Qatar Airways Reverses (Stupid) Call Center Decision

Filed Under: Qatar

I love flying Qatar Airways, though their Privilege Club loyalty program is actively bad. It’s strange, because when it comes to the onboard experience Qatar Airways is an industry leader and incredibly customer focused.

I also think that the Gulf carriers would benefit more than just about any other airlines from having solid loyalty programs, given that they serve a lot of people beyond their home countries. I know a lot of people enjoy flying Gulf carriers, but don’t care much whether they fly Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar, so a good program could make a big difference.

However, Qatar Airways has made negative change after negative change to their Privilege Club program, ranging from massive award chart devaluations, to BS redemption fees on award tickets, to not granting lounge access when upgrading. Of the “big three” Gulf carriers, I’d say they have the worst program.

Last year the airline made a change that I found downright bizarre. As of March 2018, the airline eliminated phone support for their Privilege Club loyalty program, moving their program completely online.

Even more outrageous, at the time the airline spun this as an enhancement:

As part of our continued efforts to enhance your online experience with us, we have listened to your feedback and are introducing steps to make managing your Privilege Club account online ever more seamless.

I have an aversion to getting on the phone, but it’s simply not realistic to completely eliminate phone support for a loyalty program. This is especially true for a program like Privilege Club, which doesn’t even have a good website.

Well, it took a year, but the airline is now backtracking on this policy. Qatar Airways Privilege Club is reintroducing phone support as of April 2019.

Per an email to members:

We are always looking for ways to improve your experience with us and reward you for your trust in us. At Privilege Club, you are our top priority and your feedback is very important.

Based on your valuable feedback, we have been reintroducing our member services at our contact centres, to be fully rolled out in the month of April. Our agents will now be empowered to assist you with any of the following services:

  • Redeeming award tickets on Qatar Airways and partner airlines
  • Award upgrades
  • Date change of award tickets
  • Refunding award tickets and Qmiles
  • Retro claims on Qatar Airways flights

With your convenience in mind, we will continue to improve our online functionality, and some account activities will remain exclusively online for your security. These include: nominating family members, profile updates, buying, gifting, and transferring Qmiles, excess baggage redemptions, and extending or revalidating your Qmiles.

Our team is striving to provide you with the premium service that you deserve. Expect further improvements throughout 2019.

We thank you very much for your loyalty and appreciate the time and effort you take to make Privilege Club better.

Bottom line

I can’t believe it took Qatar Airways this long to bring back phone support. I had received so many complaints from readers who were negatively impacted by this policy. Though perhaps that’s largely on the people who choose to participate in the program — given that Qatar Airways belongs to oneworld, I simply can’t think of any reason to bother crediting flights to that program.

(Tip of the hat to @adrieltjokro)

  1. @Lucky – I was looking this up online but could not find a clear answer. I’m flying Qatar from JFK on Friday and I’m a Oneworld Emerald though AA. Is it possible to waitlist/get an upgrade because of this on QR?

    And also, can I access their awsome First Class lounge in Doha or do they have another one for Oneworld members?

  2. @Debit: Agree 100% – Uber has ZERO phone customer support. Impossible to speak to a real person.

  3. You make a very good point that having a customer-friendly loyalty program can differentiate a gulf carrier from its competitors. I don’t know specifics but I feel all of them have miles expiration of 3 years (regardless of activity) which means it’s almost impossible for a leisure economy flyer to stockpile on miles to save up for that dream trip.
    As far as customer support goes, it seems the norm to now just go through online chat or through an app (and I’m guessing the future is those AI robots….) ugh! It’s so much easier to talk to a human being.

  4. It makes the program less slightly less useless as redeeming on OW ‘online’ was an absolute disaster, basically resulting in miles disappearing without getting the flight.
    However the program is still utterly unattractive. I have stopped crediting to their program since about a year. The remaining miles are impossible to use or to sell so I consider them around 0 value.
    Whoever runs that loyalty program there is confusing revenue management with customer management. Or maybe his boss gave him a revenue KPI instead of stickyness KPI.

  5. I’m a frequent flyer with Qatar Airways and am in their privelige club.
    Which One world card should I be using if not Qatar Airways?

  6. Whoever deposits QR flights to qmiles is stupid. Period. I deposit to AA but BA is also pretty reasonable, and IB and JL are also good options. There are just so many other programs you will come ahead in terms of redemption

  7. @ Ken, what are you? ten years old? “whoever deposits to QR is stupid” !?
    There’s no need for rudeness. Manners maketh the man.
    You’re saying anyone but Qatar, sounds like sour grapes to me.

  8. @ Kevin

    Surprisingly, for my flight pattern (europe-asia) in BC I ended up with Finnair Plus. Otherwise would have been BA (or AA but I immensively dislike AA since some ‘experiences’)

  9. Kevin man no one can answer that for you. There are too many variables based on what routes you fly, what booking classes you’re in, and where you can reap the most benefits for non-QR flights. For me, for example, even though I reap most of my miles from QR flights, AA is the right choice since I fly in the US domestically often and I always get upgraded on those flights. That’s a factor simply because that matters to me, and I fly at a volume that will earn me the upgrades. You’ve got a lot of calculus to do in choosing a program – but unless QR is offering you undeniably great special experiences when you fly them due to your status with them, I’d switch right away.

  10. At least they listened. They were not prepared to make the shift from phone support to online. But online did not mean “website functionality.”
    It simply meant sending an email and waiting 36 hrs for a response. I once wanted to change a sector within 48 hrs of departure, which you are allowed to do on award tickets (up to 3 hrs prior to departure). Call center refused to make the change and directed me to send an email. So sent an email to grt a response next morning saying that it was because less than 36 hrs now they couldnt change the ticket!!! I hope the idiot who made that policy change got fired!!.

  11. BA has good phone customer support and email and a good website.
    And you can forward your miles for free to IB and to Avias and use their good deals also.

  12. I am platinum on Qatar and fly from the US to Africa on them several times a year in business class. The extra miles offers – double miles is common, 4x Miles not unheard of, makes earning miles easy. Spending miles is also easy with great availability for award tickets and inconsequential fees. I have not experienced any benefit I can think of to having status with QR.

    I switched to crediting to QR from BA who I also fly In business to Europe a couple of times a year. BA award ticket are few and hard to snag, the fees are outrageous. However, I got upgraded to 1st class about 25% of the time when I was a gold card holder. Would switching from QR to crediting miles to BA be your top choice?

  13. You’re right the ME3 have miserable frequent flyer programs and its surprising they don’t get that.

    But this comment in the article from Qatar amused me: “As part of our continued efforts to enhance your online experience with us, we have listened to your feedback …” Does anyone really believe that sort of nonsense? If that was the case why reverse it?

  14. @Kevin – BA is one of the easiest in OneWorld to progress to higher status tiers so I pick that BUT you have to do 4 flights per year on BA (if you don’t, pick something else)

  15. QRPC is not “actively bad”. You can’t just look at the mileage redemption charts. The program has its advantages when earning the mile through flight promotions instead of credit card point conversions. They used to have highly lucrative promotions including the Globetrotter campaigns. Often it was possible to combine multiple promotions such as 3x/4x mileage earning promotions and destination-based bonuses. It was the perfect program for hardcore maximizers loving fine-tuned adventurous mileage runs while enjoying high-end onboard service. Admittedly, the status requirements were always harder than BAEC, but not unreasonable (no spending requirements, Qpoints multiplier promotions, reduced status requirements through special campaigns such as Globetrotter). I have earned and redeemed about 1 million miles in their program, mostly before the devaluations, and achieved an excellent redemption value. The value of the award tickets (even if just comparing them with promotional paid fares) by far outweighed the costs for the tickets to earn the miles. Of course, there have been program devaluations since the Qatar crisis, but they still have decent redemption rates with very low surcharges on partner airlines, avoiding the award redemption fees they charge for QR awards. Over the past months, we have slowly been seeing 3x/4x/5x mileage earning promotions returning. For example, the LAX-DOH-AMM route in their current Prix Fixe offer combined with a 5x mileage multiplier (that some members have received this month) would earn 6.25-fold distance miles for R and 10-fold for A, resulting in about 51800 + 10300 + 10300 + 51800 = 124200 Qmiles. With the QR Platinum tier bonus, it would be even close to 143000 miles for a round trip.

  16. Greetings, Lucky–long time reader, first time poster. I too can’t believe it took these guys so long to get phone service back. Crew down here in Doha told me it was a security measure, not cost, but either way, the impact on frequent travellers was a disaster.

    Your assessment that you “simply can’t think of any reason to bother crediting flights to that program” is likely based on pure award chart comparison shopping.

    I’d be crazy to book my miles elsewhere–they run so many more points promotions than any of the other OneWorld carriers, I receive at least 50% more miles with them than I would with anyone else. They make it hard as H*** to register for promotions, but it’s almost like the old SPG once you are. The charts are a bit more expensive depending on destination, but are a bargain compared to their expensive cash prices if you live in Doha. The availability people are talking about can also be poor, but it’s much better if you’re in PC. It’s obvious they try to preserve seats for their own members because there are probably so many members of inferior airlines’ programs trying to grab their superior seats with other OW miles.

  17. As mentioned before, it is difficult to register for their promotions as there are always technical glitches and you have to email their support.

    Most of their policies and procedures on the ground are more cumbersome or nonsensical than for other carriers (eg denied lounge access when you pay $3000 to upgrade).

    But their on board service and product is just amazing.

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