Qatar Airways Botched its Status Match PromoIn May, Qatar Airways launched a rare status match promotion for frequent flyers of six airlines including Virgin Australia. Velocity members were invited to apply for the match, and most applicants have now received reciprocal Qatar Airways Privilege Club status.

It was a great deal for Velocity members, especially at a time of uncertainty surrounding the future of Virgin Australia. With newly-minted Qatar Airways Privilege Club status, applicants now have access to Qantas lounges and other benefits when flying with Qatar’s fellow Oneworld member Qantas.

Yet, bizarrely, it seems Qatar Airways will gain very little from this whole exercise. Overall, the status match was poorly planned, poorly executed and could cost Qatar Airways far more than it benefits them.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Poor execution

As far as airline promotions go, this one was executed relatively poorly. Velocity members were made to submit activity statements that Velocity doesn’t normally issue, then wait for up to a month to hear back from Qatar Airways. The airline did eventually respond to most applicants, and most status matches were processed correctly. But at least one Velocity Platinum member was only matched to Privilege Club Gold status without a reason being provided. On the other hand, a Velocity Silver member received Privilege Club Platinum status. Go figure.

In a Travel Data Daily article, Mark Ross-Smith has also questioned whether Qatar Airways had sufficient processes in place to detect fraudulent applications. Although I am not personally aware of any fraudulent cases, it wouldn’t have been too difficult for somebody with Photoshop skills to apply.

However, that’s not actually why I think this promotion was botched…

Most Australians have no prospect of flying Qatar Airways in the next year

This status match was specifically targeted at Velocity members to attract Australians to the Privilege Club program. Why else would Qatar Airways offer a match to Velocity Frequent Flyer members, most of which must be Australian since Velocity doesn’t allow residents of most other countries to join?

The whole point of running a status match promotion is to attract new loyal customers from a competing airline. A status match is supposed to give these new members an opportunity to try out your airline, in the hope they’ll like what they experience and stay.

Under normal circumstances, there wouldn’t be a problem with Qatar Airways’ approach. But as we’ve been reminded ad nauseam over recent months, these are unprecedented times.

The Australian international border currently remains closed indefinitely. Since March, Australian citizens and residents have been banned from leaving the country without an exemption for essential travel – which can be difficult to get. There is no current end date for the border closure, but the federal government has indicated international travel may not be allowed to resume until there is a vaccine. That could be more than a year away.

Meanwhile, Qantas has already cancelled all international flights until October and says it will likely have to extend these cancellations until at least July 2021. The only possible exception would be flights to New Zealand, assuming the delayed “trans-Tasman bubble” eventually goes ahead.

Qatar Airways is still operating flights to and from Australia. But the vast majority of Australians are not allowed to travel on these flights. This means they won’t be able to try out the Qatar Airways service – which, by all accounts, is excellent – nor redeem the Qcredits that came with their Gold or Platinum status for upgrades. By the time Australia’s international border eventually reopens, it is likely that the Privilege Club status of matched Velocity members would already have expired.

It will be possible for Privilege Club members to use their status benefits when flying on Qantas domestic flights within Australia. But when a Privilege Club member uses a Qantas lounge, Qatar Airways needs to pay Qantas for this. So this will cost Qatar Airways money, while providing no benefit to them. The only winners here are Qantas and Privilege Club members.

Qantas Business Lounge in Melbourne
Qantas charges Qatar Airways each time a Privilege Club Gold or Platinum member flying in Economy class uses a Qantas lounge

Requalification confusion

As part of the original status match promotion, new Privilege Club members were told they could renew their status for another year by earning only half the amount of Qpoints normally required within 12 months:

Qpoints required for renewal with the status match
Qpoints required for renewal with the status match

But the lower renewal requirement has not been reflected in members’ Qatar Airways Privilege Club accounts and not clearly communicated to members. For example, Platinum members have been told that they would need to earn 540 Qpoints in the next 12 months to renew their status. So, which is it – 300 or 540?

Furthermore, Qatar Airways normally requires members to earn at least 20% of their Qpoints (or fly at least 4 sectors) on Qatar Airways marketed or operated flights, in order to earn or maintain status. This requirement was not mentioned in the status match terms & conditions at all. So it’s not clear whether it applies to members that received a status match.

Australian Frequent Flyer contacted Qatar Airways for clarification over a month ago. We never received a response.

No Qmiles or Qpoints earned on Qantas domestic flights

Even in the best case scenario – where status-matched members need to earn only half of the usual Qpoints and don’t need to fly a minimum number of Qatar Airways miles or sectors – it will still be impossible for Australians to renew their Privilege Club status if the international border remains closed.

For some reason, Qatar Airways does not award Qmiles or Qpoints on Qantas domestic flights unless they’re on the same ticket as a Qantas or Qatar Airways international flight.

The Qantas partner page on the Qatar Airways website states:

Accrual on Qantas domestic flights are only eligible when they are in conjunction with an international flight marketed by either Qantas or Qatar Airways on the same ticket.

It’s simply bizarre that this restriction would even exist in the first place. It’s not normal for a Oneworld airline. Even so, many Qantas Economy fare classes earn nothing on international flights, either.

Qantas fare classes eligible to earn Qmiles & Qpoints on international itineraries
Qantas fare classes eligible to earn Qmiles & Qpoints on international itineraries

Qantas Red e-Deal, Sale and Saver fares (except fare classes V and L) earn nothing in the Privilege Club program. (And as Qantas does not tell you which fare class you’re booking online, this can be a minefield to navigate.)

Qantas is the only Oneworld airline operating domestic flights in Australia. So, with international borders shut, most Australians have no prospect of renewing their Qatar Airways status beyond 12 months. That defeats the entire purpose of running the promotion in the first place!

We also asked Qatar Airways if it planned to change its policy of not awarding Qpoints and Qmiles on Qantas domestic flights. They haven’t responded.

In short, this status match is a complete mess for Qatar Airways. They will bear the full cost of Australian members accessing benefits when flying with Qantas for the next year but get almost nothing in return… other than, perhaps, goodwill. It’s a great deal for Australian frequent flyers, but a classic loyalty program case study in how not to run a status match!

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qatar Airways status match to Virgin Australia

________________________

Related Articles

Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer

Struggling to Redeem Your Frequent Flyer Points? Frequent Flyer Solutions takes the hard work out of finding award availability and redeeming your frequent flyer or credit card points for flights. Using their expert knowledge and specialised tools, they'll help you book a great trip that maximises the value for your points. www.frequentflyersolutions.com.au
Book with Virgin Australia - Fly with Virgin Australia We've Increased Our Flying to 30 Destinations Across Australia. Book With Us Today. Change Your Flight, Fee-Free and As Often As You Like for Travel up to 30 Apr 22*. Contactless Check-in. Special Safety Protocols. New Cleaning Practices. Online Check-in. www.virginaustralia.com

AFF Supporters can Login Now to remove all advertisements


Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

6
Comments

  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Gyfox

As you say, Matt, it all depends when the government lifts its international travel ban. If this happens before my Qatar status match expires, I will fly Qatar internationally until Virgin resumes some from of international flights – even if that’s just with partner airlines. So I see myself flying Virgin domestic & Qatar international. Anything to avoid having to switch to Qantas!

Reg57

I see this as a long-game move by Qatar. “Anything to avoid having to switch to Qantas” probably sums it up – Qatar is a substantial airline and will come out of COVID-19 in a better state that many others, particularly Qantas. Many frequent travellers are booking now for travel in the 9-12 month future, being protected in that re-schedules and cancellations for most reputable airlines are free. I think Qatar, with their outstanding service, will end up with many more regular flying loyalty members.

JWal

Is it a ploy to convert Velocity members to use Qantas, and perhaps ultimately switch to staying with Qantas, without Qantas actually offering up their own status match. Velocity customers can book on Qantas, earn points and credits, while enjoying the lounge – I sniff a very clever play here, and I am pretty sure Qantas may not be paying the full rate on Qatar members that have been provided with this match??? Smart move if this is correct

Manfred

Although your assessment is valid in this specific situation, the promotion was not designed specifically for VA members, but a global one. As such, their consideration was not specifically to this environment – plus when designed things were a little more optimistic than now. The main point is other countries did not lock down as much, or at all, so for the most part it was more viable. The only question then is whether VA should have been excluded entirely, which is just a subjective call – they evidently thought it was worthwhile to try expanding their footprint in Australia.

Stealthflyer

Badly timed, yes, but I can only assume that when they decided to run the promo, their assessment of the COVID risk and impact might not have seemed as serious as it turned to be. They probably wouldn’t have expected the Australian borders to be closed for as long as they will be either. Or maybe they’re just more hopeful than most. I’m one of the lucky recipients of a currently worthless Platinum status match. If Qatar were to extend the status offer for 6 months beyond the Australian borders reopening, I’d definitely book a flight with them. But for… Read more »