Qantas Club Membership Review - Is it worth the price of admission?
The Qantas Club has been a been the unofficial watering hole of corporate Australia for the last 20 years, providing members with benefits normally reserved for their top tier Frequent Flyers. However, membership does not come cheap; as such, the question I aim to answer is "does membership represent good value for money"? Having been a Qantas Club member for over a decade, I will hopefully be able to give you some useful insights into its benefits and some tips on how to make the most of membership.
The Qantas Club experience starts as soon as you arrive at the airport as being a member allows you to check in at the premium service desks. Domestically what I find is that there are normally two priority lines, one for Gold, Silver and Qantas Club members and the other for Business class and Platinum members. This is an absolutely brilliant benefit, as you actually get to talk to a human being rather than an automated kiosk; a great benefit when you need help with checking your baggage through onto ongoing flight connections, seat allocations and help in general. I have even scored the occasional upgrade from being able to talk to a member of staff, and on one occasion the Qantas staff member even helped me carry baby paraphernalia over to the oversized check-in counter—now that is service!
Which international check-in desks Qantas Club members can use is not so clear though. I spent a rather frustrating half an hour on the phone to Qantas Club membership trying to find this out. What I can gather is that if there is a desk with a Qantas Club sign above it then head for that one. Failing that, then Premium Economy appears to be the default line for Qantas Club members. If there is no Premium Economy section on your flight, then I would head for the Business check-in line, working on the premise that 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission'. The aim here being, of course, to avoid at all costs the Economy check-in desk, whose queue can sometimes be out the door.
On Departure Upgrade requests for Qantas Australian Domestic flights
This is the BIG one and was my primary reason for holding membership. I cannot remember how many times over the years I have been upgraded thanks to being able to put in a request at the service desk inside the Club. For non-Club members, if you are travelling Economy and your online request for an upgrade has not come through by the time you get to the airport, then that is it—no lie-flat beds and Shaw & Smith for you. If you are interested in upgrades, then you can read my full How to Get an Upgrade with Qantas Guide.
As far as On Departure Upgrades go, my advice is pretty self-evident: get to the Club nice and early and try to travel by yourself, as your chances of getting one are much better if you are only looking for one empty seat in business. Unless, of course, you can convince your travel buddy that, if there is only one upgrade available, then they should do the generous thing and stay behind the curtain. If you can swing that, then your powers of persuasion are truly world class. Also, make sure you have the requisite number of points sitting in your Frequent Flyer account to cover the upgrade—for a quick way to accumulate points have a look at my Qantas Wine article.
The Qantas Club Lounges
The reason why most frequent flyers will join the Club, however, is in order to make their day to day travel experience a little more civilised. What the Club's lounges provide is a comfortable haven in which to relax with a drink and something to eat far from the maddening crowds.
If this is what you are looking for, then the Qantas Club does this exceedingly well. The lounges are designed so that there are clearly defined areas for eating, relaxation and work. There are tables and chairs for eating, bar stools for enjoying a drink and comfortable chairs for relaxing in. There are the business centres where you can set up your laptop at the desks provided, logging into the free wifi. The lounges are generally large enough to comfortably accommodate all the travelling members. Over the years, even at peak periods in busy lounges such as Perth and Sydney, I have always been able to find a seat.
The refreshments in the lounge are excellent and have only gotten better with time. Qantas has always provided a great range of wines, beers and spirits that are available from midday at the bar. The wine selection generally includes a sparkling white and a couple of varieties of red and white. There are also soft options, mixers and juices. And if the bar is feeling creative, they may even whip up some cocktails or, as here, some lemon, lime and bitters.
However, what Club now offers as its dining service has improved beyond recognition. When I first joined back in 2005, for breakfast there was a choice of yogurt, fruit, cereal and toast, and for the rest of the day, a selection of cheeses, cold meats, soup and the occasional salad. Today the Club offers a hot breakfast, with eggs and frittatas, as well as muffins and croissants, and there are now hot options in the afternoon as well: sweet potato fries, empanadas and meat pies–perfect for the end of the day!
The Qantas Club has also recently followed their Business Class lounges with the introduction of Vittoria barista-made coffee and with the option to use the Skip app to pre-order even before you reach the lounge. For those members with an early flight, a really great new introduction is the grab-and-go breakfast option, where you can pick up a pre-packed breakfast of fruit, juice and a muffin.
Another great benefit that Qantas Club lounges offer is the provision of showers, which are in reality private bathrooms, as they also have toilets and sinks. So if you are looking to freshen up before getting to your next destination, then they are a godsend. All you need to do is go up to the front service counter and let the staff members know that you would like to take a shower and they will provide you with a pack of fluffy white towels.
As a Qantas Club member, you can access the Qantas Club lounge so long as your next onward flight that day is on a Qantas or Jetstar Airlines flight number. Also, you are welcome to bring one guest with you and they do not need to be travelling, great if you just need to meet someone for business quickly or if you want to treat your lift to a thankyou drink.
International Business Lounges
The other great benefit of Qantas Club membership is that its lounge benefits are not restricted to domestic travel, as you are welcome to use international lounges. There are three categories of International Lounge that membership will grant access to—Qantas International Business Lounges, Partner Lounges and Associated Lounges.
Qantas International Business Lounges
These are Qantas' own Business Class Lounges found in airports to which Qantas flys directly using their own planes. They tend to be located at larger hub airports; Auckland, London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo (Narita). These lounges are the easiest to identify as they will have a Kangaroo by the door (not literally) and should be well signposted. They also tend to be excellent lounges, comparable to the Qantas Club Lounges at home—generally smaller in size but with an upgraded wine list. However, with the launch of new international Lounges like London and Singapore, you will be able to enjoy a truly fantastic lounge experience; below is the newly opened Qantas London Heathrow lounge.
To be able to access the Qantas Business Class lounges you will need to be travelling that day, and your next onward flight must be either on Qantas or Jet Star. You are also welcome to bring one guest with you so long as they are travelling on the same flight.
Partner International Lounges
Partner lounges are operated by airlines with which Qantas has close ties; Emirates, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. This is particularly useful if you are travelling across the States, as you can use the American Airlines Admirals Lounges. To access them, your American Airlines ticket will have to have a Qantas flight number on it. This is a really good benefit as American Airlines keeps lounges in pretty much every reasonably sized airport in America, so Qantas Club membership gives you access to a well-established network of high-quality lounges in the States.
The Qantas/Emirates partnership also means that when travelling through Dubai Qantas Club members are welcome to access the Emirates Business Class lounge, entrance conditional on them travelling on the same day on a flight with a Qantas flight number. Members are also welcome to bring a quest provided that they are also travelling on the same flight.
The last partnership that Qantas Club members can take advantage of is with Alaskan Airline's as they can access their lounges in Los Angeles, Seattle, Anchorage and Portland when they are travelling on an Alaska flight, that is connecting to, or from, a Qantas international operated flight.
Associated lounges are lounges run by or on behalf of other Airlines apart from Qantas or their Partners. To be eligible to use the associate lounge Qantas Club members must be travelling on a Qantas flight, and they and their guest must present their Qantas Club membership card and boarding pass for a flight leaving the same day. Members cannot use the lounge if they are travelling on a codeshare flight.
To be honest, when you get down to associated lounges I find it can get quite confusing as to which lounge is where and fortunately however Qantas, provides a list of locations and entry requirements, which you can see here Qantas Club Lounge Locations
Extra Baggage Allowance
Extra baggage allowance, while not what I would call a sexy travel benefit, is definitely one that comes in handy—especially when travelling en famile. Being a Qantas Club member, you get more weight allowance both Domestically and Internationally.
Domestic Baggage Allowance
With Domestic the benefit only applies when you are travelling Economy, as you get an additional 9kg on the one piece of checked baggage, taking you from the base 23kg up to a more respectable 32kg (though I would not want to be hefting that bag around). As far as Business goes, you will only be able to pack the proverbial kitchen sink if you are a Platinum or Platinum One frequent flyer, as you can then check up to 96kg, spread across three pieces.
International - North & South America
International baggage allowances are split into flights to the Americas and flights to the rest of the World. Baggage allowances to North and South America have always been much more generous; maybe they are assuming you are going to hit the outlet malls hard, which I must say was a pretty accurate assumption when 1 Aussie dollar was buying 1 US dollar. Like with Domestic, the excess baggage allowance only applies in if you are travelling Economy or Premium Economy—you get an additional bag up to 23kg. If you are Business or First, then there is no additional allowance.
International - Everywhere else
When travelling to the rest of the World, Qantas Club members receive an additional 12kg in every cabin, the only proviso being that no one bag can weigh more than 32kg.
In summary, the extra baggage allowance benefit that comes with Qantas Club membership is only really useful domestically and internationally (Americas) if you are travelling in Economy or Premium Economy, as if you are already in a premium cabin there is no further weight allowance given. If, however, you are flying internationally outside of the Americas, then it is worth an extra 12kg in every class. This, for me, is neither a deal maker or breaker and falls into the 'nice to have' basket.
Priority waitlist and airport standby
Qantas Club members also get prioritised in the event that a flight is full and a seat becomes available. However, it should be noted that this is only if you are travelling on a paid ticket and if waitlisting in possible. If you are travelling on a redemption ticket (paid for with points) then this does not apply.
Discounts on Qantas Meeting Rooms rates
This is not one that I have ever used myself, but it is a good option if you need a short term meeting room at the airport, and who does not like a discount? Qantas has meeting rooms in Sydney T3, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Darwin, Townsville and Gold Coast domestic terminals. The Qantas Meeting Rooms accommodate up to 22 persons and come with Wi-Fi, LCD presentation screens, teleconferencing and photocopy services, and there are also various catering options available.
How much does membership cost?
Joining the Qantas Club comes with two components, firstly there is the once-off joining fee. If you reside within Australia, then this is A$399. If you live outside of Australia, then there are different joining fees depending on if you live in New Zealand or the rest of the World (Other). The other component is the annual subscription, which you can choose to pay for either 1, 2 or 4-year membership periods.
Once-Off Joining Fee
However, what is very important to know is that this "once-off" joining fee may not be so once-off, as if you fail to renew your membership within 30 days of its expiry then Qantas reserves the right to re-charge you the joining fee, which can come as a nasty shock. It has been my experience, however, that this is discretionary, as one year I failed to renew within the 30 day period and received a letter letting me know that Qantas was willing to waive the joining fee if I still chose to renew. I would not count on always receiving such an offer though, as in another instance I had let my membership lapse and had to pay the joining fee again. My advice is that, if you have let your membership lapse, it is worth calling the Qantas Club membership line and asking if they might waive the joining fee if you renewed, as it never hurts to ask.
The Annual Membership
As you can imagine, Qantas would prefer you to buy a 4-year membership over a 1-year membership. As such, they offer a sliding discount the longer the membership period. Also, like the joining fee, there are different membership fees based on your country of tax residence. From the table below you can see that a 1-year membership within Australia is A$540 and for a 4-year membership you would be paying A$462.50 (A$1,850 / 4) a saving of A$77.50 a year.
So the cheapest you would be able to join the Qantas Club for on their standard pricing as an Australia tax resident would be A$2249 with a 4-year membership (A$1,850 + A$399), which works out as A$562.25 when you spread the joining fee across the 4 years.
It is possible to save money on your annual membership if you can renew using a corporate program. You may think that this is only for employees of large corporations. However, I have found the social clubs can also become corporate members, and you can use their corporate account to save significant amounts. In my case, my University Club is a corporate Qantas member, and as such, I was able to save a couple of hundred dollars a year on membership.
Qantas Club Membership Sales
Recently Qantas has been offering up to 40% off of Qantas Club Memberships, and that is obviously very attractive as far as making membership worthwhile. I have to say that this is a relatively new development, as this is the first time I have ever seen this level of discount being offered.
In order to receive these offers, you will need to be subscribed to Qantas' Frequent Flyer 'Flight specials, news and updates' emails. As the advert says, the price of a 4-year membership, including the joining fee now works out as A$337.35, a saving of $224.90 (A$562.25 - $A337.35).
Is Qantas Club Membership Worth It?
In the best case scenario, under either a corporate membership or if you purchased your membership during a sale, then Qantas Club membership works out to be roughly A$350 a year, for which you get:
- Unlimited access to the largest lounge network of any Australian airline
- Access to a wide range of International business class lounges
- A complimentary guest visit each time you travel
Request On Departure Upgrades at the airport between 3 hours and 20 minutes before your scheduled flight using Qantas Points on Australian domestic flights
- Priority check-in
- Additional checked baggage allowance and dedicated service desks
Whether membership is worth it will obviously depend on how often you travel. Now that Qantas is offering its lower-tier Bronze and Silver Frequent Flyers the opportunity to purchase once-off entrance passes to either Domestic Qantas Clubs for A$69 per person or International Business Lounges for A$99 per person, it is possible to quickly work out how many lounges visits it would take for membership to pay for itself. A rough calculation is 5 domestic visits and it pays itself back, after which you are well ahead.
And as I said before, for me the primary benefit of Qantas Club Membership is the ability to put in a request for an On Departure Upgrade, as I have found it to be the best way to score a last minute upgrade, making membership well worth the cost.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the article, and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below, and I will do my best to answer them.
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