By Hemal Gosai
Opinion: Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club Has A Lot of Potential
As the pandemic hopefully turns a corner, it is time for airlines to really get back to competing with each other. One place they’re going to have to do that is with loyalty programs, which are and will continue to be useful tools to drive repeat customers and build brand loyalty.
AirlineGeeks recently had the opportunity to pick the brains of the folks at Qatar Airways and understand their plan to Privilege Club, their frequent flyer program, to provide greater value and more relevancy to broader groups of flyers.
The program initially came onto my radar when they announced something nearly unheard of in the industry: they were reducing award rates. Time and time again, we see airlines constantly devalue their frequent flyer programs and make it harder for their members to redeem miles, so it was refreshing to see an airline go the other way.
The cutting of award rates is just the first of the generally consumer-friendly changes that have occurred with Privilege Club. They’ve also reduced fees and changed mileage expiration to 36 months with no activity allowing miles to be used for a longer period of time as long as there is activity on their account.
One of the other most notable additions to the program has been Student Club. It is a program that was developed during Covid-19 repatriations, and it provides a slew of benefits for students and their traveling companions. As of earlier this year, over 50,000 students have signed up for the program, which offers benefits such as special fares, complimentary wifi, and more. When students graduate they will even get a Privilege Club tier upgrade.
Qatar Airways really wants to redefine Privilege Club as a program that meets members’ needs and is updated and adjusted to ensure that customers get the best possible rewards for their continued loyalty during this pandemic and after. So far, they seem to be doing just that through changes to their loyalty program and changes to its operations.
The airline is flying to more and more places within the U.S. and therefore offering greater access from the U.S. to other parts of the world via Doha.
Privilege Club is useful in the U.S. as well due to Qatar Airways’ participation in the Oneworld alliance and partnerships with other airlines. Members can use Qmiles for flights alliance partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. JetBlue, while not part of the Oneworld alliance, is partnered with Qatar Airways through a codeshare agreement.
A lot of times, foreign airlines have relatively weak offerings when it comes to loyalty programs compared to what we’re used to in the U.S. with the programs offered by the major airlines here. Often, it’s better to redeem award tickets on a foreign carrier using the loyalty program of a U.S. carrier than it is to redeem on that foreign carrier using their own loyalty program.
There really isn’t a perfect loyalty program out there across any airline, there are ones however that really provide value. The lower award ticket costs, Student Club, and various domestic and international partnerships, however, all give Privilege Club a compelling argument as to why the program should be taken more seriously within the U.S. There’s a lot of potential here for a strong loyalty program in the years ahead.