“Privilege” might be a strong word…

In recent years, Qatar Airways has garnered “halo” status with travelers and media alike. Almost anything Qatar Airways does, they do it big. From the first fully enclosed business class suites to state of the art planes and stunning airport lounges, the airline has been at the forefront of product innovation and bold marketing statements. Last week the airline broke new ground with bold moves, devaluing their loyalty program overnight, without any notice to customers. The devaluation goes beyond the pale of minimally acceptable customer trust, so… about that.

What Actually Happened

Qatar Airways Privilege Club, the loyalty and points program for people who earn points and elite status with Qatar Airways decided to uproot the values for using points. The program was never particularly friendly, and therefore even on Qatar Airways flights, most passengers chose to earn points and frequent flyer status with a Qatar Airways partner airline, such as British Airways, American or Japan Airlines. Overnight, with no notice, Qatar made it almost 50% more expensive to use points for flights in all cabins, on virtually all routes. Some are more like 70%!

A Few Ugly Examples

A one way business class ticket between Europe and Australia will now jump from 90,000 to 159,000 miles. That means you’d need more than 300,000 miles for a single ticket, plus rising cash fees to redeem. Qatar also instituted a segment by segment charge for “free” flights using points, ranging between $25-$75 per flight depending on cabin class. Thats’ appalling. U.S. to Doha flights jumped from 30,500 points one way to over 50,000. Keep in mind, this all happened overnight with zero warning, or chance for people to cash in points at previous, better rates. Oh, and Qatar doesn’t publish charts telling passengers how many points they’ll need, so to find out how much you’ll now pay – you need to use the Qatar Calculator.

Stealth Qatar Airways Devaluation

In loyalty world, this is the lowest of the low. Any devaluation can be seen as a move of airline greed, looking to shore up any decent value which travelers are enjoying – but doing so overnight is an erosion of trust. How can anyone trust an airline who believes loyalty is an entirely one way street, subject to change of any kind without notice. If this hasn’t hit you directly in the face yet, how would you feel if you had $100,000 in the bank, and the next morning you checked your account to find the bank decided they feel you should really only have $60,000? No negotiating allowed. No opportunity to withdraw before they make their final decision.

Qatar Airways: The Best And The Worst

During normal operations, Qatar Airways is one of the best airlines in the sky. The airline undoubtedly offers one of the three best business class experiences in the world, and has raised the bar for in flight service. The economy cabin features large video screens and Doha’s Hamad Airport is an excellent transit facility. But ask anyone who’s experienced a delay, cancellation, lost bag or loyalty program issues – and Qatar quickly ranks amongst the worst. Today is a shocking example of the “wild west” attitude Qatar has towards customers, and they’ve gone out guns blazing. Did you ever wonder why we’ve never mentioned using the Privilege Club?

How do these unfriendly moves affect you?