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Qatar increases cost of JetBlue awards with Avios, removes online redemptions

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Well, that didn’t last long.

Earlier this week came the exciting news: JetBlue flights could be booked online with Avios through Qatar Airways Privilege Club at excellent rates and with no surcharges.

Without warning, Privilege Club has now significantly increased the number of Avios required to book JetBlue flights and removed the ability to book these flights online. What makes the news even worse is that when Privilege Club members submit a request for redemption at the new rates, these are “temporarily unavailable,” with no explanation of how temporary this might be.

Previously, Privilege Club priced redemptions on JetBlue with a fixed award chart, as it does for other partner airlines, such as American Airlines and British Airways (with better availability for BA flights than American Airlines AAdvantage members will have access to).

Now, Qatar is using unique pricing for JetBlue that does not correlate to any other partner airline:

Distance Route example Previous economy-class price New economy-class price Previous business-class price New business-class price
0-650 miles New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) 6,000 Avios 8,500 Avios 12,500 Avios 17,000 Avios
651-1,151 miles Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to New York 9,000 8,500 16,500 17,000
1,152-2,000 miles Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to Key West International Airport (EYW) 11,000 13,000 22,000 26,000
2,001-3,000 miles San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Boston 13,000 18,500 38,750 74,000
3,001-plus miles New York to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) 20,750 25,000 62,000 78,000

So what happened?

TPG reached out to Qatar Airways and JetBlue for comment, but neither has responded at the time of publication.

Arguably, the previously available rates were too generous for several reasons:

  • JetBlue prices using the same award chart as British Airways might make sense, considering it also flies between London and New York/Boston. However, British Airways imposes many hundreds of dollars of surcharges on redemptions, whereas JetBlue does not. It would make little sense for anyone to redeem Avios for British Airways flights when JetBlue imposes virtually no fees, taxes or surcharges.
  • JetBlue’s TrueBlue program uses dynamic pricing, with cross-country domestic Mint business-class flights regularly costing at least 100,000 TrueBlue points. For anyone with transferable points to redeem, under the previous pricing, it was less than half that price with Avios, which again would make little sense for TrueBlue members.

Availability was also excellent earlier this week through Privilege Club. As TrueBlue does not offer limited saver-level award seats to its own members and partners (it uses dynamic pricing for all seats), it may have simply offered far too many seats to Qatar’s members to book with Avios.

A surge of bookings through Qatar this week may explain why Qatar removed the ability to book these online and deemed them all “temporarily unavailable.”


How to earn Qatar Airways Avios

The easiest way for U.S. travelers to earn Qatar Avios is by transferring Citi ThankYou Rewards points to Privilege Club. Points convert to Qatar Avios at a 1:1 ratio, though transfers usually take around two days to process.

You can also transfer Avios from British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus or Aer Lingus AerClub at a 1:1 rate in any direction.

The following cards all currently offer strong welcome bonuses that you could easily convert to Avios in these three programs (and then transfer to Privilege Club):

Inside the cabin of an airplane

Bottom line

This is an unfortunate, though not entirely unexpected, development from the Qatar Airways Privilege Club program.

Booking transcontinental flights in JetBlue’s Mint domestic business-class product for under 40,000 Avios each way and almost no fees, taxes and surcharges with excellent availability was arguably too good to be true — Qatar, JetBlue or both seem to have realized that.

Hopefully, online redemptions will return once the two airlines sort out the correct fare buckets and sensible availability. However, it is likely the increased redemption rates are here to stay, making JetBlue redemptions with Qatar Avios an OK but not outstanding way to maximize your travel.