Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club goes online-only

Qatar Airways' Privilege Club loyalty program is going online-only. That's mostly bad news for members given the state of the web experience.
Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club loyalty program is going online-only. That’s mostly bad news for members given the state of the web experience.

There are good reasons to deliver a self-service model for customers where that can deliver (substantially) all of the benefits of a human-driven interaction. For airline loyalty programs there are many challenges to that progression, especially around travel award bookings with partners. Qatar Airways believes it is ready to flip that switch. Starting next week the carrier will move nearly all functions of its loyalty program online.

Effective 2 March 2018, as part of these ongoing improvements, we are pleased to announce you will be able to do all of your account activities online. This includes:

  • Booking your award tickets
  • Profile updates
  • Excess baggage
  • Refunds
  • Nominating family members
  • Cabin upgrades
  • Award ticket date changes
  • and much more

Moving online can be a good thing, saving time when making or changing bookings. But only when it actually works seamlessly. And especially only when there is a decent backup option available. For Qatar’s Privilege Club it would appear that neither of those needs will be fulfilled.

Want to book a partner award online? Fill in a form and hope that an agent gets to it before the inventory disappears. Sure, the majority of awards are booked on flights operated by the “home” airline, but that’s still massively limiting. Especially when combined with another facet of the policy change:

In line with these enhancements from 11 March 2018, we will no longer be supporting these account activities through our ticketing offices, contact centres or any other offline channels.

The ONLY option for dealing with the loyalty program will be the online portal. That’s a massive hit to the value proposition of Privilege Club.

Anti-fraud, too

The company is also requiring that all members provide a verified email and mobile phone number to continue using the program. Arguably this is a useful anti-fraud measure. In practice, however, it does not work particularly well. SMS verification messages are not being delivered in a timely manner to some members, leaving them locked out of accounts. And soon there will not be a phone support option to fix that problem.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.