FTU: Why I took that $200 Qantas voucher
When does it make sense to change your flight because the airline asks you to?
Honestly, at first I thought the text message was a scam. "Hi, it's Qantas. A Qantas gift voucher is yours if you accept our offer to switch all passengers in your booking." However, it turned out to be real. Qantas really does sometimes offer you cash if you'll switch to another flight ahead of time, and there's a page on its site all about it. "From time to time, you might receive an SMS from Qantas, a few days or more before your flight, offering you the chance to switch your flight to another one," it explains.
I'm used to being in the US and hearing the request for "volunteers" to switch flights in return for compensation (usually cash or points). This is due to the disturbingly common practice of "overbooking", where airlines book more passengers than there are actual seats on the plane, on the assumption that some will either switch bookings or not turn up. That's business as usual for airlines in the states, but this is the first time I've encountered it in a lifetime of flying domestically in Australia.
Why did Qantas need to make the switch? At a guess, it messed up its estimates. My original flight had already been switched from running on a 737-800 to a smaller 717-200. If a surge of new potential bookings appeared, then persuading some existing passengers to switch might pay off.
To be clear: if I hadn't accepted the offer, I'd have kept my seat on the original flight. I wasn't being bumped. But if I did choose to change to one of the other Qantas flights offered, I'd get a $200 voucher. I fly a lot, so I know I'll be able to spend that (and earn points from the flight). I was being switched to a Qantas flight, not a cheaper Jetstar alternative, and the timing still worked for my plans. So I happily accepted.
It's possible that if I'd held out, Qantas might have come back with a higher offer. I've seen that happen at US airline gates before. But given how rare this kind of deal is locally, I decided it made more sense to jump on it straight away.
Making the most of your opportunities and avoiding mistakes is one of the topics I'll be discussing at Frequent Traveler University (FTU), which is taking place in Sydney on November 17 and 18. If you're keen to take your frequent flyer earning (and redeeming) to the next level, this is a fabulous event and well worth signing up for. It's $299 to attend (including all sessions and lunch on both days), but you can score an early bird $20 off if you sign up before 10 November. Just use the code GETITNOW when you sign up on the FTU site.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.
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