Qatar Airways unlocks Avios transfers, opens more reward seats

The Gulf carrier is switching its frequent flyer currency to Avios and putting more reward seats up for grabs.

By David Flynn, March 24 2022
Qatar Airways unlocks Avios transfers, opens more reward seats

Qatar Airways is officially moving to Avios as the rewards currency of its Privilege Club loyalty program this week, joining Oneworld members British Airways and Iberia in cementing Avios as a powerhouse unit of exchange among airlines.

The millions of Qatar Airways Privilege Club members will see their Qmiles automatically transformed into Avios at a 1:1 ratio.

It will also be possible to move Avios between airlines – such as from a British Airways Executive Club account to a Qatar Airways Privilege Club – without balance limits or transfer fees.

Shifting Avios will make it easier to book the reward seat you want on the airline you want, and even aggregate all your Avios under one account to create a single massive pool of points.

This flexibility only makes the currency and the customer proposition more powerful, the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori tells Executive Traveller.

The ebullient Frenchman likens Qatar Airways’ embrace of Avios to when his native country moved form the Franc to the Euro in 2002.

“When France adopted the Euro instead of having only the French Franc, it gave us a more flexible currency, with more options and more rewarding options. With my Euros I was able to buy chocolate in Germany, or ice cream in Italy... before, I first had to change the money from my Francs.”

“So that’s what we want to do here. It is extremely convenient to the customer, and for the possibility of a redemption now you will get five times, ten times more options.”

Antinori also says Qatar Airways will also begin unlocking more reward seats which frequent flyers can use to book with Avios “at very competitive” rates.

Those bookings can be made with Avios issued by and earned through Qatar Airways as well as the likes of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.

Avios as a powerhouse currency

Qatar Airways will become the fifth carrier to have its reward program powered by Avios and swell the reach of Avios to more than 35 million frequent flyers worldwide. A newly-minted codeshare partnership with Virgin Australia will also see Avios able to be redeemed on the carrier's domestic and short-range Pacific flights.

Also in the Avios camp are Aer Lingus and low-cost European carrier Vueling – and it’s no accident they, like British Airways and Iberia, are all owned by International Airlines Group, in which Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder with a commanding 25.1% stake.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said “the transition from Qmiles to Avios marks a ground-breaking new era for Privilege Club, enabling our loyal members to participate in the most compelling loyalty network and the largest portfolio of partners in the industry.”

That portfolio stretches to over 200 global brands where Avios can be collected by spending on not only travel but shopping, leisure and financial services.

Standardising on Avios will also simplify the process of Qatar Airways Privilege Club members obtaining upgrades on British Airways and Iberia, ahead of Oneworld launching alliance-wide upgrades later this year

Executive Traveller understands both British Airways and Qatar Airways will increase the number of Avios-based reward seats across their flights, to accomodate an expected jump in demand once both airlines are sharing a ‘common currency’.

However, while Qmiles will make way for Avios, Qatar Airways plans to retain its other loyalty currencies of Qpoints, which track and determine status, and Qcredits, which are earned by QRPC Gold and Platinum members to be used for upgrades, award booking fees and excess luggage.

High flyers see the upside

The initial reaction of frequent flyers to Qatar Airways’ unexpected move appeared broadly welcoming, although as one cautioned when speaking to Executive Traveller, “the devil is always in the details.”

London-based company director Maximillian Marks is among British Airway’s top tier frequent flyers, holding Gold Guest List status and is flagged as a HVC (high value customer) due to his extensive travels in premium cabins.

“I averaged about 140 flights a year, pre-Covid, although this year will probably be about 100 to 120,” he tells Executive Traveller, “mainly to the US, the Middle East and Asia.”

Marks also holds Platinum status with Qatar Airways, which represents around 40% of his flying, and says the ability to collect Avios on future flights with the Gulf carrier “will certainly be more valuable to me than Qmiles, absolutely.”

“No devaluation”

While the initial conversion from his Qpoints balance to Avios will be at a 1:1 rate, Marks ponders whether that could be followed by a revaluation – a dreaded devaluation – in the new currency, if redeem seats on Qatar Airways flights requires a higher number of Avios come late March than Qmiles today.

“Whenever there is any major currency change, and Qmiles and Avios are both currencies, there’s always the concern of an adjustment or devaluation. Will there be an uplift in the number of Avios you need in future for certain destinations versus the number of Qmiles you need today?”

But that won’t be the case, according to Qatar Airways Privilege Club, with a spokesperson promising “There is no revaluation – QR is not changing its value grid.”

Mal Murray, an Australian IT consultant now living in the UK, believes Qatar Airways’ move to Avios would increase the appeal and value of Avios as a whole “as redeeming them should now have more options, including upgrades on Qatar Airways which has excellent business and first cabins.”

Murray typically splits his long-range flying between BA “for Europe and the Americas” and Qatar Airways “to Asia and Australia,” and says the shift from Qmiles to Avios “will be particularly advantageous for European based flyers due to the strength of Avios in this market, but of course the devil is always in the details” which are yet to come.

He also seems that Qatar’s adoption of Avios "could eventually lead to Avios becoming the de facto currency of OneWorld, which would make transferring points between programs a lot simpler than is currently possible.”

Marks agrees, and wonders if Qatar’s Avios push might be “part of a program to spearhead that… I think that is potentially very, very exciting.”

Using Avios for Qantas flights

Although British Airways only recently allowed residents of Australia to join its British Airways Executive Club program, the UK flag-carrier’s limited local presence – just one route, between Sydney and London – affords little opportunity for Australians to collect Avios.

That will change within weeks, given Qatar Airways’ extensive footprint – the Gulf carrier flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and its growing popularity among Australia travellers.

And as savvy frequent flyer can attest, it’s actually cheaper to book most domestic Qantas flights through British Airways with Avios rather than using Qantas Points – especially in business class – because the distance-based Avios rewards table favours relatively short flights.

For example, a return Qantas business class ticket for Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane lands at 25,000 Avios, compared to 36,800 Qantas Points; do the same trip for Melbourne-Brisbane and it’s 33,000 Avios versus 55,200 Qantas Points.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 407

Very unexpected and very welcome. Although my QR flights in business class generally yield a good amount of Qmiles, I would much rather have Avios so I can use them for quick little BA jaunts in the UK and across to Europe.

British Airways - Executive Club

06 Apr 2018

Total posts 13

Respectfully, this article is a little misleading. It implies that only now that Qatar are adopting Avios can one earn and burn Avios on QR metal. Of course this has been possible for quite some time through BA Executive Club and Qantas. In the case of BA, QR award availability was rather good. What will actually change under the new arrangement? 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

What's changed, and it's a big change (and as explained in the article) is that Qatar Airways has now adopted Avios as its native rewards currency, replacing Qmiles, and with that comes the ability to transfer Avios between other airlines, eg you can rack up your full serve of Avios on a Qatar Airways business class flight and then transfer them to your British Airways Executive Club  account, or vice versa. Of course you could before have earned Avios on a QR flight if you were a member of BAEC and put your BAEC membership number on your booking (largely irrelevant to our primary Australian market, for various reasons) and used Avios to book a QR flight via BA - you could say the same about any reward currency (eg Cathay Pacific Asia Miles) and Oneworld airline. But as you can see, QR adopting Avios is a vastly different proposition.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qatar Airways unlocks Avios transfers, opens more reward seats