In theory, reward seats sound great, allowing you to redeem flights with an airline using your frequent flyer points and only a small cash payment, if any at all. However, due to reward seat availability being limited in number, booking a reward seat can often be easier said than done. This guide takes a look at the various types of reward seats that are offered by the Air New Zealand Airpoints, Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer programmes.
There are multiple ways to find reward seats, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Most often, it is best to search for reward seats using the airline program you want to redeem your points with, as they should have the most reliable information. For example, if you want to redeem Qantas Points, search with Qantas. However, in some cases partner airlines or third-party search engines can be useful.
Air New Zealand
There are four redemptions options available to Airpoints members:
- ‘Any seat’ Awards
- Partner Awards
- Discounted Business Award fares
- Companion Awards
We summarise what these are below.
‘Any seat’ Awards
Air New Zealand allow all their seats to be booked as an award. It is simple to understand – one Airpoints Dollar is equal to one New Zealand Dollar when redeemed for these ‘any seat’ awards.
In practical terms, this means:
- For Air New Zealand Domestic flights, whatever the cost of the flight, that is how many Airpoints Dollars you will need to make a redemption
- For Air New Zealand International flights, whatever the cost of the flight less taxes, that is how many Airpoints Dollars you will need to make a redemption. Taxes will be paid separate with cash
A seat on this flight from Auckland to Wellington costs $89, or 89 Airpoints Dollars
Simply sign in to your online account with your Airpoints details before or while you are booking your flight and select to pay with Airpoints Dollars at the payment stage.
Other flights that can be redeemed in this way include:
- United Airlines operated flights between Auckland and San Francisco
- Air China operated flights between Auckland and Beijing
- Cathay Pacific operated flights between Auckland or Christchurch and Hong Kong
- Qantas operated domestic Australia flights purchased in conjunction with an Air New Zealand international flight
If you are short on the number of Airpoints Dollars required for the award, you can either use Airpoints Flexipay, or top-up using your Air New Zealand Airpoints credit card (the latter is my preferred option).
You can use your Airpoints Dollars on a range of flights with Star Alliance partners and other Air New Zealand partner airlines.
Airpoints members based in New Zealand can book partner reward flights on Star Alliance partners through their online web portal.
There will be limited availability of Partner Awards seats available on each flight, and some flights have no seats available. You will also not earn Airpoints Dollars or status points on these bookings, but will be subject to taxes, fees and carrier charges.
Partner Award availability will be shown for the day that you search for
If there is no availability, use the vertical calendar search to jump to other days. If the day is clickable, awards are available for that day, but you will not know which class until you click through
Once you select a flight, the number of Airpoints Dollars and taxes payable will display
For reward flights on other partners (e.g. Virgin Atlantic and Etihad), you will need to call the Airpoints contact centre at 0800 247 764.
Discounted Business Award Fares
One-way discounted business award fares are available on Air New Zealand on selected routes:
- Auckland-Honolulu: 1,830 APD
- Auckland-Tahiti: 710 APD
- Auckland-Asia: 1,980 APD
- Auckland-North America: 2,790 APD
- Auckland-London: 3,190 APD
These fares are available to Elite, Gold, Silver and Koru members only.
If you are starting your journey from outside Auckland, an additional fee of 75 Airpoints Dollars will apply. If a flight to Auckland can be had for less than $75 (or 75 APD) it may be worth simply paying for this separately to save (in part) on the fee.
Note that these award tickets are limited in availability. Air New Zealand do not publicly advertise what class these seats fall under, but presumably if a standard award appears on any of these routes via a search on the United MileagePlus award search platform, then it will be bookable with Air New Zealand as a discounted award.
The fares shown also exclude all applicable taxes, levies and surcharges, which must be paid for in cash.
Unlike partner awards, these rates are for the route, not per segment. This means that 3,190 APD is the total cost to fly from Auckland to Los Angeles, and then onwards to London with Air New Zealand. Though as an aside, if you booked a partner award on this route with only two segments, it would still only come to 3,200 APD in Business Class, and would open up the opportunity to fly with partner airlines like Air China, United, Air Canada, or Thai Airways.
Call the Airpoints contact centre at 0800 247 764 to check for availability and/or make a booking.
These awards are tricky to navigate— in short, if you have purchased a fully flexible Tasman, Island or long-haul Business Class fare, then you could then book a seat for a companion at a cheaper cost than buying them a fare outright.
Economy and Premium Economy companion fares are also available on select routes.
Unlike Discounted Business Award Fares, companion awards are available to all Airpoints members.
In most cases, a partner redemption will offer better value. However if you already find yourself with a flexible fare—say you are travelling for work—and you decide that you’d like your friend, husband, or wife to come along as well, then these companion fares can be a cheaper option of securing said seat, than booking it outright.
Key things to know:
- Companion tickets are only available on Air New Zealand ticketed and operated international flights
- Companion tickets are not available in conjunction with Smart Sale, Smart Saver or Global Saver Max fares, Airpoints award tickets, travel industry fares, prize/promotion tickets and upgrades or Seat Only or Seat + Bag products
- Companion fares are for the entire one-way route, not per segment
- All long haul companion ticket prices are exclusive of a NZD $60 / 60 APD service fee (per one-way journey)
- Short haul companion ticket prices are exclusive of a NZD $35 / 35 APD service fee (per one-way journey)
- The fares shown exclude all applicable taxes, levies and surcharges. Taxes, levies and surcharges must be paid for with cash, not Airpoints Dollars
There are three ways to book flights with Qantas Points, ‘Classic Flight Awards’ and ‘Points Plus Pay’ and ‘Any Seat Award’. Points Plus Pay can be thought of as a hybrid between an Any Seat Award and paying for the fare fully by cash.
A summary of the Classic Flight Award and Any Seat Award can be found here.
Classic Flight Rewards
Classic Flight Rewards require a set number of points per flight, based on the distance of travel. They are available with Qantas and Jetstar as well as their partners shown below.
To book a Classic Flight Reward, simply log in to your frequent flyer account and select ‘Use points’ on the booking window.
Remember, there is limited availability of Classic Flight Rewards seats available on each flight, and some flights have no seats available. You will also not earn Qantas Points or status credits on Classic Flight Rewards, but will be subject to taxes, fees and carrier charges.
Classic Flight Reward availability will be shown over a month
After selecting a date available flights are shown on the next page
Once flights are selected, you should be able to see the points required
You can calculate the number of points you need for your Classic Flight Rewards redemption using Qantas’ own Points Calculator.
Points Plus Pay
Points Plus Pay is available on Qantas, Jetstar and some of their partner airlines. Points Plus Pay requires you to have a minimum of 5,000 points for Qantas flights or 3,500 for Jetstar flights.
‘Points Plus Pay’ sits as a hybrid between an ‘Any Seat Award’ and paying for the fare fully by cash in that you can book any available seat using all points (that is, an ‘Any Seat Award’), or a combination of points and cash. You will earn Qantas Points and status credits just as if you had paid for your ticket with cash.
The Points Plus Pay window is shown after you have selected flights and have proceeded to the next page.
Although easier to book, Points Plus Pay does not often provide good value for money, and where possible, look to redeem for a Classic Flight Reward or purchase a fare by cash and save those points for a later redemption.
Any Seat Award
‘Any Seat Awards’ are award seats made available so long as there is seat available for purchase on your desired flight. To book an ‘any seat award’, you will need to use the ‘Points Plus Pay’ function and move the slider to set the co-cash payment to zero.
The points pricing for these seats are based on the cash fare of the seat and generally estimated to be 0.7c per point. For example, return Business class flights that retail for $3,366 were priced at 481,000 points for an any seat award with no cash co-payment.
While the availability of ‘any seat awards’ is fantastic, it too does not represent good value and for most people, the points required for these types of awards is in excess of most’s people balances, especially for long-haul premium cabins.
There are two ways to book flights with Velocity points, ‘Velocity Reward Seats’ and ‘Any Seat’. Both are available for flights on Virgin Australia and their partner airlines including Air Canada, Delta, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Singapore Airlines (though the latter only on a VA codeshare, or in conjunction with a Virgin Australia flight).
Velocity Reward Seats
Velocity Reward Seats rewards require a set number of points per flight, based on the distance travelled. There is a limited amount of Velocity Reward Seats available on each flight, and some flights have no seats available. You will not earn Velocity points or status credits for flying, and in addition to the required points, taxes, fees and carrier charges are payable.
To book Velocity Reward Seats simply select ‘Use Points + Pay” on the booking window.
Like Qantas, Any Seat is easier to book as it is always available (as long as the flight is not sold out). If you are looking to book a specific flight or you can’t find Velocity Reward Seats you may choose to book Any Seat, however it will cost considerably more points. For example, the flight below costs 51,100 more points to book Any Seat as opposed to a Velocity Reward Seat. You are able to pay entirely with points, or with a mix of points and cash (minimum 2,500 points) and you will earn Velocity points and status credits just as if you had paid for your ticket with cash.
Again, although easier to book, Any Seat does not often give good value for money. We suggest trying to book velocity reward seats if possible.
Velocity Reward Seat and Any Seat are shown on flights page
Searching for award seats can be a time-intensive and sometimes confusing process given the different award seat types. Knowing these different types will help to ensure that you are searching for award seats that meet your needs and frequent flyer points balance. If you’re looking for the more restrictive ‘Classic award seats’, it does sometimes take patience and flexibility in terms of dates and flight routes but in the end, it is often one of the best uses of frequent flyer points.