Qantas reward seat bookings are never “free” since you always need to fork out cash to cover government taxes and the “fees” imposed by airlines and airports, which can easily add up to hundreds of dollars.
While these costs are unavoidable, they do vary depending on the airline and route you’re flying, which means it’s possible to minimise them by comparing your options.
The first factor to consider is the fees imposed by the airline itself. Some carriers (eg. Emirates) charge much higher fees than others (eg. China Eastern, Japan Airlines and American Airlines). As for Qantas, it has typically charged high fees in the past, but fortunately it’s just announced a significant reduction.
For example, let’s say you want to fly from Melbourne to Paris in business class. The two airlines with the best award seat availability on this route are Emirates and China Eastern. A return award booking with Emirates would cost 256,000 Qantas Points + $1372 in taxes and fees, while with China Eastern the cost is 278,000 points + $691. So with the latter, while you need 22,000 more points, you can save almost $700 in fees.
Another factor to consider is the city you’re flying from. In some parts of the world – especially Europe – there can be a significant difference in the taxes and fees levied.
For example, the UK is notorious for its very high departure fees. A business class flight with Emirates from London Heathrow to Melbourne via Dubai incurs a whopping 651 pound surcharge (~AU$1192). You can save hundreds by still flying with Emirates but adjusting your itinerary to depart instead from Dublin (EUR515 / AU$844 surcharge) or Paris (EUR587 / AU$962 surcharge).
If you have a choice of airlines or departure cities, it pays to compare your options. You could easily save hundreds of dollars in fees, which is money that could go towards other costs on your trip.
To view the applicable taxes and fees, you need to do a flight search on Qantas’ site, select a flight and then click “continue” to begin the booking process.
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