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How many points do you need to upgrade to business class?

Peter Terlato avatar
Peter Terlato
- 9 min read
How many points do you need to upgrade to business class?

Economy airfares generally offer a comfortable, convenient and pleasant way to travel between destinations. However, a fare upgrade may afford certain niceties that can enhance your flying experience.

From exclusive lounge access to spacious, reclined seating, a business class ticket can transform your entire journey. However, these conveniences often come at a steep cost. Rather than paying hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can exchange your frequent flyer rewards points to procure airfares and upgrades.

RateCity has researched the minimum number of points you’ll need to be bumped up to business on a range of popular airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, across a variety of popular international routes departing Australia. We’ll also suggest tips to assist you in accruing the points necessary to acquire these sought-after ticket upgrades.

Qantas

Australia’s flag carrier boasts revered in-flight services and award-winning domestic and international club lounges. You can use the airline’s points calculator to determine the number of points needed for a Classic Rewards Flight or Classic Upgrade Reward on any route.

Classic Rewards Flights seats must be booked at least 24 hours before scheduled departure. You can redeem your Qantas Points for a Classic Upgrade Reward after paying for your ticket and receiving confirmation from the airline. This can be done up to 24 hours prior to departure.

You can choose from over 1,200 destinations when trading points for flights. These can be aboard Qantas, Jetstar, oneworld alliance and other airline partners and affiliates.

We’ve listed a few attractive destinations and the number of points needed to book a one-way business fare:

  • Sydney - Denpasar (Bali): 57,000 Qantas Points
  • Melbourne - Los Angeles: 108,400 Qantas Points
  • Brisbane - Mexico City: 144,600 Qantas Points
  • Adelaide - Ho Chi Minh City: 68,400 Qantas Points
  • Perth - Dubai: 90,000 Qantas Points
  • Darwin - Bangkok: 94,900 Qantas Points

The table below shows the estimated amount of points needed for a business class upgrade on a variety of different one-way airfares depending on the type of ticket purchased.

RouteClassic Rewards EconomyEconomyFlexible EconomyClassic Flight Rewards Premium EconomyPremium Economy
Sydney - Singapore58,80054,50029,90039,20027,200
Sydney - London135,100130,80071,90092,60065,400
Melbourne - Los Angeles109,00098,10054,00073,50049,100
Melbourne - Auckland28,30021,80011,900--
Brisbane - Tokyo58,80054,50029,90039,20027,200
Perth - Rome109,00098,10054,00073,50049,100

Classic Flight Rewards are fixed priced fares redeemable via Qantas Points. The number of points required for these purchases is calculated based on flight distance.

Qantas also offers customers Bid Now Upgrades on selected flights. You can check to see if your ticket is eligible and if so, enter a nominated amount for a potential upgrade. If successful you can pay entirely with cash or by using a combination of cash and Qantas Points. Alternatively, within seven days of your scheduled departure you may receive a notification by email or via the Qantas App to place a Bid Now Upgrade request. If you change your mind you can modify or cancel any unconfirmed upgrade offers up to five hours before your scheduled flight.

Virgin Australia

You can redeem Velocity frequent flyer points for airfares across the Virgin Australia network, including international redemptions on selected partner airlines. Rewards Seats are low, points-priced fares that include complimentary checked baggage allowance, seat selection and inflight entertainment. Bookings remain subject to availability and start from just 7,800 points.

Rewards Seats are economy airfares. To book Virgin Australia Business tickets using Velocity Points you can use the carrier’s Any Seat option. This requires more points than a Rewards Seat and the specific amount of points needed will vary, just as the price of flights do when paying with dollars. Any Seat fares will also earn you points, status credits and tier bonuses.

You can use the airline’s mileage calculator to determine the number of miles you’ll fly and examine the table below for the minimum number of points required for a business fare.

One-way Miles (Zone)Business Class airfare
1-600 (1) e.g. Sydney-Melbourne15,500 Velocity Points
601-1,200 (2) e.g. Melbourne-Sunshine Coast23,500 Velocity Points
1,201-2,400 (3) e.g. Brisbane-Perth35,500 Velocity Points
2,401-3,600 (4)49,500 Velocity Points
3,601-4,800 (5)59,500 Velocity Points
4,801-5,800 (6)71,500 Velocity Points
5,801-7,000 (7)83,500 Velocity Points
7,001-8,500 (8)95,500 Velocity Points
8,501-9,500 (9)111,500 Velocity Points
9,501-15,000 (10)127,500 Velocity Points

Velocity members can use the UpgradeMe Points scheme to upgrade to business on domestic, trans-Tasman and short-haul international routes, starting from a minimum 4,900 points.

The table below shows the minimum points required for domestic routes.

One-way milesUpgrade from a Choice FareUpgrade from a Flexi Fare
0-600 e.g. Sydney-Melbourne10,000 Velocity Points4,900 Velocity Points
601-1,200 e.g. Melbourne-Sunshine Coast17,500 Velocity Points7,400 Velocity Points
1,201-2400 e.g. Brisbane-Perth30,000 Velocity Points9,900 Velocity Points
2,401-3,60035,000 Velocity Points14,900 Velocity Points

The following are the minimum points needed for trans-Tasman and short-haul international routes.

One-way milesUpgrade from a Choice FareUpgrade from a Flexi Fare
0-6008,000 Velocity Points4,900 Velocity Points
601-1,20012,000 Velocity Points7,400 Velocity Points
1,201-240016,000 Velocity Points9,900 Velocity Points
2,401-3,60024,000 Velocity Points14,900 Velocity Points

Air New Zealand

The Kiwi airline allows members to exchange Airpoints Dollars for Air New Zealand, the Star Alliance and other partner airline fares. One Airpoints Dollar is worth one Australian dollar, making it easy to calculate the cost of purchasing a flight or business class upgrade. If you don’t have enough Airpoints Dollars banked, you can use Airpoints Flexipay to mix points and cash for purchases.

The airline’s OneUp program accepts bid requests for cabin class upgrades on Air New Zealand ticketed and operated international flights. Decide how much you’re willing to pay and send your best offer, along with your payment details, including Airpoints Dollars, credit card or debit card.

Emirates

Emirates customers can use Skywards Miles to book flights on any of the airline’s global routes. You’ll need to select Classic Rewards to pay with Miles when booking online. Economy fares start from 15,000 Miles but business tickets will require more. You can also reduce the cost of your next flight by paying with a combination of Miles and cash.

Upgrades from economy class to business class start at 5,400 Skywards Miles and are available prior to departure, as well as at the airport check-in desk and even on-board. Log in to your Emirates Skywards account before searching for flights to see exclusive upgrade offers.

Singapore Airlines

KrisFlyer Programme members can book Business Saver Award tickets and Business Advantage Award tickets to their preferred destinations by exchanging miles for tickets. Use the airline’s miles calculator to determine the approximate number of miles required for different routes and see the table below for a list of popular one-way fares and an estimate of points needed.

RouteBusiness Saver Award TicketAdvantage Saver Award Ticket
Sydney - Singapore68,500 KrisFlyer Miles90,000 KrisFlyer Miles
Melbourne - Bangkok68,500 KrisFlyer Miles90,000 KrisFlyer Miles
Perth - Kuala Lumpur40,500 KrisFlyer Miles65,000 KrisFlyer Miles
Brisbane - Los Angeles136,500 KrisFlyer Miles169,500 KrisFlyer Miles
Adelaide - Tokyo100,500 KrisFlyer Miles135,000 KrisFlyer Miles

The following table shows the estimated number of Miles needed for a one-way business class upgrade.

RouteEconomy Class to Business Class (Flexi: Y,B,E)Economy Class to Business Class (Standard: M,H,W)Premium Economy Class to Business Class (Flexi: S.T)Premium Economy Class to Business Class (Standard: P,L)
Sydney - LondonSaver: 83,000 Miles
Advantage: 113,000 Miles
Saver: 104,000 Miles
Advantage: 143,500 Miles
Saver: 60,000 Miles

Advantage: 77,000 Miles

Saver: 77,000 Miles
Advantage: 98,500 Miles
Melbourne - Los AngelesSaver: 83,000 Miles
Advantage: 113,000 Miles
Saver: 108,500 Miles
Advantage: 146,000 Miles
Saver: 60,000 Miles

Advantage: 80,000 Miles

Saver: 77,000 Miles
Advantage: 102,500 Miles
Brisbane - Kuala LumpurSaver: 48,500 Miles
Advantage: 70,000 Miles
Saver: 58,500 Miles
Advantage: 85,000 Miles
Saver: 33,500 Miles

Advantage: 50,000 Miles

Saver: 44,000 Miles
Advantage: 62,000 Miles
Perth - RomeSaver: 71,500 Miles
Advantage: 92,500 Miles
Saver: 92,500 Miles
Advantage: 121,000 Miles
Saver: 50,500 Miles

Advantage: 67,000 Miles

Saver: 64,000 Miles
Advantage: 82,000 Miles

Tips and insights

  • It’s important to note that in most cases taxes, fees and other carrier charges aren’t included and will need to be paid in addition to the points forfeited for flight upgrades.
  • All upgrades are subject to availability and each airline’s accepted terms and conditions.
  • Some airlines will allow you to redeem rewards points for upgrades on codeshare flights. These are services operated by another carrier with your airline code listed on the ticket. Check with the airline for details.
  • If you’re keen to use a credit card to acquire complimentary flights for a weekend away or perhaps your next overseas trip, there are commonly a few conditions that you’ll need to meet in order to obtain them.
  • Planning and booking your trip in advance will offer you the best opportunity to secure fares and upgrades in exchange for rewards points. Rewards flights are usually available up to 11 months in advance.
  • Consider switching to or obtaining a frequent flyer credit card. You'll consistently earn rewards points on eligible spending. Some cards offer sign-up bonuses. Check to see how points are accrued and when you’ll receive them.
  • Take advantage of the extra comfort offered in business class when travelling overnight or on long haul flights, and when you have time to enjoy the perks, such as lounge access and on-board amenities.
  • Research other loyalty programs to see where you can link and earn rewards points for shopping, refuelling, booking trips, renting cars, buying insurance, applying for loans and more.

Editor’s Note: Points shown in tables are sourced from airline websites and are accurate as of 07/03/2023.

Disclaimer

This article is over two years old, last updated on July 15, 2022. While RateCity makes best efforts to update every important article regularly, the information in this piece may not be as relevant as it once was. Alternatively, please consider checking recent credit cards articles.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.