Qatar Airways to roll out ‘saver’ awards for frequent flyer bookings

The Oneworld member airline intends to reduce the number of frequent flyer points needed to book off-peak flights.

By David Flynn, January 20 2020
Qatar Airways to roll out ‘saver’ awards for frequent flyer bookings

Qatar Airways plans to make more flights available for fewer frequent flyer points with the introduction of cut-price ‘saver’ awards.

The move would formalise the airline’s current Easy Deals promotions, which let members of the Qatar Airways Privilege Club loyalty program redeem award tickets for up to 50% less Qmiles, into a standing arrangement covering destinations at off-peak times.

"The pricing of redemption seats at Qatar Airways is relatively flat, so what we're looking at (is to) start offering different price ranges on redemptions, in the same way that you would offer a revenue ticket,” says Dan Martin, Head of Loyalty at Qatar Airways. 

“We’ll start looking at lightly-loaded flights and off-peak flights, so that if you're traveling at an off-peak time you won't pay full fare,” Martin tells Executive Traveller.

Fewer points needed for off-peak flights

"There would be a standard redemption fare and there would be, let's call it a ‘saver’ fare, and that would be about the availability. So the saver fare might not appear ever on a nine o'clock departure, for example, but if an earlier flight was more lightly loaded we might seats come up at the saver level.”

“If we reduce the rate of miles, then that's great for our members, especially members who have the flexibility to travel to off-peak destinations at off-peak times.”

There’s still some back-end work to be done, Martin admits, “so we can present (saver redemptions) properly and people can find the fares”, but he expects the feature to be rolled out by the second quarter of this year.

An eight-year veteran of the Avios Group which powers the frequent flyer schemes of British Airways and its siblings, Martin is charged with giving Qatar Airways Privilege Club the same soaring trajectory as the Gulf airline itself has enjoyed over the past few years.

Qatar Airways plans to eventually offer every seat for sale using frequent flyer points.
Qatar Airways plans to eventually offer every seat for sale using frequent flyer points.

Cash plus miles

A cornerstone of this is overcoming 'pain points' of the program's seven million members, one of which is not earning the airline's Qmiles but spending them.

"There are (several) ways to address it," Martin explains. "You see other airlines using cash-plus-miles, combining miles with revenue fares so then at least there's always the opportunity to use your miles. That's something that we're looking into."

“There is a way to do it today (but) it’s clunky and unintuitive, and it covers only our award tickets – at the moment you can part-pay for an award ticket and top it up with cash.”

“This is tipping the whole concept on its head. If you're looking for a revenue ticket which you’d normally pay for in dollars, there will be the ability to burn some miles to obtain a discount on that dollar amount.”

“The whole idea is to increase the utility of the miles. Ultimately we would love for mileage to be as universal of a currency as possible within the group, and obviously then beyond the group.”

Dynamic pricing for 'any seat' awards

Martin agrees that the biggest pain point for Privilege Club members today "is around award availability," although he adds "We have what I think is a pretty generous number of seats available for award tickets per aircraft."

The answer, then, is to let passengers purchase any seat on any Qatar Airways flight using frequent flyer points alone.

“That's where we're going,” Martin confirms to Executive Traveller. “Again, we kind of work in an agile way here – we're always looking for what we can deliver first and foremost.”

“So the first iteration will be ‘you can use some miles’. It will be pretty much a flat discount, so if it's a $500 fare, you might use 10,000 miles and get $50 off. That would be applied across all of our ticket sales. The next iteration will be a few months after that, and that's going to be much more dynamic."

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 263

Will this flow through to points booking prices for broader oneworld bookings or just for their members?

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 64

Most likely not as it would rely on the other airlines renegotiating the award rates with Qatar, which they probably won't do (You may get closer aligned partners like BA, but not in the immediate time).

There is always a negative component in which is the peak rewards might go up, but at the same time I mainly use points in off peak as there is greater availability, so it would probably be good for me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

Welcome aboard Dan Martin. It's absolutely shameful how badly the airline behaved on May 27, 2018, when overnight, without warning, without any shame at all, the airline decided to absolutely butcher the program by shafting their most loyal Platinum customers.

Double the points required for flights, halved the points given for flights, made it almost impossible to claim an award ticket by dramatically reducing the seats available, massive fees imposed per sector - $USD 75 per sector in First is a joke, dropped the call centre ( since reinstated ), blocked use of the main Business Lounge at DOH for those who had the audacity of fly QR Business on an award ticket.

So welcome aboard Dan Martin, let's hope your 8 years experience kicks in and something good comes out of it. Let's hope you last longer than the last 2 managers of the the Not So Privileged Club. Let's hope your 8 years experience may encourage you to talk to us, your most loyal Platinum customers. The victims who supported the airline through thick and thin, who supported the airline when the blockade by your fellow GCC countries was imposed on the State of Qatar, while every one else ran a mile.

Reach out to us man, talk to us. Ask us what we want. Be open to criticism, even though to date that's a real "no-no" for QR. We don't dare criticise. I don't do surveys normally because I feel if you ( or any company ) want my feedback, you ( or any company ) should pay for it. It's called research. But with QR, I'd do it for free.

And if you want to make some improvements immediately and make a name for yourself with that 8 years of experience you have, drop the damn per sector fee for award tickets for your most loyal Platinum customers. No other airline that I deal with in the world does this. Nor did Qatar Airways before May 27, 2018.

And the second thing you can do immediately, if a customer purchases an award ticket in QR Business, they are a Business customer. Recognise it. It was like that before May 27 2018. After all, they now have to fly twice as much to get the same ticket as they would have 2 years ago, but still QR penalises them. The QR "other" Lounge at DOH is embarrassing. And an insult to your most loyal customers. And if the airline doesn't want to do that fro everyone, do it for Platinums.

It always fascinates me with QR how the airline can get it so dramatically great on-board your aircraft. All the awards are well deserved for the on-board experience. No other airline comes even close to the standards of Qatar Airways. On Board.

So how does the airline get it so wrong on-ground. It's a shambles. The NSPC is one of the worst in the world. The call centre people are like robots with no flexibility to make any decisions. No one at Qatar Airways is ever wrong. No one at Qatar Airways will admit an error. There is no customer service on ground. Maybe thats something you could look at Dan Martin.

So as I say Dan Martin, welcome aboard Qatar Airways with your 8 years experience. I wish you all the best. And if the editors want to give my email address so you can contact me sometime, please feel free to do so. I pass through DOH at least 30 times a year.


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