Heads up: Qatar brings back award segment fees, nerfs award searching with zero balance

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Qatar Privilege Club quietly brings back award segment fees, and removes the ability to search with a zero balance.

Qatar Airways recently got a lot of people excited by announcing that it was replacing its Qmiles with Avios, the rewards currency of British Airways. 

This had the potential to create some intriguing opportunities, since members could move Avios freely between British Airways Executive Club and Qatar Privilege Club and take advantage of each programme’s unique partners and features. Heck, there was even some early good news, as British Airways slashed Qatar Airways award costs (and fuel surcharges).

But now the other shoe has dropped. Qatar Privilege Club has reintroduced its much-despised award segment fees, and removed the ability to search for awards with a zero balance.

Edit: Someone’s pointed out to me the inability to search for awards with a zero balance may not be a new thing, but in any case, it’s something you might want to be aware of. 

Qatar reinstates award segment fees

Expect to pay more when redeeming Qatar Airways awards

Qatar Airways has quietly brought back its “award segment fees”, which were previously scrapped in June 2020. 

What’s an award segment fee? It’s the very definition of junk: a fee you pay to redeem your miles. Qatar was more than happy to announce the removal of award segment fees back in 2020: 

As we continue to reinstate flights, with 59 destinations globally this June, we want to make it easier for you to use Qmiles to fly to those destinations when the moment is right to explore together again.

That’s why, we will no longer be applying Award Flight fees, usually USD 25 per segment in Economy, USD 50 per segment in Business, or USD 75 per segment in First. You can now choose to book using Qmiles, fee-free and with ease, at qmiles.com and the mobile app.

This time, it’s taken the silent but deadly route, hiding it under an “Important information” tab  at the bottom of the page that can only be viewed when clicked on. 

Now, according to the website, award segment fees are as follows:

 EconomyBusinessFirst
Fee per segmentUS$25US$50US$75

In practice, however, they’re higher. I don’t know whether it’s the case that someone at Qatar copied and pasted the old fees when adding this section back, but the fees I’m seeing are around US$35 per Economy and US$70 per Business Class segment.

I am unable to find any First Class award space (FYI: intra-Middle East flights like DOH-DXB are sold as First Class, but attract Business Class award fees) so I can’t confirm how much the fee is on those bookings. 

Keep in mind that the vast majority of round-trip Qatar Airways itineraries involve four segments (since you fly X → Doha→ Y → Doha → X), so you’d be paying US$280 more for a Business Class ticket (4x US$70). 

In fact, as Loyalty Lobby has pointed out, Qatar is trying very hard to hide these fees. It takes multiple clicks to find them in the booking interface, hidden under the “taxes and carrier imposed fees”.

Qatar nerfs award search engine

Qatar Privilege Club no longer allows you to search for award space on Qatar Airways/British Airways if you have a zero balance in your account. Any attempts to search encounter the following error message: 

If it’s any consolation, it’s still possible to search so long as you have at least one mile in your account; you don’t need to have the actual miles required to redeem the route you’re looking for.

For example, I have an alternate account with a 2,500 miles balance (courtesy of one of those sign-up bonuses that Qatar periodically runs). Searches with this account work just fine.

Time will tell if this is a bug or a feature, but assuming it’s the latter, I don’t need to tell you how customer unfriendly that is. 

Conclusion

Qatar Airways new Business Class on the B787-9 | Photo: TPG

Even if we assume the award search nerf is a temporary bug, the unannounced return of award booking fees is just the latest in a long line of stunts by Qatar Privilege Club. 

As I’ve said before, it’s hard to have any sort of trust in a programme that carries out no notice devaluations, and while there’s certainly some sweet spots to be found, I wouldn’t feel confident letting any significant number of miles sit idle here. 

For what it’s worth, Qatar Privilege Club still does not impose any fuel surcharges on awards booked on Qatar metal, so one might argue these award fees are stand-ins for that. Still, there’s no reason to reintroduce them without so much as an email. 

(HT: Loyalty Lobby)

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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E Ng

The no search with 0 miles was a thing when I opened a search account in Nov last year, so might not be that new.

With the A380 back in, there’s some award space in F on BKK, CDG

Only issue is you can’t transit BKK on separate tickets so you need to do a multi city oneworld booking to transit BKK (or meet requirements to enter the country and clear immigration). QRPC doesn’t allow multi carrier awards on their online engine.

3 million mile international travel

Is Qatar an international airline or an Arab rug merchant?

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