Back in May 2018, Qatar Airways pulled quite the stunt with its Privilege Club loyalty program. Overnight and without warning, award prices increased by on numerous routes by up to 80%, leaving frequent flyers in the lurch.
I was shocked but not surprised (if that phrase even makes sense) by this development. After all, the program had a bit of a reputation for hijinks, even charging an audacious “award redemption fee” of up to US$75 per segment, just to redeem your miles (since removed). Was such a move really unforeseeable?
But something has changed, and for the better: As spotted on Flyertalk, Qatar Airways has quietly reverted its award pricing to 2018 levels. It’s funny there’s been no announcement; you’d think they’d want to shout this from the rooftops and score some PR points. I suppose you can’t say Qatar has double standards then- quiet devaluations, quiet revaluations!
Update: Qatar Airways has officially confirmed the revaluation, via an eDM sent out on 25 November. According to them, award prices have been cut by up to 49% effective 11 November 2020. If you wish to reprice your existing reward at the lower rates, you will need to cancel the old ticket and rebook another one. View the full FAQ here.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club New Award Pricing
Qatar Airways does not have an award chart, so you’ll need to use their Qcalculator to find the cost of a given route. Use it like you would a regular flight search- pick the cabin, airline, origin and destination.
To save time, we’ll only look at Business Class redemptions- Qatar Airways does operate First Class, but only on a very restricted number of routes and aircraft. Here’s how they measure up versus KrisFlyer and Asia Miles.
|One-Way Prices for travel||Qmiles||KrisFlyer||Asia Miles|
|Athens/ Bucharest/Kiev/ Sofia/ Thessaloniki||70,000||N/A||N/A|
|Barcelona/ London/ Frankfurt/ Paris/ Zurich||75,000||92,000||65-85,000|
|Boston/ Dallas/ New York/ Los Angeles/ Sao Paulo||95,000||95-99,000||85,000|
|*Assumes Qmiles redeemed for Qatar Airways, KrisFlyer for Singapore Airlines, Asia Miles for Cathay Pacific. Not all destinations served by each carrier|
The USA is a wash, but Europe rates are very reasonable indeed- especially considering how many additional European destinations Qatar Airways serves compared to Cathay or Singapore Airlines.
For those who did the Qatar Privilege Club status match earlier this year, it’s worth noting that Platinum and Gold members will receive a 5% discount for online award flight bookings, which would represent savings of up to 3,750 miles on a one-way Business Class flight to Europe.
Wait, what about those fuel surcharges?
If you’ve read my previous posts on Qatar Airways Privilege Club, you’ll know I’m like a broken record about fuel surcharges (YQ/YR for short). And rightly so- Qatar Airways has some frightening YQ/YR.
For example, consider the following return Business Class ticket from Singapore to New York. You’ll pay S$1,026.80 of YQ/YR on top of airport taxes and miles!
But here’s the thing. Compare that to a Privilege Club Business Class award between Singapore and New York- the cash portion adds up to just S$99.40!
And here comes my OH moment. I cannot believe I am only learning about this now, but apparently Qatar Privilege Club members have not had to pay fuel surcharges on Qatar Airways awards since 2015. I suppose it’s because I only ever searched for Qatar award space via British Airways Avios/Asia Miles, but in any case, it probably wasn’t worth a look with the rates that Qatar Privilege club was charging from May 2018 to November 2020.
With the reduced award costs and no fuel surcharges, Privilege Club awards on Qatar Airways can make perfect sense for those looking to travel between Singapore and Europe.
|One-Way Prices for travel on QR||Qmiles||Fees|
|Athens/ Bucharest/ Istanbul/ Kiev/ Sofia/ Thessaloniki||70,000||S$55.20|
|Barcelona/ London/ Frankfurt/ Paris/ Zurich||75,000||S$55.20|
|Boston/ Dallas/ New York/ Los Angeles/ Sao Paulo||95,000||S$55.20/78.10*|
|*Taxes are higher for flights into the USA because of the customers, immigration and APHIS fees|
So I should transfer my points to Qatar Privilege Club now?
Not so fast. While Citibank and Standard Chartered offer points transfers to Qatar Privilege Club, the question you should be asking yourself is: do you feel lucky, punk?
|Citi Miles||ThankYou Points|
|SC Rewards (Visa Infinite)|
|For a full list of transfer partners by bank, refer to this post|
I mean, the current prices for Europe awards are very nice indeed, but I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable maintaining any significant balance in Privilege Club, if Qatar Airways can just flick a switch tomorrow to hike rates again.
If anything, this should be a lesson to loyalty execs- once you’ve crossed the line of no-notice devaluations, good luck getting anyone to use your program as anything other than a temporary box, where miles are used almost as quickly as they’re accrued.
There have been other recent scares with Qatar Airways awards. Earlier this week, Executive Traveller (quoting a Qatar Airways spokesperson) reported that lounge access would be removed all award tickets. Thankfully that’s since been straightened out, and Qatar has reaffirmed that lounge access continues as per normal. But things like this don’t particularly engender confidence in the program.
If your travel plans for 2021 involve Europe then by all means transfer your points in, but be sure to redeem them for awards straight away. An idle balance in Qatar Airways Privilege Club is an endangered balance.
2018 was supposed to be the year I experienced Qsuites, and when that didn’t work out, I made plans for 2019. That also fell through, and I was so sure 2020 would finally be the year, but right now I’m happy enough just to board a plane for Hong Kong.
So perhaps 2021 will be my Qsuites year, and when the time comes to redeem it, I’ll certainly do so via Privilege Club assuming the rates are the same. Who knows how long this will last?
Anyone reconsidering Qatar Privilege Club after these changes?