By Angelo Risso
(Australian Associated Press)
High-flying travellers brought down to earth by the arrival of a new child have been given a boost by Qantas’ latest change to its rewards program.
Regular flyers can find themselves grounded by parenthood, with business travel curtailed by parental leave and vacations put on hold by fresh financial commitments.
That often brings with it a reduction in frequent flyer status and much-coveted bonuses such as lounge access, extra points and potential upgrades.
So Qantas will now allow its 11.2 million program members to freeze their status for 18 months while they care for a new child, whether biological, adopted or fostered.
Qantas Loyalty chief executive Lesley Grant said the airline was responding to customer requests for more flexibility.
“A new addition to a family is an exciting time,” Ms Grant said.
“This initiative means new parents don’t have to worry about losing their hard earned membership benefits.”
The “status hold” is available to both male and female Qantas members and can be provided twice in a five-year period.
The change in policy was met with support by parent advocacy groups.
“It’s great that they’re recognising that you do have to take time out when you have a brand new baby,” said The Parenthood executive director Jo Briskey.
“It’s definitely something that makes it easier, to take time out and not be disadvantaged for it.”
Melissa Groom from the Empowered Mums network concurred.
“I think it’s really a great benefit to mums,” Ms Groom said.
“It’s a big adjustment period having a newborn, so you’re less likely to be travelling, for sure.”
Qantas’ move to accommodate new parents in its membership program follows earlier moves by rival Virgin Australia.
Virgin gives a six-month “membership pause” for each child under two years old, followed by a 12-month period in which a customer’s membership tier is frozen.
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE welcomed the “family-friendly” change but advised customers against purchasing tickets based solely on an airline’s frequent flyer program.
“As a rule, these reward programs do more for the airlines than they do for you,” a CHOICE spokesman said.