It’s always a buzz when you clock up frequent flyer rewards points. Every cha-ching at the checkout could see you getting closer to a reward airline seat. But even with a bulging frequent flyer point balance, the test is how easy – or hard – it is to redeem points. A recent report by Australian Business Traveller set out to compare Qantas and Virgin Australia, to see which airline was the easiest to book a reward seat on.
They focused on a number of the most popular routes, to see which airline makes the most reward flights available. As you’d expect there were more reward seats available mid-week, with Thursday being the best day. The report compared reward seat availability on flights departing one week out from the date searched and also one month out from the date searched.* The winning airline in each category was based on the highest number of reward flights on each route.
Sydney-Melbourne reward flights
Winner: Qantas for business class, Virgin Australia for economy class
Both airlines had reward seat availability one month in advance. Qantas offered more business class reward seats than Virgin Australia, and also more economy seats when booking one month ahead. However, Virgin Australia had slightly higher availability of economy reward seats one week out, as well as economy reward seats available on a higher percentage of flights.
Melbourne-Brisbane reward flights
Business class and economy reward seats were available on over 90% of all Qantas flights booked a month in advance, economy seats were available on every flight departing in one month and business class and economy seats on some two-thirds of all flights booked one week ahead.
Brisbane-Auckland reward flights
Winner: Virgin Australia
Across business class and economy Virgin Australia offered the best chances of booking a reward flight one week before travel. Qantas had more business class reward flights one month ahead. Both offered an equal chance of securing an economy flight one month ahead.
Sydney-Los Angeles reward flights
Winner: Qantas had economy reward seats on almost twice as many flights, but neither airline had a business class seat.
Using points to secure a seat between Australia and the United States is a real challenge. No business class seats were available on either airline. Both did have economy reward seats available, with more available when booking one month ahead.
The verdict? The two airlines were pretty much neck and neck. However as Qantas has more flights on some routes, it was slightly ahead. The key, if you can, is to book ahead and to be flexible on the day you can fly – avoiding Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday.
* Each search period allowed a seven-day window for flexibility and covered business class and economy. The search was for seats booked as a ‘classic reward’ with the lowest number of points, while excluding codeshare flights and those operated by partner airlines.
The original report which appeared in Australian Business Traveller was written by Chris Chamberlin. For the full report click here.