To say the world of air travel is currently experiencing a New York minute every hour of the day is an understatement.
Following a government ban on entry to Australia for non-Australian citizens and non-permanent residents, as well as a reduction in domestic patronage, many airlines have announced the temporary suspension of international services and severe reductions to domestic routes.
As a result of this forced hiatus, airlines have also responded with temporary changes to frequent flyer program conditions that may normally result in status or point loss, or other penalties.
To top this off, airport lounges across the world are closing en masse, with many airlines giving no indication of a re-opening date.
Stay at home
At home, Qantas has advised it will suspend international services for both the flying kangaroo and Jetstar from late March, with the possibility of some ad hoc services as needed. There will also be a reduction of frequency to domestic services for both carriers of around 60 per cent. (See here for more details.)
Virgin Australia has announced similar changes, with the suspension of all international services and reductions to domestic routes for both Virgin until 14 June. Patrons can expect domestic services to be reduced by around 90 per cent by either complete suspension of some routes or the reduction of frequency in others. The company has also suspended all services on and Tigerair.
It is expected that more domestic route cuts will be announced following South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia closing state borders from Tuesday 24 March. Once NSW, Victoria and the ACT follow suit, it is expected that airlines will effectively cease domestic operations entirely.
These changes come alongside the temporary closure of domestic and international lounges across the globe for both Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Interestingly, these developments have been met as a challenge by the rideshare industry, with Didi indicating it may allow drivers to accept interstate fares. Start charging your backup batteries for that road trip now.
Our Kiwi friends
Air New Zealand has announced a suspension of all international travel for all unaccompanied minors until 30 June, unless travel home has already commenced. The company has also indicated reductions across all international routes will be made on a rolling basis.
These changes affect the company's services through Asia, Australia, Buenos Aires, North America, London and the Pacific Islands. See here for a full list of suspensions.
Not-so frequent flyers
Many airlines have also made extensions to reward programs to ensure their frequent flyers experience minimal disruption to their status tier and entitlements.
Virgin Australia will now grant Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum a one-year extension of their status tier. The airline had previously announced a monthly status points boost for non-travellers, which will also stay in place, awarding between 60 to 210 status credits depending on your membership tier.
Meanwhile, Qantas Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers will now receive a complimentary extension of one year to their status tier. This will be automatically granted to eligible patrons and could extend privileges into 2022 once added to your existing tier expiry date.
Air New Zealand has followed suit with the announcement of a 12-month extension to AirPoints Silver, Gold and Elite members. Again, this could extend AirPoints privileges through 2022 depending on a member's status anniversary.
More than just a club
Announced in 2019, Qantas has now launched the company's eagerly awaited Points Club – touted as a new way for Qantas customers to earn points from activities beyond flying, such as rewards from eligible purchases from program partner, BP Petrol.
An add-on to the existing Qantas Frequent Flyer program, the new program features two tiers – Points Club and Points Club Plus – which are accessed when achieving 150,000 and 350,000 points respectively.
Upon reaching either tier of Points Club, members are awarded certain bonuses, such as: lounge invitations or a complimentary Qantas Club Membership; percentage bonuses on new bookings; class upgrades on hire car bookings; the award of status points for Classic Flight Rewards bookings; or status point rollover allowances.
Considering many of us will be earth-bound for the foreseeable future, being able to keep your frequent flyer benefits ticking over like this is a welcome change from the usual news.
On any given day, you'll find Mark Gambino exploring the worlds of luxury travel, technology and alcohol; putting his spin on the experiences that define life's most memorable moments. He finds no greater pleasure than being behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle or sequestered in a basement bar to indulge a bibulous vice.
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Details correct at time of writing, but subject to change without notice. Consult your carrier for the latest changes.