A month ago I wrote that Qatar Airways would adopt Avios as its loyalty currency. Those are the miles of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Qatar owns 25% of IAG, the parent company of those airlines.
This transition has now happened. Qatar’s QMiles have now become Avios (everyone keeps their same mileage balances). And so far this is an unabashed positive for consumers.
You can move Avios back and forth between Qatar Airway and British Airways (or Iberia) for example. That lets you earn with British Airways Executive Club and move the points over to a Qatar Airways account, and vice versa. And it lets you pick which program you want to redeem your points with, based on who has the seats you want at the best price.
When this was first announced as coming I told you to sign your whole family up for Qatar Airways frequent flyer accounts, with a signup bonus, because worst case those points transfer to British Airways – which has family accounts – and those signup bonuses could be redeemed for an award ticket. That turns out to have been pretty good advice!
Qatar Airways Becomes More Relevant – And Flexible – For U.S. And European Members
Now that Qatar Airways is live with Avios as their currency,
- Qatar Airways has kept its own award pricing. So you get great rates in business class from the U.S. to Doha and beyond, for instance New York to Doha is 70,000 miles and to the Maldives via Doha 85,000 miles.
- Avios can be transferred 1:1 between different programs. So if one program has better award rates than the other, move your miles. If you want to redeem transatlantic flights with low mileage cost and surcharges, transfer to Iberia for Iberia flights. If you want cheap coach short distance one way flights, transfer to British Airways.
- This opens the opportunity to earn Qatar’s points much more easily. Most U.S. consumers were just earning them from Qatar flights or transferred from Citibank ThankYou Rewards. Now it’s possible to earn via Avios partners (such as British Airways partners, shopping portal, etc.) and transfer them to Qatar. So Qatar’s points are now easier to earn.
QSuites Business Class, Credit: Qatar Airways
Better Qatar Airways Award Availability
This isn’t just Qatar Airways adopting the currency of an airline group it’s the largest owner of. It’s part of an overall commitment to improve the value and relevance of its frequent flyer program.
The most visible improvement at this stage is a new “Minimum Commitment” for award availability, similar to British Airways. The program now promises that, in general, there will be at least 2 premium award seats offered on each flight and at least 5 coach award seats – the exact number will vary by aircraft type. Of course additional award inventory will be added to flights which aren’t expected to sell out.
This is huge for Qatar which has a reputation for making award seats available in waves, usually far off into the future, but inconsistent as to when this happens.
Flying Qatar Is Worth A Day’s Stopover To Visit The Museum Of Islamic Art
Adopting Avios Doesn’t Mean Having To Adopt BA Pricing
Qatar Airways isn’t adopting BA-style award pricing with extremely expensive long haul premium cabin awards. And it will continue to control its own revenue and expense (‘bank’) in the program.
Currency is being minted by the Qatar bank within Privilege Club, not by Avios. It’s a Qatar liability, not an Avios or IAG liability. As a result it pays for its redemptions, as before, and gets paid when program members transfer their points into Privilege Club Avios. They set their own accrual and redemption rates and taxes and fees policies.
Modest Fuel Surcharges
If there’s a negative change here it’s that Qatar will introduce a carrier-imposed surcharge to redemptions on its own flights. That helps cover the increased generosity and earn opportunities in the program. Fortunately the fees aren’t anything like what you’d normally expect from British Airways. Each flight segment comes with a surcharge as follows:
- Long haul economy: US$70
- Long haul business: US$140
- Short haul economy: US$35
- Short haul business: US$70
An itinerary from Los Angeles to Doha to Dubai in business class would add $210 in surcharges each way.
A Vision To Make The Qatar Airways Loyalty Program As Good As The Airline
Qatar Airways is a high quality airline to fly, with one of the world’s best business class products (alongside ANA’s new business class, for instance). It has a fantastic ground experience at is home airport in Doha. (Their first class lounge is my favorite in the world architecturally albeit with some weird policies.)
Historically their loyalty program wasn’t commensurate with the airline. They aim to change this, and certainly gain greater relevance outside of their home market with this change and the potential for members to arbitrage significantly greater value.
U.S. members now have the ability to transfer points to Qatar more easily. Chase, American Express, and Capital One points all move to British Airways, which now move to Qatar. Similarly Citi points transfer to Qatar which means British Airways (and Iberia) are by extension transfer partners.
A spokesperson tells me they are not devaluing their mileage redemption pricing while providing “minimum commitments and more access to redemptions.” I waited for the other shoe to drop, because this will be a more expensive program for Qatar to offer, but they believe the changes will “grow both [Qatar and BA] programs in a symbiotic way – BA will be more present in the East, and the same true for Qatar in Europe and North America.” As a result they’ll “be able to take much larger share of the pie for both companies.”
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker offers,
As we come out of the most difficult two years in the industry, we want to thank our passengers who have supported us and kept us flying, by taking this chance to reward them in a meaningful way. Adopting Avios maximises our members’ opportunities to earn and spend rewards across the globe, anticipating their needs after this difficult period. This is a testament to our determination of offering the best experiences for our members, reflecting our journey to perfect our loyalty programme. We look forward to continuing the expansion of our customer benefits, in search of new ways to give our members a chance to collect Avios.
This Makes British Airways Executive Club Better, Too
This change is beneficial to British Airways members in two ways.
- You can move your BA Avios to Qatar for their redemption pricing, or you can combine any ‘stray’ Avios in the Privilege Club program into your Executive Club account. That means more points, more flexibility, and less breakage.
- BA knows that Qatar offers lower redemption prices on their own flights through their program, and they’re not making members go through the hoops to transfer points to Qatar (which they’d pay Qatar for) and is instead offering lower redemption pricing on Qatar awards already.
Last week BA would have charged 127,500 Avios and $497.85 for a one-way Los Angeles – Doha award in business class on Qatar. Now they’re charging 70,000 Avios and $101 just like Qatar’s Privilege Club does.
New Booking Promotion On Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is offering 10,000 bonus Avios for premium cabin bookings and 5000 bonus Avios in economy for booking a cash and Avios award by March 31, 2022 for travel through October 31, 2022 using promo code QRAVIOS on their website or mobile app.