Frequent flyer cards: make the most of your status

What if one card could let you skip the queues at the check-in counter and fast-track through airport security, before escaping to the lounge – even though you're flying with that airline for the very first time?

The good news is, that supercharged card could already be sitting in your wallet or purse.

It's a Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card with Qantas or Virgin Australia.

Both of those airlines have, to varying degrees, partnerships with a range of overseas carriers where your Qantas or Velocity card unlocks a raft of perks.

While that may sound like Frequent Frequent 101 stuff to many of this column's most-travelled readers, I'm often surprised by how many card-carrying Qantas and Virgin Australia flyers don't realise that their shiny cards carry weight with other airlines.

Lounging around 

That includes lounge access, a higher checked luggage allowance, priority boarding – handy if you're in economy and want to make an early claim on your overhead locker space – and, sometimes, an upgrade.

That won't always be to business or first class. Many airlines understandably prefer to look after their own high flyers before those of an affiliated airline. But even in economy on US or European domestic flights, for example, it can mean being bumped to an extra legroom row that's typically reserved for top-tier frequent flyers.

Right on schedule

This knowledge can also help make a more informed choice of airline for some overseas trips. Let's say some business travel in the US is on your schedule. Qantas frequent flyers should lean towards the Red Roo's stateside partner American Airlines, while for Virgin Australia that partner is Delta.


On both of those US airlines, your Aussie frequent flyer card will deliver welcome fringe benefits.

Without knowing of those Qantas and Virgin alliances you might book on a different airline and effectively get worse value for money.

Partnering up

Qantas has two main partnerships. The most extensive comes as a member of the Oneworld airline alliance and includes American Airlines and US Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Germany's Airberlin, Japan Airlines, South America's LAN and TAM, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.

(Click here to see a complete list of airlines under the Oneworld umbrella.)

The frequent flyer schemes of each Oneworld airline line up so that their highest tier is equivalent to Oneworld Emerald status – this includes Qantas Platinum, BA's Executive Club Gold, Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club Diamond and so on.

Qantas Gold, Cathay Pacific Gold, BA Silver and other second-tier frequent flyer levels belong to Oneworld's Sapphire category.

Going Platinum 

As a rule of thumb, Qantas Platinum status gets you into the first class lounge of any Oneworld airline – even if you're flying in economy with that airline. It also opens the doors of business lounges, of course.

Just don't expect to find any Oneworld first class lounges as good as Qantas' flagship Sydney and Melbourne lounges. The Red Roo raises the bar very high.

At some airports you'll be able to choose between several lounges, each operated by a different Oneworld partner airline. There's nothing to stop you from visiting each lounge and settling in the one you like best.

Pick of the bunch

At Hong Kong you're able to check into the excellent Qantas lounge, but also any of the Cathay Pacific lounges located throughout the airport, typically near to the gates frequented by CX flights.

Not all the lounges of OneWorld airlines are available to even a Platinum Qantas card-holder, however. BA's Concorde Room at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 is restricted to BA's first class travellers and top-tier Executive Club frequent flyers.

However, your Qantas Platinum card does let you use BA's first class check-in zone and express security lane at T5.

Similarly, Qatar Airways' Premium Lounge at Heathrow T4 is only for business and first class passengers. If you're in economy, take your Qantas Platinum or Gold card to the nearby lounges of fellow Oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines.

What's your top tip to make the most of your frequent flyer status? Tell us in the comments below. 

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

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