Hidden frequent flyer trap in Australia’s half price flights scheme


A new travel industry support scheme promises 800,00 half-price tickets to popular Australian destinations. But what does that mean for frequent flyers and avid points collectors?

Around 46,000 half-price domestic tickets will go on sale each week from April 1 to July 31.

That’s potentially good news for frequent flyers who spent most of 2020 in pandemic-induced lockdown.

High-status flyers saw their existing status extended by Qantas and Virgin across 2020, so there hasn’t been an immediate need to panic about needing to fly purely to keep a Gold or Platinum passenger ranking.

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However, the option to actually hit the road and earn points on cheaper tickets is still very appealing, especially now that both Qantas and Virgin have their lounges open.

The key is making the most of those deals as they emerge is to understand the fine print.

Firstly, the half-price offer only applies to 13 specific destinations, where the government wants to encourage visitors because tourism is a key element of the local economy.

In Queensland, that covers flights to Cairns, the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays and the Sunshine Coast.

For the Northern Territory, Alice Springs and Lasseter make the grade, while in Tasmania, it’s Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.

South Australia scores with Kangaroo Island, while WA offers Broome.

NSW is only represented by Merimbula, and Victoria by Avalon.

Bear in mind that if there isn’t a direct flight from your nearest capital city to one of the 13 target markets, you may not see any sale fares, or might need to pay for a regular seat to connect.

It’s worth noting that Australia’s most popular route, Sydney-Melbourne, is not on that list.

We’ve seen lots of competitive fares between those cities anyway, especially since Rex entered the market.

But those flights won’t be a points or discount bonanza under this scheme.

A second key consideration is making sure you choose the right airline.

While Qantas owns Jetstar, a standard Jetstar sale fare doesn’t earn any Qantas Points.

You can upgrade the fare to earn points by adding in bundles, but Finder analysis suggests that this won’t be worth it in many instances.

On Qantas itself and on Virgin, sale fares don’t earn the same number of points as higher-priced seats.

That’s not a reason to avoid them, just a reminder to temper any expectations about how much you’ll earn.

Angus Kidman is the editor-in-chief and frequent flyer guru for comparison site Finder.


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