Qatar Airways has just announced a horrible “enhancement” (as they like to call it) to their Privileges Club loyalty program. As of March 2, 2018, all Qatar Airways Privileges Club services will be available online, and as of March 11, 2018, Qatar Airways will no longer be supporting account activities through ticketing offices, contact centers, or any other offline channels.
Not surprisingly, Qatar Airways twists this as a positive development:
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.
We have recently implemented a number of features and functionalities such as a new user friendly website, digital membership card, online redemption for hotel stays, earning miles with our online shopping portal Akruu and many more.
They note that as of March 2, 2018, you’ll be able to do things online that include booking award tickets, profile updates, excess baggage, refunds, nominating family members, cabin upgrades, award ticket date changes, and more. The catch is that most of those things are already possible online.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for loyalty programs offering the best technology possible so that members can self service their accounts. That’s fantastic. There are two major issues here.
The first is simply that not everyone is good with technology, and not everyone likes doing things online. I can’t personally make sense of it, but there are plenty of people who would rather pick up the phone than do everything themselves online. My dad can’t use a computer, so he wouldn’t be able to use the program.
But there’s a much bigger issue. If you’re going to bring your loyalty program online, make sure that all functions are actually possible online in an efficient way. Qatar Airways requires 96 hours to confirm award tickets and upgrades through their website. So rather than actually allowing direct online bookings, you’re basically submitting a request online that will be manually reviewed. Given how often award and upgrade availability changes, you can bet that a lot of people will be getting messages saying “sorry, your upgrade/award seat isn’t available anymore.”
Meanwhile it used to be that when booking by phone, you could confirm availability right away.
While I’m all for companies improving technology and bringing as many functions online as possible, eliminating the option to call excludes a lot of people. But the much worse thing is that Qatar Airways doesn’t actually have good technology here — it’s 2018, and requiring 96 hours to confirm an award ticket or upgrade (especially when it’s the only option) isn’t acceptable.
(Tip of the hat to beepee on FlyerTalk)