A No-Notice Change To Like, As Qatar Airways Reverses 50% Devaluation

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Two and a half years ago Qatar Airways devalued their Privilege Club program by about 50% without notice and I stopped paying them much mind. I’ve heard a lot out of Doha that this was a mistake, and the pandemic has changed the way airlines are looking at their loyalty programs.

Even airlines that viewed frequent flyer programs as necessary evils, and put up a half-hearted ‘me too’ effort, now see them as an important tool to attract, incentivize, and compete for customers. Frequent flyer programs are the most successful marketing innovation in history and the primary marketing engine an airline has. And airline executives have looked into the abyss, they’ve been reminded of that.

So it’s simultaneously shocking and not at all surprising to see Qatar Airways reverse its 2018 devaluation of award prices once again without notice. (HT: Mainly Miles) This is important for U.S. frequent flyers for two reasons.

  1. It’s a great window into the direction world frequent flyer programs are headed, and another signal to programs in North America to step things up.

  2. Qatar Airways Privilege Club is a Citibank points transfer partner. Citi Premier® Card, with its 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in purchases within the first 3 months and 3x on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airlines, and hotels, just became more valuable.

QSuites Business Class, Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Privilege Club doesn’t publish an award chart per se, but they have a calculator that shows the pricing of each route. There are no fuel surcharges on Privilege Club redemptions for Qatar Airways flights.

  • 70,000 miles one-way in business class between New York JFK and Doha;

  • 85,000 from New York JFK to Male, Maldives in business class

  • London or Paris – Doha is 43,000 miles one way.

We’re looking at roughly 35% reductions in pricing, which is almost unheard of. (I’ve only ever seen such a reversal of a devaluation once from Thai Airways that I can recall.)

American AAdvantage miles are another great way to redeem Qatar Airways flights, with low mileage prices and no fuel surcharges as well. In the first quarter of next year, when Alaska Airlines joins oneworld, expect them to offer favorable redemption pricing as well. But to see competitive pricing from a foreign program that’s been uncompetitive in the past is truly great news.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary — get your numbers straight. You say “50% Reduction” in the headline, then say “60% Reduction” in the 2018 “clickbait” article and “”35% reduction” in the body of your current clickbait article. Which is it?

  2. I noticed this over a week ago because of an award I was tracking for next year and surprised no bloggers posted it until now. I had a bunch of miles from a cancellation to Qmiles as part of their COVID flexibility promotion and just cancelled to rebook because my miles that got me 2 flights now get me 3.

  3. The real test of whether there’s a true change in overall attitudes towards frequent fliers is whether US airlines make similar moves that directly benefit the the customer. I’m not holding my breath.

  4. @Andre – I think you’re mixing up how math works.

    If you go from 50 to 75,that’s a 50% increase. Then when you go from 75 to 50, that’s a one-third decrease. Sure you’re returning to the same number as before, but the percentages change because the denominator is different.

    And here I’m rounding to 50% for order of magnitude purposes since it isn’t worthwhile going through the nuances of which awards changed by exactly which percentage in mid-2018.

  5. Just remember privilege club devalued almost 50% without warning back in 2018. I was a platinum then and they lost my business due to that. If they keep at this level moving forwards I would reconsider them, but what’s to stop a last minute no warning change again….

  6. I cannot request a seat for my AA redemption on QR which I just did a few days ago and I was also informed by the BKK office that my ticket will not get me to the lounge….So I just booked the same ticket on CX holding double booking for next summer to ZRH until this is clarified but definitely canceling my QR ticket if they don’t let me into the lounge…..They will lose a lot of business with that policy. EY is also a redemption option on AA and Finnair has a great product also

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