The changes, billed by the airline as “exciting new enhancements,” include the introduction of a new Platinum tier, the highest available; Q credits, a new award for Platinum and Gold members; and reduced fees and surcharges on tickets booked with Qmiles.
However, the airline has also increased the number of miles needed to buy/upgrade a flight to many destinations.
The changes, introduced just before the airline is set to join the oneworld alliance, have some passengers wondering whether enough incentive remains to continue with the scheme.
Speaking to Doha News, Brady Creel, who flies to the US at least four times a year, and has redeemed more than 230,000 miles since he joined the program in 2007, said:
“In the past, I’ve been very loyal to Qatar Airways, because of the generous availability of award bookings, a good rate for earning miles, and perks like lounge access.
But some of these things have clearly shifted in this revision of the program. Now that I can book flights on Qatar Airways through other oneworld member airlines, using other frequent flyer programs, there are other options out there. It needs to be worth my while to keep all my eggs in one basket.”
There is also widespread confusion about the changes. On Twitter and online forums such as Flyertalk, passengers questioned how joining oneworld would affect lounge access, and how Qmiles could be used when flying with oneworld member airlines, like British Airways.
Speaking to Doha News, Qatar Airways spokeswoman Madonna Walsh said the airline’s revamp was not linked to joining the oneworld alliance:
“Since Privilege Club was last refreshed in 2007, our network and member base has grown significantly. From being a largely regional program, we are now a global program with over 3 Million members. To enhance programs member proposition, it was imperative to make these changes.”
Questions and answers
We asked our followers on Twitter to tweet us their questions about the changes, as well as users of frequent traveler forum Flyertalk to share their thoughts and queries.
Here are some of the questions, and answers given to Doha News by Qatar Airways:
Question: “It looks like recent changes are mostly devaluations, for example an award upgrade for Singapore to Bali used to be 12.5k, now it’s a 20k – a 50 percent increase! Why has this happened?”
Answer from Qatar Airways: The changes to awards differ from market to market due to a series of variables which were taken into consideration. For example, a return trip in Economy Class from Mumbai to Washington was 90,000 Qmiles and now its 80,000 Qmiles. Plus, the new award will not require Fuel surcharge so this is a significant benefit for members. The taxes / surcharges have been reduced significantly in all cases while we may or may not have increased the miles being charged for those routes.
Here is an airline-provided table showing a before and after comparison of redemption rates for award flights:
Q: Will I be able to earn miles and Qpoints on tickets with all other oneworld alliance members?
A: Yes, effective from Oct. 30, 2013, all Privilege Club members will be able to earn Qmiles and Qpoints on oneworld flights.
Q: Has the baggage award for Gold Members been reduced by 5kg?
A: Yes. It has been reduced by 5kgs from the previous benefit but Qatar Airways has increased the overall baggage allowance so Members are not affected. We have also introduced the piece concept so Gold and Platinum members can enjoy 1 extra piece when traveling to the Americas.
Q: Can I convert all my QMiles to BA miles?
A: No. Conversion of Qmiles to BA miles is not possible but Qmiles can be used to redeem award tickets on BA and our other partner airlines.
Q: How does joining Oneworld affect overall award seat availability? QR’s program is not particularly attractive against programs of other Oneworld partners. What incentive do loyal customers have to stay?
A: Award availability is a common issue for all Frequent Flyer Programmes. oneworld will not dramatically affect the award availability on QR flights. To the contrary, our entry into oneworld will provide our members options to redeem Qmiles for award seats on any oneworld airline.
Q: Why is the fuel surcharge not needed now, when it’s been in place for so long. What prompted that change?
A: Award ticket pricing has undergone tremendous change over the last few years due to continuous increases in fuel prices. There was considerable member feedback asking us to reduce fuel surcharge, this prompted us to re look at our entire award pricing. We have ensured that we are competitive with comparable airlines and are able to provide an attractive proposition to our members.
Q: Has the “Easy Deals” program been withdrawn? None have been published since the September offers expired.
A: No, the Easy Deals programme is still active and new deals will be published in the near future.
Any more questions? Thoughts?
Credit: Image by Qatar Airways on Flickr