Airlines are cozying up to Airbnb.
Qantas became the latest carrier to link up with the home-and-room-sharing platform. The Australian airline on Oct. 4 said members of its frequent flyer program can earn reward points for their Airbnb stays when they book it through the Qantas website.
Virgin America has also taken notice of Airbnb’s popularity and incorporated it into its frequent flyer program, Elevate.
The airlines are becoming in effect a backdoor loyalty program for Airbnb users, which doesn’t have its own rewards program like many traditional hotels do. Credit card companies have helped fill that loyalty void.
But the conversion of an Airbnb stay into frequent flyer earnings is a sign the platform is gaining acceptance among airlines, many of which are already partnered with traditional hotels. In July, Lufthansa started experimenting by offering a “shared room” on Airbnb that was actually a Transatlantic flight.
There are some limitations to the Qantas plan. Qantas frequent flyer members will earn one Qantas Point for every A$1 (US$0.76) spent on Airbnb, as long as they are signed into their frequent flyer account on the Qantas website. A traveler would need to be a frequent Airbnb user, actual frequent flyer or find other ways to earn points to get a free flight given the requirements. For example, for a free one-way trip from Sydney to San Francisco in economy Qantas requires 45,000 points.
So airline partnerships with Airbnb may not get travelers very far just yet.