Qantas oneworld Classic Flight Rewards: How to book the ultimate round-the-world reward flight
How to maximise your points value and avoid the oneworld Classic Flight Reward pitfalls.
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One of the most valuable uses of Qantas Points is through a round-the-world (RTW) ticket with oneworld airlines. The popular oneworld Classic Flight Reward allows you to package a combination of flights for a multi-stop adventure, scoring far more flights for your points than if you booked them individually.
Here's everything you need to know about how to score the ultimate reward using your Qantas Points. Included is a real-life case study of how I redeemed a 6-continent RTW ticket that equated to 35,000 miles of flying in business class. Searching for the best use for your Qantas Points? Look no further.
What is the oneworld Classic Flight Reward?
The Qantas rewards structure can be confusing as there are so many options. Simply, the oneworld Classic Flight Reward redemption covers any itineraries that include two or more oneworld airlines apart from Qantas (it can also include Qantas flights), so it's useful for multi-city trips and RTW journeys.
How many Qantas Points do you need for a oneworld RTW trip?
As of 18 September 2019, Qantas implemented a program-wide overhaul which saw an increase of cost for premium rewards and a small discount for economy rewards. Despite the recent devaluation, there is still much value to be had in this redemption. Here's how many points you need for each of the oneworld Classic Flight Rewards currently available:
|Cabin class||Required Qantas Points|
|Economy||132,400 points (down 7,600)|
|Premium economy||249,600 (up 39,600)|
|Business||318,000 points (up 38,000)|
|First||455,000 (up 35,000)|
The above rates assume you're going for maximum value and travelling the full 35,000 miles, which is the maximum for this award. Here is the oneworld Classic Flight Reward chart for other zones and travel classes:
|Zone||Return miles||Economy||Premium economy||Business||First|
A mixed cabin redemption is permitted, but the entire journey will automatically be priced according to the highest cabin class, which is not ideal. In other words, if you book three economy legs and one business leg, you'll still end up paying business rates for every single flight.
Zone 10 (19,201–35,000 miles) in business class is the sweet spot, simply because many airlines and routes do not feature first class. The same is true of premium economy and an economy redemption doesn't get you the most bang for your buck.
Why oneworld Classic Flight Rewards?
Most people are familiar with redeeming Qantas Points for a simple round-trip ticket. But why not convert your regular round-trip to a RTW redemption using a similar number of points? In fact, savvy users can get a heck of a deal from oneworld Classic Flight Rewards by booking creative and exciting itineraries. Let's explore a few examples.
Examples of reward tickets from Sydney to London return in business class:
|Reward type||Route||Airlines||Total miles||Points|
|Qantas Classic Reward||SYD–LHR (via SIN)|
|Qantas Classic Reward||SYD–LHR (via DXB)|
|Partner Classic Reward||SYD–LHR (via DOH)|
|oneworld Classic Flight Reward||SYD–LHR (via SIN)|
LHR–SYD (via HKG)
|oneworld Classic Flight Reward||SYD–SIN|
HKG–LHR (via DOH)
|oneworld Classic Flight Reward|
(round the world)
|SYD–HKG (via KUL)|
DOH–LHR (via HEL)
The first three examples are simple round-trip redemptions from Sydney to London, while the next three are examples that qualify as oneworld Classic Flight Rewards, since two or more oneworld airlines are included. Compared to the simple Qantas or Partner Rewards, oneworld Classic Flight Rewards offer a lot more value. Effectively, your points will get you further plus give you the luxury of having multiple stopovers.
oneworld Classic Flight Reward airlines and destinations
As the name suggests, only oneworld airlines can be included in a oneworld Classic Flight Reward redemption. That means non-oneworld Qantas partners such as Jetstar, El Al and Emirates are not eligible.
oneworld is an alliance of 13 airlines, with a network connecting over 1,000 destinations in more than 150 countries. The alliance has pretty solid coverage over most continents except Africa, which is without a local oneworld carrier. This will change when Moroccan flagship carrier Royal Air Maroc joins the alliance in the future. Unfortunately, LATAM will depart from the alliance following a recent tie-up with SkyTeam carrier Delta Airlines, which will leave behind a massive void in South America.
Current oneworld airlines are:
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- LATAM (until Oct 2020)
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- Sri Lankan Airlines
Having a rough idea of the hubs and routes of these airlines will assist you with the route planning process:
How far can you travel?
The maximum distance for a oneworld Classic Flight Reward is 35,000 miles. The total miles are calculated by adding the distance of each flight in the itinerary, plus any surface segments (explained further below.) A useful tool to calculate miles between city pairs is the Great Circle Mapper; just punch in the relevant airport codes and it will do the calculations for you.
In the scenario where your finishing port differs from the port of origin, the distance between these two ports also needs to be factored into the calculation. So if your ticket starts in Sydney but finishes in Melbourne, the distance from Melbourne to Sydney will still be included, even if you don't actually book that flight.
How to count surface sectors
Indeed, any part of the itinerary that involves flying in and out of different airports is considered a "surface sector". For example, during a stopover in Europe you may choose to arrive in Paris and then depart from London. Even if you're self-connecting between Paris and London using Eurostar, the distance between the two will still be factored in for the redemption calculation.
Stopover versus transfer: What's the difference?
Up to five stopovers are permitted and no stopover city can be repeated within the same itinerary. By definition, stopovers involve any stay of longer than 24 hours, while transfers are anything below that. As the number of transfers is not restricted, you can potentially squeeze in a few more cities to your list.
An ideal long transfer would be just shy of 24 hours, giving you the whole day to explore the city while your bags are checked through to your destination. Some of my favourite transfer cities are Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.
How do you book a oneworld RTW trip?
You can book a oneworld RTW trip either online using the Qantas website or over the phone. The Qantas Frequent Flyer website has a multi-city flight search function which makes this easier. Once you've selected an itinerary that includes multiple oneworld partners, the system automatically prices it according to the oneworld Classic Flight Reward table. Alternatively, you can book over the phone with one of the phone agents. Calling a phone agent is my preferred option especially when I have specific flights in mind.
When should you book a oneworld RTW trip?
The RTW ticket can be stretched out over a one-year period between the first flight and the last flight. As different airlines publish their reward seats at a different schedule, securing a reward seat one year in advance may be challenging. Should more redemption seats be made available after your initial booking, you may change your itinerary by paying a "change fee" of 5,000 points. That can still be much better value than making individual bookings.
What fees and taxes will you pay on a RTW trip?
Depending on the airlines, routes and airports, the fees vary. For a RTW trip with 5 stopovers, expect to pay more than $1,000. In general, flights ex-London as well as on British Airways are quite unfavourable in terms of their fees and surcharge. Ultimately, hefty fees and surcharges erode the value of points. This is especially so for economy class when cash tickets are generally reasonably priced. Hence, it's difficult to justify spending your hard-earned points when the out-of-pocket fees are high.
Qantas oneworld Classic Flight Rewards: Next steps
As Australia-based travellers, Qantas Points are easy to come by, both through credit card sign-ups and day-to-day earnings. Instead of accruing Qantas Points for return trips with Qantas and Partner Classic Rewards, it's worth looking into the oneworld Classic Flight Rewards given its fantastic value.
It requires a bit of research and patience to score an epic RTW ticket, but it's totally worth it. It might take you a while to piece together a RTW ticket as business class seat availability can be an issue and you'll need to be flexible with dates and routes.
A case study: Using Qantas Points for a RTW trip worth $17,000
I recently redeemed a RTW reward ticket using Qantas Points. My itinerary included flights to 6 continents and around 34,400 miles of flying, exclusively in business class. Without Qantas Points, this particular RTW itinerary would have cost more than $17,000.
I used 318,000 points so this redemption yielded an amazing value of more than $50 per 1,000 Qantas Points. I also managed to squeeze in my redemption just prior to the program's overhaul in September 2019, which made the deal even sweeter.
My RTW route map:
One of the flights with Iberia (Cairo to Madrid) was cancelled a few weeks after my initial booking. I was then re-accommodated to a set of new flights with British Airways at no extra cost.
My updated RTW route map:
Sydney to Amman
- SYD to NRT (Japan Airlines)
- NRT to KUL (Japan Airlines)
- KUL to AMM (Royal Jordanian Airlines)
Amman to Cairo
- AMM to CAI (Royal Jordanian Airlines)
Cairo to Madrid
- CAI to LHR (British Airways)
- LHR to MAD (British Airways)
Madrid to Lima
- MAD to LIM (Iberia)
Lima to Chicago
- LIM to MIA (LATAM)
- MIA to CLT (American Airlines)
- CLT to ORD (American AIrlines)
Chicago to Sydney
- ORD to BNE (Qantas)
- BNE to SYD (Qantas)
In this itinerary I've intentionally spaced out my connecting flights, giving me a full day to visit Tokyo, Miami, Charlotte and Brisbane. As the transfer time in these places is slightly less than 24 hours, they are not considered as stopovers. Essentially, I get to visit more places despite already maxing out my stopover allowance.
The essential steps for planning and booking a round-the-world points redemption
1. Selecting your stopovers
This redemption only permits a maximum of five stopovers, so pick wisely. As I had decided to stop in all five continents, I could only stop over in one city per continent. From the beginning I shortlisted Amman (to visit Petra and Israel), Cairo (to see the Pyramids) and Lima (to visit Machu Picchu). However, I was more or less flexible with my European and North American stopover cities.
2. Choosing your airlines
Once you've shortlisted your destinations, you may want to research which oneworld airlines offer services to those places. Surprisingly, I found Wikipedia quite useful as each airport page gives you an up-to-date list of carriers and their destinations from that port.
Knowing that not all business class cabins are created equal, I advise selecting airlines that offer excellent business products if possible. Some of my favourites include Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Having said that, this is not always practical. It is often dependent on the routes of interest and the seat availability, so don't beat yourself up if you can't fly with these carriers.
3. Planning your routes
Equipped with a list of destinations and carriers, you can now map out the potential routes. I found the oneworld interactive network map quite useful to get information on flight routes and schedules. I suggest keeping your options somewhat open, e.g. eastbound vs westbound, the travel dates and the sequence of the destinations. Having a level of flexibility helps to optimise your chance of a successful redemption. For example, I switched the direction of my RTW itinerary simply because I had trouble finding seats from Australia to the US. In the end I decided to visit the US at the conclusion of my trip rather than the beginning.
When connecting your routes together, remember to also check that you've not exceeded the 35,000-mile limit.
4. Checking seat availability
Firstly, you can try searching for reward seats on the Qantas website under the "use points" tab, which also lets you search for multi-city flights.
This is handy because it allows you to search the availability for the entire trip (and even finalise your booking online). However, I tend to break up my searches to smaller segments. This is because you're forced to restart the entire multi-city search if one of the sectors doesn't work out, which can be very time-consuming.
Note: Search results will include non-oneworld partner seats and mixed-cabin itineraries. You'll want to skip these to avoid paying a higher price. In particular, keep an eye out for Emirates flights, which will pop up a lot during searches.
Another limitation is that Qantas does not permit searches for flights originating from certain countries (e.g. Egypt, Nepal, Maldives), though these seats will still show up as part of the multi-city search originating from a permitted country. For instance, I was unable to search for flights from Cairo to Madrid, but these reward seats are viewable when the search is bundled within a multi-city itinerary originating from Sydney.
Note: Qantas may not give you all the oneworld flight options. It's worth verifying your search using the search portals of other oneworld airlines, such as British Airways and Japan Airlines. In my case, Qantas did not show any business seats from Lima to Chicago, but the British Airways search engine offered the option of connecting flights via Miami and Charlotte.
You can also consider using specialised paid reward search engines, such as Expert Flyer and Award Nexus. Expert Flyer offers a free five-day "Pro" membership for new sign-ups, which I used during the days leading up to my booking. Expert Flyer also allows flexible search (up to +/- 3 days) and you can also apply filters to narrow your search according to specific airlines and non-stop flight options only. I found Expert Flyer useful for Finnair, Iberia and Malaysia Airlines, but unfortunately this service is currently unavailable for Qatar Airways or Cathay Pacific.
Throughout the entire reward search exercise, I advise keeping a list or spreadsheet of the seats you've identified, including the date, the flight number and flight time. This will make your life a lot simpler in the subsequent step.
5. Booking your redemption
With the established limitations of Qantas' online portal, finalising your RTW trip may be easier over the phone. I found Qantas agents in this department quite competent and well-versed with the process. Having put in the hard yards to identify the seat availability beforehand, I supplied the agent my stopover choices and the flight details segment by segment. She was able to confirm the availability as I had found and priced my RTW itinerary according to the oneworld Classic Flight Reward chart. The total taxes and carrier surcharge added up to around $1,200 per person, which was what I had expected.
An additional tip for Qantas Frequent Flyers with higher status levels (Gold and Platinum): Ensure the phone agent is aware of your membership status if you're planning to include a Qantas flight. Elite status holders get priority access to premium seats which the phone agent may overlook if you don't let them know.
Wrapping up: Using Qantas Points for oneworld round-the-world trips
Redeeming a RTW ticket through oneworld Classic Flight Rewards can be complex and daunting for beginners. In order to maximise the value of your points, some research and pre-planning is needed. While seat availability is often the limiting factor for business class RTW redemption, a general understanding of the oneworld network and the various rewards search tools can better optimise and individualise a successful RTW trip.
Ultimately, the ability to travel 35,000 miles around the world in business class is pretty darn "rewarding".
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