Qantas announced a range of reforms this week to its popular frequent flyer program, but one new feature has raised some eyebrows.
The airline launched a new Lifetime Platinum status for customers that reach 75,000 status credits.
Status credits are separate to frequent flyer points – the only way one can accumulate credits is by flying. The measure indicates how much a person actually uses Qantas to travel rather than its ‘on-ground’ points partners like supermarkets, credit cards and retailers.
Each year, when a frequent flyer racks up 700 status credits, they reach the gold tier. This is the first level when niceties like airport lounge access and queue-jumping are awarded to the lucky traveller.
If the traveller gets to 1,400 credits, they reach the platinum tier with even nicer benefits, like first class lounge access.
These tiers are hard to reach for the casual traveller. A return economy flight from Sydney to London will only reap you 190 points.
This is all to say Lifetime Platinum is very difficult to achieve. Seventy-five thousand credits mean a person would need to achieve gold-tier status for more than 100 years to reach that goal.
"If you achieved Platinum status every year, it would take you around 62 years of flying to reach the goal, and if you’re flying less than that, it’s likely to be unachievable," said Daniel Sciberras, spokesperson for frequent flyer site Point Hacks.
"Qantas have made it clear that this is meant to be an ‘exclusive’ club, and a goal that is more aspirational than easily achievable. Not many members will ever reach this goal."
Even Qantas Loyalty chief executive Olivia Wirth said that Lifetime Platinum is "more exclusive than the Chairman's Lounge", which is the airport lounge that only celebrities are politicians are invited into.
Out-of-pocket costs for redeeming points
Another major change Qantas announced this week was a reduction in the amount of cash to buy a flight with points.
Qantas never allows all of the ticket cost to be covered just by points, forcing customers to stump up at least some money to secure the seat.
Sciberras told Yahoo Finance that most airlines do charge a co-payment on points flights, but the amount can "vary wildly".
"Some Asian partner airlines of Qantas like Cathay Pacific or China Eastern airlines might charge half to a third of the charges levied by Qantas for the same route," he said.
"American Airlines, another Qantas partner airline, can sometimes charge up to a sixth of the amount that Qantas charges… However, with the reduction in carrier charges following yesterday’s announcement, this gap is sure to close."
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