Qatar Airways is laying off about 20% of its staff, which is less than many airlines (looking at you, United) are projecting. They’re going to be restoring their international route network – up to 80 destinations by the end of June – and won’t be able to fill those planes for a long time. So why not give everyone the ultimate degree of flexibility to start booking travel? Why not just generate more money than it costs to carry a passenger? Why not get everyone comfortable again with travel?
They’ve introduced a flexible rebooking policy that I didn’t write about yesterday because it seemed too good to be true, that I assumed it had to be a mistake (I first read about it at One Mile at a Time). It gives more value to customers than I can recall ever seeing an airline offer without it being a mistake. It even lets you buy a ticket on one of the least expensive routes, and use the ticket on one of the most expensive. And the airline has been pretty clear that this is for real.
It’s called the Qatar Airways travel with confidence guarantee. For travel through December 31:
- If you decide to change your travel plans, you can have a voucher good for two years
- And if you take a future travel credit you get a 10% bonus
- Changes on tickets are free and unlimited: change your dates and destinations without charge
- You can change your origin city to another airport in the same country, or change where you’re going to anywhere within 5000 miles of your original destination.
- If you want to change your mind about travel altogether, you can convert your ticket into frequent flyer miles at a rate of 100 miles per dollar (buying miles at 1 cent apiece)
- And they reassure that if your flight is cancelled, they offer full cash refunds.
I’m not a buyer of Qatar Airways QMiles at 1 cent apiece, this is one of my least favorite programs, however this is still a generous offer!
And buying a ticket and immediately turning it into a voucher for 10% more is pretty cool, it’s a built in fare discount on everything the airline sells. If you’re going to buy travel from Qatar, why not buy something cheaper, get a voucher, and use the voucher and bonus to purchase whatever you need to buy?
What’s really lucrative of course is the tremendous flexibility to buy a ticket and change where you’re going. One Mile at a Time points out that you can buy the remarkable Philadelphia – Kiev business class fare for $1639 and Qatar Airways will let you change destinations for no difference in fare to go anywhere within 5000 miles of Kiev! That’ll let you travel to much of Europe, Africa, or Asia via Doha.
And, of course, Qatar Airways offers ‘QSuites” which is one of the world’s two best business class products (alongside Japanese carrier ANA).
This isn’t a mistake. The guidance for travel agents (.pdf) is clear and so are the terms and conditions of the offer,
Rebooking fees will be waived if reservations are amended before departure (for travel on/before 31 December 2020).
Rerouting is possible from the same origin within 5,000 miles internationally at no additional charge.
I suppose the only risk would be if Qatar didn’t honor this in spite of its own written terms? That seems unlikely to me, and then in worst case you’d have valid grounds for a DOT complaint and a credit card chargeback so I’m not worried, and the airline would even give you miles at 1 cent apiece to cancel.
Maybe this is too generous but I don’t think so. Most people won’t game them this way and even those who do are buying seats they wouldn’t otherwise have purchased – this is clearly marginal revenue for seats that are likely to go empty and the seeming complexity of it (though not really, it’s quite straightforward) will mean they aren’t likely to lose higher fare business they’d have otherwise sold.