Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Decimates own Frequent Flyer Program

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What is the worst thing a frequent flyer program can do? Well, arguably it’s to remove award charts altogether and make the consumer fly blind when redeeming miles like Delta has done. But what is the next worst thing?

Qsuites Image courtesy

To devalue a program by hiking award fees up to 77% overnight with no notice.  (In fairness to Qatar, Delta also likes to devalue in various ways with no notice…)

Fresh off the news that Qatar would start charging its own loyalty program’s members a junk “booking fee” to use their miles of up to $300 per ticket (for first class awards), they’ve gone and pulled this trust-erosion exercise.

Last week Cathay Pacific did a much more mild devaluation yet still was kind enough to offer one-month’s notice to redeem at the current rates.

Why does that matter? Because people save up miles for months and years to reach an award. It’s just plain wrong to move the goalposts with no chance at all to redeem under the award chart you have been saving up to redeem on. While the Cathay Pacific notice doesn’t mean all people will make out fine as surely some people are 50-75% of the way to their award and can’t redeem right now, many others have enough for their goal and haven’t redeemed yet and have that chance now.

The biggest increases are for First Class awards from Europe to Australia, jumping from 135,000 Qmiles to 239,250 Qmiles – PLUS the $300 per ticket booking fee.

Now, I don’t think for my mostly US-based readership that I need to go into all the changes. I don’t frankly think that too many of you collect Qmiles. And this change currently has no effect on using Oneworld partner miles, like American Airlines, to book Qatar flights. If anything, this just makes AAdvantage miles more valuable now.

Yet, it’s very important for you to know this just happened, because as I write about in Chapter 4 of my book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points, miles are no bank account and long-term game players get burned by devaluations. Miles earn negative interest….

When you play a short-term game, you are more likely to have the goalposts stay where they are. Some devaluations happen with a few months of notice given to members, allowing you to book some future flights or hotel nights in advance at “old levels.” Others happen with no notice at all. With a short-term horizon, your odds are much better.


Thoughts on this latest devaluation? Let me know here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.