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.
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."