One World Alliance Frequent Flyer Points: Why all is not equal


American Airlines frequent flyer points give much more bang for the buck than Qantas

How to get the most value from your One World Alliance Frequent Flyer Points

One World is the name of the biggest frequent flyer airline alliance, which includes Qantas, American Airlines, and British Airways. So you’d think that it would be the best way to earn and make the most use of frequent flyer points. However, all is not equal in frequent flyer land and the value of frequent flyer miles on some member airlines is MUCH better than others. This post will give you the lowdown on why.

We all have our favorite ways to use frequent flyer points. Some of us use them for upgrades to the pointy end of the plane. Others for getting free tickets to a special destination. There are those of us who will only fly with one airline alliance to be sure to maximize the benefits of all their frequent flyer points. Others fly with so many different alliances their frequent flyer points are like petals in a pool, pretty but not very useful. For the purposes of this post, I am focusing on the best way to use frequent flyer points for flying, not to buy wine or book hotel rooms.

My story: Why I know how different frequent flyer programs are within the same airline alliance

I have been a member of the American Airlines’ frequent flyer program since 1986, the year before my first daughter was born. In 1999, the One World Alliance was created and its founding members were American Airlines, Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Canadian Airlines (which later left when it merged with Air Canada). Today, the founding members have added a host of other airlines including Finnair, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, and Qatar Airways.

The history doesn’t matter, what is intriguing is how radically different the benefits and related costs of using points are when it comes to claiming those frequent flyer miles. It couldn’t be more glaring than with the case of Qantas and American Airlines. This is particularly significant for me as our family is Australian American, with myself and my husband and youngest daughter currently living in Australia and our two older daughters living in the US. We are experts because we burn up a lot of miles and use a lot of frequent flyer points across the Pacific.

What you get for American Airlines and Qantas points is totally different.

Take a frequent flyer round trip between Melbourne and New York.

On American Airlines, for Economy Class you can do this for as few as 75,000 points with a mere $136.50 in charges.

On Qantas, for Economy Class it will cost you 128,000 points and a whopping $920 in charges.

On American Airlines, if you fly Business Class you can get seats for as little 125,000 points and about the same American charges as for Economy Class.

On Qantas, for Business Class, you need 256,000 points (more than double than American) and about the same Qantas charges as for Economy Class.

A one-way Business Class ticket on Qantas from Melbourne to Los Angeles will cost 96,000 points and $541.83.

A one-way First Class ticket on American from Los Angeles to Melbourne costs just 72,500 points and only $34. I know because I booked those flights last year.

These glaring differences are even more graphic when you realize that on all flights between Australia and the States you are actually flying on the same Qantas plane. American Airlines is a co-chair partner.

How to make the most of your frequent flyer points

* Now that you know how different the systems are, join up with American Airlines Advantage frequent flyer program and every time you book a ticket on a One World partner airline, make sure you use your American Airlines frequent flyer number. It costs nothing to join whereas the Qantas frequent flyer program has a one-time joining fee of $82.50AU. You’ll be getting long distance flights sooner and paying less.

* Use your existing Qantas frequent flyer points for upgrades rather than buying tickets outright. This will incur lower charges. If you want to buy airline tickets and have enough miles, I suggest opting for Business Class rather than Economy because all those ancillary charges Qantas makes (remember $$960 for a round trip fare between Melbourne and New York) are not that much more for Business over Economy.

* If you have the luxury of living in both the United States and Australia, I strongly suggest getting an American Airlines credit card so that you can accumulate points more quickly. It is amazing just how fast you will accumulate points for a free tickets.

 Your say

I realize this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to figuring out the ins and outs of frequent flyer awards and benefits. I’d love to hear from anyone who has some other tips, which I would be happy to link to or feature in another blog post.

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

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