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Members of Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club loyalty program hoping to book a flight using their hard-earned miles will now need to fork out up to 77% more miles than before to book the same journey, in sweeping changes introduced by the airline without any prior notice to members.
But Qantas frequent flyers have come out ahead in the shake-up. Both airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance and you can book Qatar flights using Qantas Points: ironically, in many cases these changes see the number of Privilege Club miles needed to book a Qatar Airways flight becoming higher than the number of Qantas Points necessary for the same trip.
(That's despite Qatar Airways already attracting less-favourable reward rates through Qantas than other airline partners such as Emirates.)
Effective immediately, the number of Privilege Club miles needed for a Qatar upgrade to business class or first class has also increased by as much as 47% – particularly for passengers on lower-priced fares – although travellers flying on the most flexible tickets now need slightly fewer miles to upgrade.
The number of ‘Qpoints’ that members can earn on each flight, being the Privilege Club equivalent of status credits, has also changed, while a new “booking fee” is now being levied when using miles to book flights with Qatar Airways and its partner airlines.
Here’s a wrap of changes to Qatar Airways' Privilege Club program, and where Australian travellers can use Qantas Points to their advantage.
More Qmiles needed to book Qatar Airways reward flights
Jetting from Australia to Doha? Whether you fly from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide or Perth, you’ll now need exactly 45% more miles than before to book the same seat.
For example, a one-way first class ticket from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth to Doha previously required 105,000 Qmiles to book via Privilege Club. Now, you’ll need 152,250 Qmiles to book the same flight.
In business class, a one-way flight from Australia to Doha climbs from 70,000 to 101,500 Qmiles, while in economy, reward flights are bumped from 35,000 to 50,750 Qmiles.
(By comparison on flights from Sydney to Doha, a first class ticket can also be booked using 152,000 Qantas Points, with business class costing 104,000 Qantas Points and economy 56,000 Qantas Points, similar to Qatar's new Privilege Club redemption rates.)
On journeys between Australia and Europe, reward bookings are hiked by 77% across the board, with a one-way first class trek from Sydney to Paris now needing a whopping 239,250 Qmiles – up from 135,000 previously – with business class jumping from 90,000 to 159,500 Qmiles, one-way.
That's where the difference between Privilege Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer widens, with that same trip bookable for 203,000 Qantas Points in first class and 139,000 Qantas Points in business class.
Reward flights in first class aboard Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380s between Doha and London continue to be unavailable, but as above, are possible on other routes such as Sydney to Doha and onward to Paris. Economy tickets from Australia to Europe jump from 45,000 to 79,750 miles also.
That's again higher than Qantas Frequent Flyer, which commands 75,000 Qantas Points for the same Qatar Airways bookings – and as Qantas Points are far easier to earn in Australia than Privilege Club miles, Aussie travellers won’t be encouraged to jump ship by these changes.
New “booking fee” levied on reward flights
When you do secure flights using your Privilege Club Qmiles, you’ll now be hit with a new “booking fee” – but despite the name, this fee isn’t charged per booking, it’s charged per flight.
Take a return trip from Australia to Europe, for example, even on a single reservation, and you’ll be billed not one, but four booking fees. Bring along a partner and you’ll be slugged the booking fee no less than eight times: again, even on a single reservation.
In first class, you’ll pay US$75 (A$99.10) per flight or US$300 (A$396.40) per passenger on a return booking to Europe – almost A$800 for a couple travelling together – while in business class, it’s US$50 (A$66.10) per flight sector, and in economy, the fee US$25 (A$33.05).
This fee is charged in addition to the usual taxes, fees and surcharges collected on points-based award bookings, and applies to flights booked using Qmiles on Qatar Airways and all its partner airlines, including Australian Oneworld member Qantas.
Changes to flight upgrades using Privilege Club Qmiles
For most passengers, the number of Qmiles needed to secure an upgrade from business class to first class or from economy to business class is increasing, with a few exceptions.
First, the good news: if you normally fly on fully-flexible economy fares, specifically those aligned to the Y, H and B fare letters, a one-way upgrade to business class from Australia to Doha can now be had for 37,000 Qmiles, down from 42,500 Qmiles as before.
On journeys from Australia to Europe, the number of Qmiles needed also drops from 64,000 to 59,000 per one-way upgrade, covering both your flight from Australia to Doha and the leg from Doha onward to Europe.
However, with a business class ticket, more Qmiles are needed for a first class upgrade, nudging from 50,000 to 55,000 Qmiles for a one-way trip between Australia and Doha, and from 75,000 to 87,500 Qmiles for a one-way bump between Australia and Europe – except on flights between Doha and London, on which mileage-based upgrades to first class are not available.
Stuck on a lower-priced economy fare and want to fly business class instead? On mid-range K, L, M and V ticket types, you’ll now need 55,000 Qmiles between Australia and Doha instead of a rounded 50,000 as before, one-way, and between Australia and Europe, the previous 75,000-mile rate increases to 87,500 miles.
On even cheaper flights corresponding to the N, Q and S fare letters, the previous asking price of 50,000 Qmiles jumps to 73,500 Qmiles on one-way trips between Australia and Doha and from 75,000 to 117,500 on flights from Australia to London, one-way.
Economy class O and T fares weren’t previously eligible for upgrades, although can now be upgraded using Qmiles at the same rates as these N, Q and S fares.
Under the new lounge access policy implemented by Qatar Airways in February 2018 – also introduced without any prior notice – travellers upgrading their flight using Qmiles don’t qualify for lounge access, unless their original booking or frequent flyer status already provided it. This policy remains in force.
Changes to Qpoints (status credits) earned with Qatar Airways
The number of Qpoints – the Privilege Club equivalent of status credits – that members can earn on paid Qatar Airways flights has also changed, with travellers on higher-priced tickets earning more than before, and those on lower-priced fares pocketing less.
On all flights from Australia to Doha, passengers on the most flexible J and C-type business class fares will now earn 192 Qpoints on a return trip, almost double the previous haul of 110 Qpoints, with the most affordable I-type business class fares rising from 90 to 110 Qpoints on the same routes.
Down the back in economy, there’s a small reduction from 40 to 36 Qpoints on the cheapest tickets, with these changes covering all Qatar Airways flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
Flying further afield? To see how many Privilege Club Qmiles (frequent flyer points) and Qpoints (status credits) you’ll now take home, use the Mileage Calculator tool on the Qatar Airways website.
Why didn’t Qatar Airways give any notice?
While most other global frequent flyer programs inform members of key changes well before they happen, the Terms and Conditions of Qatar’s Privilege Club scheme don’t require this.
Specifically, the T&Cs read: “Qatar Airways may change any of these Terms and Conditions, as well as the operation or Benefits of Privilege Club, at any time.”
Qatar Airways did make public its new reward booking fees on May 20 – which came into effect for new bookings made from May 27 – although the specific changes to frequent flyer earning and redemption rates were not revealed until they went live this week.
By introducing new redemption rates overnight and without notice, members who previously had enough miles in their account to book their dream flight may no longer have enough to travel at all – or if they do, may need to fly in a lower class than they could book previously.
Lack of notice also prevents members from using the miles they’ve earned to book flights at the rates they expected, before the revised, higher redemption costs kick in, which many travellers would quite rightly view as being unfair.
That said, as the number of miles needed to book partner airline flights through Privilege Club has not changed – and, in some cases, allows you to travel with a partner airline for fewer miles than with Qatar Airways – members seeking to use their existing points could consider this option.