose more flexible rates", and points will be reduced to reflect the price of a ticket.

A flight from Auckland to Sydney which now earns 1341 Qantas loyalty points on a discount economy fare will earn just 1000 points under the new scheme. The same flight in business class now earning 2012 points will earn 2500 loyalty points from July.

The changes have prompted anger from Frequent Flyer members on Twitter, with some slamming Qantas' decision as a "high buyer" scheme.

But Brent Thomas, commercial director at travel agency House of Travel, said frequent flyer programmes were relatively low on the scale of priorities for travellers when selecting airlines.

"No 1 is the ability to get to a destination in a timely fashion, that is the least number of intervening stops. No 2, it goes without saying, is price."

Andrew Dale, APX chief executive of corporate travel agency APX, said the changes were in line with those being made by other airlines and were unlikely to significantly influence the buying decisions of business travellers.

"However, it does appear there will be greater recognition for regular corporate travellers, but at the expense of the cost-conscious purchaser who is buying sale and discounted fares."

That could encourage leisure travellers to shop around if they received less reward for their loyalty, Dale said.

Qantas last night sent an email to its 9 million Frequent Flyer members outlining the changes, and assuring them they would not "affect your current points balance, or the way you earn with our broad range of partners on the ground".

The Qantas programme is one of the most popular airline loyalty programmes, with members able to gain benefits such as priority check-in, extra baggage allowance, complimentary admission to the Qantas lounge and free flights.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce last month revealed that the carrier plans to shed about 5000 jobs and shut routes after announcing a A$252 million ($269 million) half-year loss.

It comes amid a bitter fight with Virgin Australia in the domestic market and intense competition on international routes.

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- Fairfax Media

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