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Over the last few months, Qatar Airways has been busy taking an axe to its Privilege Club frequent flyer program. This past February, the airline restricted lounge access and baggage perks for travelers who upgraded using Qmiles, and eliminated its real-time loyalty program support, opting instead for an online system in March. Then just one week ago, the Middle Eastern carrier added a booking fee for all award ticket redemptions, ranging from $25-75 depending on cabin class.
Now, the airline has increased prices for award travel on its own planes, in some cases by as much as 77%, and with zero notice to customers. Award pricing for travel on Qatar’s partners remains unchanged for the moment.
Qatar doesn’t have an award chart for its own flights (there’s a chart for partner flights and the airline is a member of Oneworld), so you have to use the Qcalculator to see the changes. Here’s a sample of some of the increases (all prices are one-way):
|Old Award Price||New Award Price|
|US-Doha in economy||35,000 miles||50,750 miles|
|US-Doha in business||70,000 miles||101,500 miles|
|US-Doha in first||105,000 miles||152,250 miles|
|US-Europe in economy (layover in Doha)||47,500 miles||79,750 miles|
|Europe-Australia in first (layover in Doha)||135,000 miles||239,250 miles|
Coupled with the newly implemented redemption fee, this makes a number of these routes far less valuable than before. In addition, the carrier has also increased the cost of upgrading on most of its paid tickets. With the exception of the most costly fully-flexible economy fares, upgrade prices have inched up in varying amounts from 5,000 to nearly 50,000 more miles than before depending on the route and original booking class.
The most damning aspect of all of these changes is the fact that Qatar offered absolutely no notice to its members, so nobody had the opportunity to book fares at legacy prices before rates went up or to even know in advance about the cost hike. Airline and hotel loyalty programs that make changes without giving advance notice to their customers do the opposite of engendering loyalty.
Qatar’s frequent flyer program is already the least appealing of the three Middle Eastern carriers. While the airline’s partner chart hasn’t changed, it offers generally poor value, with transatlantic flights running between 70,000-100,000 miles in each direction. Still, with these changes, some partner redemptions now actually cost less than awards on Qatar’s own planes, so if you’re planning to redeem Privilege Club miles, you might consider utilizing the untouched partner chart. You can transfer points to Qatar from Citi ThankYou Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest, but it’s unlikely to be the best use of your flexible points.
Despite all the recent let-downs, Qatar still does offer some great onboard products that are bookable using other currencies, such as the carrier’s premium Qsuite business class product. Instead of using Qmiles to redeem for a seat, your best bets to book a Qsuite would be to book using JAL Mileage Bank miles, American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Alternatively, you could also use Qantas points, British Airways Avios or Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles.
If you want to read more information about Qatar’s Privilege Club program, read our guide on “Everything You Need to Know About Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Qmiles.”
Featured image courtesy of Qatar Airways.
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