Air New Zealand eyeing Elite Plus tier for Airpoints members which could allow partners to fly for free

Air New Zealand is looking at making changes to its frequent flyer programme including adding a new Elite Plus tier that could let frequent flyers bring a partner or family member along for free.

Bonus Airpoints dollars on booked flights, free parking, separate lounges for Elite members only and a lifetime status option for the lower tiers are also being investigated by the airline in a shakeup that is expected to be implemented in 2023.

The potential changes were revealed in an article on Executive Traveller, which viewed a survey sent out by the airline to select customers.

Executive Traveller also spoke to Air NZ CEO Greg Foran, who said the company's "backend system" is being worked on to "allow us to do some of the things you've mentioned, such as have a look at our tiers".

Currently, Air NZ frequent flyers get escalating privileges as they progress through the Silver, Gold and Elite tiers. They do so by earning Status Points on eligible Air NZ or Star Alliance flights as well as through purchases made with some Airpoints earning credit cards.

To get Elite status, a customer has to earn 1500 Status Points within a year. To get to Elite Plus you'd need to earn between 2800 to 3500 status points, according to what Executive Traveller saw of Air NZ's survey.

Survey participants were reportedly asked to rate the appeal of Elite Plus benefits the airline is considering, which included:

  • Free same-day flight changes for domestic, trans-Tasman and Pacific flights, regardless of the purchased fare
  • Immediate confirmation of all upgrade requests based on seat availability
  • Free exit rows and preferred seating
  • 50 percent Airpoints bonus on flights
  • Free parking at the member's home airport
  • Complimentary Elite status for the nominated partner of an Elite Plus member
  • Nominating a "friend or family member to accompany you whenever you fly with Air NZ, free of charge".

In addition to the new tier, there are new perks being looked at for the existing tiers including exclusive seating for Gold and Elite members and discounted upgrade offers sent out closer to the day of travel.

Stuff approached Air NZ for more information on the potential changes and received a statement confirming a survey of Airpoints members was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're still working through what the outcome of this survey will look like post-COVID-19, but once we do, we'll be very excited to share the results with our valued Airpoints members," the Air NZ spokesperson told Stuff.

News of the new frequent flyer benefits has come to light shortly before Air NZ launches its long-awaited direct Auckland-New York service.

Qantas also recently announced an Auckland-New York non-stop service as another sign of the air travel industry's recovery post-pandemic.