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“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?

 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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25 Comments

  1. this absolutely a steal, I’m gold member since 2014 with 4 k miles and this Airline is doing all to bring my business away rom them, i called our Privilege call center to claim abt this devaluation with zero warnings but they insist that email warning was sent out but neither me or one of my friends received any.
    I suggest at this point management dealt with such devaluation must rename their ff program from Privilege to UNPRIVILEGE thats right to use nowadays.

  2. Good ol’ Qatar!!!

    Given they are reported as having very light loads on some of their flights, do you have any intel on whether Qatar will be looking to do a big ex-EU sale any time soon that might help some of us looking to fly to SAfrica?

    Cheers!

  3. In an industry known for giving the customer the short end of the stick wherever possible, Qatar has just made themselves stand out as the worst, at least in one respect. Add in Qatar’s inability to make corrections when things go wrong, and it makes me less inclined to fly them.

  4. Qatar airways offers regularly promotions of double points to many destinations.

    the luxury it provides is the best in the world.

    Qatar airways prices are very competitive, for example a return Doha London ticket nowdays is cheaper that what was gulf air price more than 20 years ago.

    some of the western airlines are nothing more than a simple flying bus, that turns around as soon as it lands to pick-up the next group of travellers, they fly even in bad weather because they don’t care about customers comfort.
    only efficiency.
    you can not compare Qatar airways with any other airline.
    just make a list of criteria and compare.
    Finally Qatar is regularly attacked by the blockading countries.

    1. However much you were paid to leave this comment, it wasn’t worth it. There’s not a shred of truth about any element, except for the fact that most airlines such at customer service.

  5. I have been flying Qatar Airways since 2002 and found it the BEST.
    There is no match to Qatar Airways except the Emirates.
    My family members dont want to travel any airline but Qatar Airways being the 1st preference and Emirates the 2nd.

  6. The airline has the right to increase the price of the tickets but not the miles/points? The tickets price are not fixed and goes up and down all the times and miles/points should too. It is not a steal as some have mentioned and the example of the 100 in the bank account is absurd. They know what they are doing and the awards won by them are the proof.

      1. Said the guy who accused a commenter of getting paid for a comment based on hard proof evidences after a long investigation. 😂😂😂

  7. A state supported airline, with an ineffective customer service, who has now stabbed every single loyal customer in the back with no notice.

    I think that state bailout is going to happen sooner, rather than later.

  8. Sheesh, a lot of hate from the pro-Qatar crowd. Where were they when Delta was flexing its’ muscle by being so unpleasant to the Fox Theater in Atlanta? Qatar could have used more support then, when they were in the right.

  9. what they just did is just because they have high liabilities on their balance sheet and then, they decided to reduce liabilities by penalizing loyal customers (easier than trying to get more profits, isn’t it).
    The example of the 100 in the bank is absolutely legit… this is the same thing as a country devalues its currency.
    I flew round-trips with Qatar 4 times this year but,with this disgraceful decision, I’m not going to fly with them again

  10. here’s hoping that the next thing QR does is to fill up their premium seats starts another 241 sale soon. I have been waiting for that. they had 3 last year. its about time. they need to fill up those light loads on various sectors.

    BTW, just another question – who in their right mind was crediting miles to QR Privilege in the first place?!!!!

    1. Hoping for the same thing.

      And true, given the other OW airlines such BA easy to reach Emerald and AA easy(er) to spend miles no idea why anyone would credit to Qatar given their customer service track record.

  11. Unfortunately for us in Qatar, QR is pretty much the only airline option. With Emirates and Etihad out of the picture due to the blockade, there is no competition, which can be translated into a monopoly, and a “my way or the highway” attitude. Although QR economy is one of the best ones out there, it still doesn’t warrant the prices charged. Since the blockade, QR has been left with a lot of “free” aircrafts, which are being seen operating to much smaller international routes like Medan or Cardiff. And now with this devaluation, it is clear that the airlines is trying to get as much money out of the customers as possible by having one of the worst earn-to-redeem ration in place.

  12. I have 120k miles and am based in UK. Any suggestions as to how I can burn these before pledging my allegiance to another airline? I’m looking for routes that haven’t been devalued as much as others. Very disappointed by this move, poor form shown by QR

  13. This is a huge slap in the face to Qatar’s most loyal customers. Like a steward coming up to one’s seat at 1A and spitting on your face with the biggest load of gob imaginable, then pissing on you instead of serving champagne.

    I am a Platinum member and have been for a long while. Virtually all my flights are premium classes and I choose and pay for them myself. They have effectively stolen the equivalent of 8 long-haul Business Class flights from me that a great deal of loyalty to them over the years had built up. It’s absolutely disgusting, but as a resident of the Middle East the arrogance is unsurprising.

    There are other airlines out there. I’m now moving to them exclusively, even finally booking BA tickets the last few days instead.

    I will use up the last QMiles I have left (the the extent I can – they are now almost useless, clearly the intent) and stop using Qatar except when I absolutely have to. This completely inverses my behaviour and loyalty. Other airline’s products are not that bad these days in hard product, and indeed some like BA and KLM can provide the feel of being back in civilisation straight after one gets through the plane door, rather than the dressed-up third world that has the feel it just won the lottery which more and more lies just below the facade of these Middle Eastern airlines. The owners of these airlines are now treating their customers as badly as they do the workers without which this Middle East circus would not be possible anyway. Its bound to all end in tears all round for everyone concerned.

    I ultimately don’t have to cow-tow to do whatever these people want at my expense, don’t have to be enslaved to their arrogant, self-important shit. I hope they go bust and disappear back into the sand. Its the least they deserve.

  14. I’ve had either gold or platinum status with Qatar Airways every year since 2009, when I first moved to Doha. For over nine years I used Qatar Airways nearly every chance I got, and enjoyed the benefits, which for many years included frequent complimentary upgrades at the gate and access to Qatar Airways’ spectacular business class lounge.

    Perhaps three years ago the complimentary upgrades stopped, but I continued to use Privilege Club for the other reasons noted. I remained a loyal Qatar Airways customer after the blockade began last year, even when it became apparent that the airline was using the blockade as an excuse to extract every riyal possible from its captive Qatar market.

    Earlier this year, Qatar Airways devalued its frequent flyer program by eliminating lounge access on upgrade tickets, even upgrades paid for in cash. This is a practice not followed by any other airline of which I’m aware, and was the first indication that things were going downhill. Nevertheless I remained loyal.

    This, however, is the last straw. One of the more defensive commenters observed that Qatar Airways is free to change its mileage requirements for award tickets and upgrades at any time. That is, of course, true. It also completely misses the point. At the time of the announcement I had 400,000 miles in my account. If we accept that those miles were worth roughly $0.02 per mile, and were devalued by perhaps 40%, that means Qatar Airways took away over $3000 worth of miles that I could have spent prior to the devaluation had they given notice of the planned change, as any other airline would have done.

    Other commenters have defended the airline without really seeming to understand the main point of the article, i.e., that this stealth devaluation showed a shocking level of disregard for Qatar Airways’ frequent flyers. Yes, there will always be a certain segment of the market here with more money than sense who pay whatever it costs to be at the front of the plane and couldn’t care less about changes in Privilege Club. However, there are far more of us who carefully weigh for each trip whether to fly economy and try for an upgrade, wait for a fare sale, or hold our noses and pay for business class on a long-haul flight.

    As a long-term resident of Qatar, I will of course continue to fly Qatar Airways for many flights simply because they are the only practical option. However, I won’t be using their ridiculous excuse for a frequent flyer program, and I will be looking much more closely into all other options for longer flights where adding a connection isn’t a deal-breaker.

  15. I was checking the expiry date of my 15.000 QMiles ( February 2019 ), and googling about the use for them, when i saw your article, with facts that i didn´t know. Who ever traveled with them, and also had problem, know that what you say is true. Alot of luxury, nice crews, nice planes, nice flight experience but, when flight delays and/or lost luggage ( i experienced alomost evreything, except the luxury ) is a nightmare and no support.
    It was a complete bad move to create Qatar Account ( i was greedy, when they offer 3xmiles if the flight were credited to their programme ) and now with the devaluation they are worthless.
    I think i am gonna conert them to Le Club AccorHotels points and the to Avios…3.000 Avios. Any ideas besides this ?

  16. I am disgusted by this devaluation, this is typical of Qatar airlines. I’ve been a platinum card holder for 4 years and I’ve only ever had one free upgrade. Whilst I know, I’m not entitled to any fee upgrades, you’d expect the odd one here or there. I hadn’t noticed the devaluation until I tried to upgrade my tokyo to Doha flight and was told it was 39 Credits.

    So, essentially your 60 qcredits for platinum membership don’t even get you 2 upgrades a year anymore on standard routes,

    Good bye qatar airlines, it’s back to BA. Rewarding loyalty like this has resulted in the constant light loads on QR.

  17. I have flown long haul, business class four times on Qatar this year. I became a new ‘Privilege ‘ member by default, not knowing about the devaluation of points,.
    Their Q Suites are amazing , food, service and comfort if First Class.
    Often I book economy one way and the return business depending on my transit times, then I wait till week before departure when Qatar send an e mail with upgrade offer . I am willing to pay for an upgrade and guard my accumulated miles but I have never purchased ad the upgrade cost has not been attractive but, more importantly I would not receive credited miles at business class rate for which I would have paid! Instead miles are awarded at atthe original economy fare!
    Finally, as many contributors have remarked each of my flights this year have had less than twenty five percent occupancy. Need I say more?

  18. Hi guys, another “stealth” devaluation of QR Privilege Club. Without any warning, as of January 2019, they have also increased the redemption for partner awards. Europe to Asia with CX costs now 120,000, instead of 70,000. Almost 40% increase! Coupled that with the inconveniencies of booking award ticket, which is now only possible online. I am officially now a hater this program 🤦‍♂️

  19. Hi Folks,

    I am have a Gold status with Qatar and trying to move up to Platinum. I mostly fly American and earn the Qpoints needed for the tier upgrade and fly Qatar once/twice a year (4 segments).

    As I am traveling to move up from Gold to Platinum I see my Qpoints are decreasing. For instance I get 10 Qpoints on a return trip every week for work then I see my Qpoints reduce every week too. At first I thought if I don’t travel frequently may be there is a charge for the membership and Qpoints may reduce but now even when I travel every week I see Qpoints reduce more than I am earning. This is making very hard for me to move from Gold to Platinum.

    Has anyone experienced this? Is there a way to solve this problem as I am 100 Qpoints away from Platinum and this has been from past 2 months even though I travel every week on American. Appreciate your input! Thanks

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