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Update: Qatar has now adopted Avios as its award program. Transfers between British Airways and Qatar are now live. And British Airways has reduced the award price for Qatar award flights.
Major news out of Qatar Airways is that the airline has adopted Avios as its mileage currency. Avios is the points currency of British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus. There can be some major implications for travelers with this shift. Here is what we know so far and what remains to be clarified in the coming weeks.
Background on Avios
Avios is the currency of International Airlines Group (IAG) — which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Vueling. While all of the airlines have their own loyalty programs, each uses points called Avios. Avios earned in these programs can be transferred to the other programs at a 1:1 ratio. And there's no fee to transfer Avios between accounts. You can read about how to do that here.
Thus, depending on which program has the best option for the awards you want to book, you can earn Avios in one program but redeem them in another. This even applies to Avios you earn from credit card sign-up bonuses.
The Qatar Airways Relationship with IAG
Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder of IAG, holding a 25.2% stake. While Qatar Airways isn't technically an IAG airline, it has a vested interest in the program and the airlines that are already using Avios. Although it's uncommon to see airlines adopting the miles/points currency of other airlines, Qatar Airways isn't a complete stranger to Avios.
Qatar Airways' Move to Avios
There are things we know and those we don't at this point. We will update this as Qatar Airways reveals more details.
What We Know
Transfers between British Airways Executive Club and Qatar Airways Privilege Club are live. You will still need to use BA as an intermediary if you want to involve Iberia or Aer Lingus in your transfers–these can't be done directly with Qatar.
- Qatar Airways says its award chart is not changing.
- Existing Qmiles were converted 1:1 into Avios in your Qatar Airways Privilege account.
- Expiration policies will not change, so your Qatar Airways Avios will still expire after 36 months of inactivity.
- How you earn status with Qatar Airways is not changing.
- Qpoints and Qcredits will remain unchanged.
What We Don't Know
From the announcements and reading between the lines, there are still a few things that remain unclear:
- Whether Privilege Club will take on additional bank transfer partners used by its partners;
- At present, you can only transfer Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points to Privilege Club.
- However, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, and Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways.
- You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Iberia and Aer Lingus Avios.
- There are additional transfer partners to British Airways from UK-based banks.
Reading Between the Lines
In the press release, there are several interesting points that are worth highlighting:
- “Privilege Club members will be provided even greater opportunities to accumulate rewards”.
- The CEO of Qatar Airways mentions this change to Avios “…enabling our loyal members to participate in the most compelling loyalty network and the largest portfolio of partners in the industry.”
- CEO of IAG Loyalty, Mr. Adam Daniels, said: “Qatar Airways have recognised the power of Avios. By adopting Avios they will be able to offer their customers a wider range of benefits and support their business development ambitions. It’s an exciting step for IAG Loyalty as we extend our leadership in loyalty, increase Avios’ global reach, and build out our partnership strategy even further.”
- The press statement concludes with this: “Avios can be collected across a wide mix of consumer sectors, including aviation, travel, leisure, shopping and financial services. IAG Loyalty currently partners with over 200 leading global brands such as American Express, Nectar, Avis Budget Group and Marriott.”
There are multiple references in the press release to increased opportunities to earn Avios. Mentioning this increased reach of Avios, harping on the number of partners, and mentioning that it will be easier than ever to amass Avios certainly points to the ability to transfer Avios between programs. At present, you can transfer Avios freely and at will between the other Avios programs. Adding Qatar Airways Privilege Club to the Avios transfer portal would have major implications.
Now that you can move your Avios to the program with the best option for the redemption you are making at this moment, that provides cost savings for members and allows for increased access to award availability. That's because many airline loyalty programs save seats for their own members' redemptions and don't make them available to partners. You now have access to this increased availability in Privilege Club for flying on Qatar Airways, but you could earn the points needed more easily via additional transfer options.
Sharing Avios with Friends and Family
Privilege Club allows for sharing miles with your family. Additionally, British Airways allows for points pooling. Now you have even more sources for pooling together Avios and creating a larger stash for award redemptions.
There are still details to iron out, but the fact Qatar Airways has changed to Avios is a big move. Now that you can transfer Avios freely and instantly among four programs, the value of Avios has gone up.
Being able to take your Avios out of Privilege Club also incentivizes Qatar Airways to hold to its statement that its award chart is not devaluing. If members can ditch the program and transfer Avios elsewhere, Privilege Club needs to keep its members happy.
Lastly, this may make the welcome offers on Avios-earning credit cards even more attractive. At the end of 2020, Privilege Club made massive improvements to its award chart and cut a lot of its fees, but it brought back ‘per segment' fees earlier this year. The program is getting even more interesting now and deserves renewed attention, due to its shift to Avios.
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