Qantas secret Business/Premium Economy upgrade program ex-SFO

Hello readers,

Today I’m going to share the details about a new unpublished upgrade offer by Qantas Airlines. We don’t have full details since there’s nothing online about it and it’s very recent, but here is the known information.

The Status Quo

Normally, Qantas allows you to upgrade using Qantas Points. You can see the chart here, and for reference, upgrading SFO<->SYD from economy to business costs 90,000 Qantas Points each way. An economy fare normally costs $800-1600 roundtrip, and the discount economy fares (L, V, S, N, Q, O and E classes, and Group fares booked in G) are excluded. You can see the rules here.

You can also use Bid Now Upgrades to bid for an upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy or Business class. The minimum bid is ~$750 USD for Economy->Business, and your success varies depending on the load factor on the flight i.e. how many seats are sold, is economy overbooked, etc. You’ll know 24 hours before the flight whether this clears or not. There are reports of successful bids for $800+.

What’s New

There is a special promotion going on for travelers departing from SFO on Qantas. You can pay $960 USD for an upgrade from Economy -> Premium Economy or $1480 USD from Economy -> Business. This upgrade is available for any fare class, discount or otherwise. There are two caveats:

  • You don’t earn any additional miles. Your ticket fare class stays the economy fare.
  • You can’t use the Business class lounges at SFO (Air France/KLM lounge currently, but generally the Cathay Pacific lounge)

It’s basically like being assigned a seat in the PE/Biz section of the plane, with priority security/boarding, but no other benefits. You have to ask for this at the gate since it’s not published online. I’m told this is currently on trial by Qantas for three months only for long-haul flights leaving from San Francisco. Only four people have done this as of May 19th, so it’s very early in the program.

Is It a Good Deal?

Qantas business class fares normally cost $8000-$9000 USD for SFO<->SYD. The discount/sale fares are closer to $5000. If you bought a discount economy ticket for $500-600, then you’re basically paying $2000 for one-way business, which is a solid value for a 13-14 hour flight. The downside is that you don’t know your class in advance and there may not be space on the flight, so you could be stuck in economy. Qantas has a fine business class product but they do have 2-3-2 seating in J. On the bright side, the SFO->SYD route has the 747 and upper deck in J is fantastic!

In terms of point upgrades, you’ll need 90,000 Qantas points to go from Y->J, but remember you can’t upgrade the discount economy fares. So it’s ~$1500 for the economy ticket and 90,000 points, which is worth ~$1000 (varies depending on how you value them). So the points are a good deal here but you need award space open and you also need Qantas points in the first place, which many US based travelers don’t have.

You can just book a one-way saver business award on Qantas for 80K American. So in general, points are the best way to book here, and you should transfer to Qantas’ partners instead of Qantas.

Overall, If you have some funds to spare or have never tried Qantas J, I would definitely go for this offer. It’s cheaper than buying the J ticket any day. This is probably a better deal for business travelers or those with tickets already booked.

You heard it here first folks. Happy flying!


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