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Update 5/19/20: American Airlines' promotion is no longer available, and Qatar has changed the terms of its promotion. This post has been updated to reflect these changes.
At this point, it's probably not necessary to keep repeating how much airlines are suffering. Passenger numbers have hit record lows, travel routes have been cut, aircraft have been retired, and airlines are filing bankruptcy. It’s a mess.
To get some cash flowing in now, several airlines are offering generous bonuses and travel flexibility in hopes of enticing travelers to book future travel now. In this post, we're covering promotions from American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, and Qatar Airways. Between bonus points, double flight earnings, and the most flexible change/cancellation policy we've ever seen, things are definitely getting interesting.
Earn Double Rapid Rewards Points Flying Southwest
Southwest is awarding double Rapid Rewards Points for all flights through August 31, 2020. There are a bunch of terms for this one:
- Members must register for this promotion between May 12, 2020 – August 31, 2020, and registration must be completed prior to booking and commencement of travel.
- Travel booked or flown prior to registration for this promotion is not eligible to earn double points.
- To qualify for double points, you must use your Rapid Rewards account number at the time of booking.
- Southwest defines a qualifying flight as: “a one-way revenue flight on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city, including any intermediate stops and/or connections.” That means the bonus is per itinerary, not per segment.
- Bonus points will not count toward A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification.
- Changes made to an itinerary after purchase may eliminate qualification for promotion.
Earn Double TrueBlue Points Flying JetBlue
In a similar vein, JetBlue has announced that it's doubling the number of points that TrueBlue members will earn while flying, but with a slightly more generous promotional window than Southwest:
- Flights must be booked between May 14, 2020 – June 15, 2020.
- This promotion is valid for travel between May 14, 2020 – January 4, 2021.
- There is no limit to the number of points you can earn.
- Bonus points don't count towards Mosaic Status.
- No registration is required.
“Travel With Confidence” With Qatar Airways
If it's not already apparent, airlines are trying every trick in the book to attract customers. However, we've never seen anything quite like Qatar Airways' newly announced “Travel With Confidence” policy. The depth of generosity and flexibility is on an entirely new level.
If you book a Qatar Airways ticket by September 30, 2020 for travel through December 31, 2020, you'll have these five options and assurances if your plans change:
- If your flight gets canceled, you can receive a full cash refund.
- At any time, you can swap your tickets for Qmiles at a rate of 100 Qmiles per US$1, effectively allowing you to buy Qmiles for 1¢ each.
- You can hold on to your ticket until you're ready to fly, thanks to an extended 2-year ticket validity period from the date of issuance.
- Tickets can be exchanged for a future travel voucher with 10% additional value. These vouchers are valid for two years from the date of issuance.
- You can change your travel date or destination free of charge, as often as you need, for travel until December 31, 2020. Additionally, you may change your origin to another city within the same country, and your destination to any destination that Qatar flies within a 5,000-mile radius(!) of your original destination. Qatar amended the terms and conditions to include new restrictions: You will need to rebook in the same fare class and you must wait 14 days after booking to make a voluntary change.
*Full terms and conditions can be found at the bottom of the promotion page.
Is This Policy Too Good To Be True?
I'm struck immediately by the number of options Qatar has offered. While a couple of these seem like no-brainers (everyone should receive a full cash refund for a cancelled flight), others sound almost too good to be true.
For one, buying Qmiles for 1¢ is an innovative approach since Qmiles are valid for at least three years and are redeemable for a variety of things. With that said, Qatar's Qmiles program is one of the least valuable in the Oneworld alliance, meaning 1¢ per mile is still on the expensive side.
Additionally, gifting an additional 10% value to a travel voucher is almost unheard-of. If you know you're going to need to fly Qatar in the future, you could potentially buy a fare that's cheaper than what you need just to trade it for the voucher—saving you 10% immediately.
The real wildcard here is this change policy. When I first read the news on One Mile at a Time, I honestly thought Qatar had made a typo. Change your destination to anywhere within 5,000 miles? Under this policy, you could book a round-trip ticket from New York to Athens, and then change it to a round trip between Los Angeles and Bangkok—for no charge. This is just bonkers. The obvious drawback is that travel has to occur in 2020.
As mentioned above, Qatar has added restrictions to this promotion since we first published. As caught by One Mile At A Time, changes now need to be made more than 14 days after booking, and you'll need to book in the same fare class as you originally purchased. Also, you aren't able to reroute free of charge if the original booking was made on a fifth freedom route (i.e. a route not touching Doha).
American Airlines “When You're Ready to Fly” Promotion
AA launched a limited-time promotion offering up to 5,000 bonus miles for booking and flying AA in 2020. This was initially announced a week ago via email. If you haven't taken advantage of this offer yet, this is your last chance. The general terms include:
- Register for this promotion by May 18, 2020. Members will find this promo under the ‘Promotions' tab in their AAdvantage account.
- Book by May 18, 2020, for travel between July 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020*
- Earn 500 bonus miles after completing each eligible flight, with a maximum reward of 5,000 total bonus miles
*Remember that flights booked through May 18, 2020 for future travel can be changed at a later date without change fees.
All of these promotions and policies have one goal in mind: convince people to book flights in 2020. But what will it take to do that? Are these promotions enough?
While the 500 bonus AA miles and double points earnings on Southwest and JetBlue are nice, they don't present near enough reason to gamble on speculative bookings. It's worth registering for them in case the situation changes, but I wouldn't rush to invest in unnecessary tickets.
Qatar's new policy is a conundrum, however. Without getting too much into the morality of it, these policies present a lot of opportunity for outsized value—which can be very alluring. But I have to think that Qatar anticipated that. After all, if selling tickets is the goal, this could be a great means to that end.
Are these new policies and bonuses enough to convince you to book travel for 2020?
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