Find Reward Seats on Business Class

how to redeem velocity points for seats on Qatar's QSuite

Flying business class is an experience you will love. It’s even better when you’ve paid for everything using your points. The seats are better, the food is better, and the service is better, and there are many small touches to make your journey more pleasant. I will show you how you can find reward seats in business class. Unfortunately, they are harder to find than economy class tickets. Still, when you see them, they represent better value compared to the cash price, although you should watch the taxes with some airlines as often they can be exorbitant. You can find those reward seats more easily once you’ve learnt some of my tricks.

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Which seats should you book

Not every business class seat is equal. There are some airlines where using the extra points are worth it such as the excellent Qatar Airways QSuite pictured above. At the same time there are some below-par business class products, the most infamous being Emirates’ 777 Business Class which is thankfully slowly being updated (pictured below). Another example is Qantas with their trans-Tasman service that is usually either in an A330 (with lie-flat seats) or a Boeing 737 with the same seats as domestic business class. For this reason, it’s worth looking at which product you are booking before you do. This is by no means 100% guaranteed if you are booking in advance as airlines can change the plane they’re operating at short notice. A great resource for trying to see what plane and seat you will get is SeatGuru. This will help you make a decision on whether the points are worth it. 

Be flexible when looking for reward seats

This is the key if you want to fly in business class for free. You need to be flexible with your dates, your stop over locations and your willingness to tolerate longer layovers (don’t worry, you get to sit in the lounge!). I’m going to use the same techniques as on my previous article and show you how you might go about flying from Sydney to London one-way in business class. Again I will start with Qantas points given their ease of collection and general popularity in Australia. To make it slightly easier I will attempt to book a flight 2 months in advance of writing. Finding business class flights on Qantas heavily relies on their relationships with partner airlines. Classic reward business class flights on Qantas are hard to find unless you have a high frequent flyer status or book as far in advance as possible (i.e. 1 year). I will be realistic here and assume you have no status with any airlines to level the playing field.
As expected on a search of Qantas’ website for reward business class flights we are immediately hit with this:
Changing our origin point to Singapore gives us this premium economy classic reward:
Note how the taxes on this flight are higher than what we would see with an economy ticket. This is okay but we are looking for business class, not premium economy. I would generally play around with starting destinations from Asian airports one stop away from Australia. This would include Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Tokyo. After some playing around I found this.
Note the prices are in HKD which amounts to approximately $1,300. Not a small amount of money and not something that represents the best value to me (although you might say different). Playing around with the searches a little bit more yields these two flights to complete the journey
This gives you a flight fully in business class from Sydney – Jakarta – Hong Kong – Dubai – London for approximately $1,564 and 220,000 Points. The cash value of a Sydney – London fare in business class one-way is between $4,000 and $6,000. To make this even better value, you could use a combination of points from different programs. An example of which I have here:
This would replace the Hong Kong – London (via Dubai) flight and bring the total cost of the flights down to $459 with the same number of points!

What's the Catch

The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong business class lounge, a perk you can enjoy when you find rewards seats on business class
It’s all well and good redeeming these flights but there are a few caveats that you need to watch out for. A direct flight redemption is always better. These are more difficult to come by with business class flights but if you find one you should take it. The above itinerary will get you to your destination but it is far more complex than a direct flight. Each segment will require collecting your bags and checking them in again. This means you need to leave sufficient connection time to do this. A few airports like Singapore have a transit desk which facilitates this without having to pass through immigration but this is a rarity. As a result of this you need to check if you require a visa for each transit destination as you will most likely need to pass through immigration.
Lastly, and most important is because these flights are all booked under different ticket numbers, Airlines are not going to be accountable for delays. If one leg is cancelled or delayed and you miss any subsequent leg, the airline will not be obligated to get you to your destination as they would normally. Therefore you should leave adequate connection time and leeway in case of things going wrong but there is the possibility of a flight cancellation risking the rest of your trip. As such it is very much a case of weighing up the risks of strategy such as the one above and the very large cost savings. Let me know your thoughts.

Additional tips to find your seat

If you’re still struggling to find flights try a few of these things to help:
  • Book as early as possible. This means you’re more likely to find business class seats available to redeem directly to your destination and avoids the hassle of booking multiple flights and needing extended layovers. Given points bookings are flexible they can be cancelled or changed quite easily if you later find out the dates don’t work for you.
  • Consider flying economy for the shorter leg of the flight. If you can find a business class seat on a long part of a flight for example Sydney to Dubai, consider flying economy for the shorter leg to your destination e.g. Dubai to London. You’ll still get many of the business class benefits like a good meal, good nights rest and lounge access for some or, depending on the airline, all of you flight.
  • Consider destinations near your final destination. If you’re trying to fly to London, look for flights to other parts of Europe. Typically Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Milan tend to have many reward seats available. From here it’s only a short plane or train ride to London which can be had for £50-100
  • Use a different booking engine. Airlines such as Qantas have a habit of not showing all available reward seats on their booking engine. If you use another Oneworld alliance member’s search (such as British Airways) to search for reward flights you might find availability you couldn’t see on Qantas’ site. Then it’s  a small matter of ringing Qantas and asking them to book those flights for you
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