How much are Frequent Flyer points worth?

I’ve been planning some activity for my many frequent flyer points, many tens of thousands of which were earnt over several years of paying for childcare on a credit card several years ago. It adds up, I can tell you.

Firstly I’ll be jaunting down to Hobart for a few days in October with Marita. Then I’ll be taking the kids on a little holiday over the Melbourne Cup long weekend. Their preferred venue? Sydney. Because although they’ve been there before, they want to (again) ride the monorail and the double-decker trains.

Poking around on the Qantas web site, I found tickets were available on points for all those flights. Who’d have thunk? Mind you some of the flights to/from Hobart involved going via Sydney — hardly a logical proposition. I managed to find some direct ones though.

In the small print on the site it mentions government taxes, fees and surcharges, but it gives you no clue as to the magnitude of them. This is only clear when you’ve worked your way through the booking, and I suppose it doesn’t know the precise amounts until you’ve said where you’re flying, but it’d be nice to have a clue early on, because it turned out to add up to about $50 per sector.

So for instance I could fly to Hobart for $49 plus 8000 points. Or alternately I could just book on Jetstar for $79 all-inclusive, if I was willing to put up with a rigidly enforced 30 minute check-in and no free food en-route. Eventually I decided to fly down on Jetstar, and back on Qantas. (And hopefully Marita can book onto the same flight home; she’ll be in Hobart before me on a work-paid conference trip.)

And the Sydney flights? Well I compared the costs of Qantas versus Qantas on points versus Jetstar versus Virgin Blue. Bearing in mind that kids don’t fly for any less money than adults on the cheapest flights, the totals for three passengers on return flights came out at:

  • Qantas on points, fees $300
  • Qantas on paid tickets $740
  • Virgin Blue paid tickets $594
  • Jetstar paid tickets $621 (bleuch, flying out of Avalon, what a pain that would be)

So using Frequent Flyer points is far from free, but assuming there isn’t some super-dooper-mega sale later down the track, it’ll still save me about $300 (and with the benefit of free nibblies thrown in), so given how infrequently I fly anywhere, this time round I’ll go with the points.

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10 thoughts on “How much are Frequent Flyer points worth?

  1. Daniel
    you hit the nail on the head. The four of us are flying to Tassie in Sept school hols (from Melbourne) for $69 each way with Virgin Blue. This works out about the same cost as using frequent flyer points if you take into account (i) the annual bank fee to link your FF scheme to your credit card, and (ii) the taxes, fees and charges imposed by airlines/airports.
    Also, people that have their credit card linked to a FF scheme are more likely to forgo any discount for using cash because “I need the points”.
    PS Am using the 15,000 miserable points I have to upgrade my wife to business class (trip to Wellington) which theoretically is worth $700.

  2. There ongoing discussion of this on the forums at frequentflyer.com.au. The consensus seems to be that the greatest value in points is for upgrades.

    Of course this isn’t much help if you don’t value upgrades very highly (I’d rather the extra flights).

    I booked a points flight Brisbane – Auckland return recently where the taxes and fuel surcharge cost me $200. Discount paid flights were available for about $500 including taxes, so as you say, the points are still worth something, just not as much as you think.

  3. Avalon is not so bad. It is small and easy to use and the parking fees are much less. Bit of a drive though.
    Interesting how close the price is for Virgin and Jetstar. I believe you get much better service from Virgin.

  4. The weather will be much better down here in October than it is at the moment… which isn’t that flash…

    A lot of people have had problems flying out of the state on Jetstar due to cancelled flights with Jetstar only alerting passengers an hour or two before hand. The problem is supposed to have been resolved which it has to a degree but it still happens about once a week…

    The airport prices on food and drinks is horrendous so getting something to nibble on while waiting for your flight while still in Hobart is advisable.

    Oh and for arriving on Jetstar… watch out in the rush to get bags off the baggage train ;)

  5. Since when have fees/taxes not been included in FF redeemed flights?

    I recently booked a Melbourne-Adelaide return trip.
    16,000 QFF points, plus $113 fees/taxes. VirginBlue: $122 (including credit card fee).

    but the really odd thing was that the Virgin ticket price was broken down into the Fare (about $18 each way), the Credit Card fee ($2 each way) and the taxes/fees ($41 each way). So if the Taxes and fees are only $41, how is it Qantas wanted $113 from me?
    Hmmm…

    Needless to say I went with Virgin.

  6. Alex
    fees/charges may have always been included in FF redeemed flights. However, up to 3 years ago, the amounts were trivial. The fact that airlines including fuel increases in the “charges” is outrageous (why not include increases in pilots’ salaries?). The fees/charges component is now larger than the basic ticket price on most short-haul discount fares.
    Rog.

  7. how much is the fuel levy ?

    access to a slide rule and appropriate data on fuel usage, passenger capacity etc could show whether you are being gouged.

  8. I’m saving my points for an upgrade … at some future point in time!
    As for Avalon … I’m going to be flying out of there at least (we may come back with VirginBlue to Tulla because it is the same price as coming back to Avalon) next weekend … wish me luck! (Hey, I’ve just survived the airport at Ulaan Bataar and flying MIAT … I wonder what Avalon is like in comparison?)

  9. I agree that with fees and charges the Qantas flights are not “free” at all. Also, I understood that you can’t now upgrade to business from discount economy – and give that no one pays full price for economy that’s a problem. Compounding this for me is that Jetstar don’t fly out of CBR, where I’m based.

    My solution has been to save points til I have enough for a business class flight to visit my sister in the US. It takes 196 000 points, but the cost of a business class flight is generally between $10 – 13K. The fees were about $350. So I’m feeling reasonably pleased about the value of that redemption (especially since more than half of them were from actual flying, plus some help from the ETrade promotion).

  10. I agree with Sarah – the best way to use the points is by saving them up and using them for international business. I recently booked two Qantas business tickets to the UK for later this year for the Rugby World Cup and it cost me 512,000 points. If I were to purchase these tickets they would have cost in excess of $20K. The taxes were less than $1K for the return trip for two. Downside is you generally have to book 355 days in advance to get the flights you want (this is the earliest you can book with Qantas)

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