New Qatar Policy Creates Opportunity Of Lifetime, Most of Europe Asia or Africa Business Class $1600

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — I think this is brilliant, plus with QR being government backed there is ~0% change of airline liquidation.

  2. The published do not make it clear if a fare difference needs to be paid though if you change the ticket. Was this also confirmed – that fare difference is also waived?

  3. I’ve been pondering this since yesterday with the great Kiev fares. The terms do seem clear, yet my experience with Qatar (outside of the QSuites themselves) hasn’t been great. The key words I want to see are “no fare difference” beyond “no rebooking fees”. I’ll anxiously await someone reporting success with this as I do need a QSuites flight for December/January – but in no way would I want to be stuck with a Qatar voucher or miles if they flinch at the terms as written.

  4. “Most people won’t game them this way”. I think you underestimate the travel-bargain hunter community.

  5. Two big issues with the 5000-mile rule: “Rerouting is possible from the same origin within 5,000 miles internationally at no additional charge.”

    1) The 5000-mile rule appears to be a radius around the ORIGIN, not the destination. Asia is not within that 5000-mile radius from PHL.

    2) “Does “possible” mean “assured”? Sounds like a hedge.

  6. A bit of a bonus: Those buying these tickets have access to the Qatar Al Safwa first class lounge in Doha. The price is $165 for six hours. That could make the 14 hour layover at DOH a good experience. The six hour stay could be extended for another fee if space is available as it most certainly will be given the size of the lounge. Rather than fork over another $165, there are other things to do at DOH including hanging out in the Qatar Al Mourjan business lounge which is also very nice.

  7. From Qatar’s site:
    Unlimited changes
    “You can change your travel date or destination free of charge, as often as you need, for travel until 31 December 2020. You can change your origin to another city within the same country or any other destination we fly to within a 5,000 mile radius of your original destination.

    Call any of our offices or contact centres to rebook.”

  8. “You can change your travel date or destination free of charge, as often as you need, for travel until 31 December 2020. You can change your origin to another city within the same country or any other destination we fly to within a 5,000 mile radius of your original destination.”

    I read this to mean I still have to leave from PHL (sticking with this example) but can land anywhere within 5,000 miles of KBP. My hesitation is that I can only make the change for travel that’s happening by 31 Dec. I’m not sure the places I want to go will be open by then. At which point I end up with a travel voucher good for two years worth 10% more than I paid. So the real decision is how to convince Mrs. LoeFlyer to reposition to Philly!

  9. So at the end this is pretty much buying Qatar Airways business class tickets for ~$1600 each, right?
    I think using miles for flights on QR still gives me better value, so I’ll pass on this one, and I’m not sure if I’d agree this is an “opportunity of a lifetime”…

  10. I appreciate the flexibility this offers. Now, if only they’d run their 2-for-1 business class sale, it’d make repositioning to PHL a much easier sell…

  11. @L3 – the do go via Doha, though they do not ‘have to’ as such [Qatar Airways has the right via Open Skies to fly Europe – U.S. though agreed that they do not currently plan to do so in response to complaints by Delta, United, and American]

  12. biggest issue with this deal is that you must travel by 12/31. that is if you want to keep it at $1600 and go some place. There is just too much uncertainty if things will be back to normal by then. I for one already booked a trip to Europe for December departure (refundable) yet I fear if we would have a second wave of infections in the winter…

  13. Gary,
    Any chance you can explain this…
    “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.”
    Does this mean I can first… book let’s say PHL-KBP… call in and cancel… get 10% bonus. Let’s say rebook the same itinerary (now I have $160 to use on a later flight). Call and change the departure to LAX since I can change it to any airport in same country. Ticket reissue. Once it is reissue. Then call again, and change the final destination to perhaps CPT (or wherever)? Or they only let you use one life line… either you change your departure city or your destination. What stops anyone from being able to do both? Can both be done? I think with 24 hour cancellation policy someone can give it a test run…
    await your thoughts…

  14. Interesting in the very first sentence is a comment from the writer who has an obvious distain for United Airlines. Yes I have read the articles about United and looking at 30% reduction (or more) come Oct 1st. I have always felt as an American we should try to give our business to American companies if possible and where the services cost is very similar. Thats just my take. To me this site always seems to take a jab at American companies while supporting airline companies from other countries. With the US Airline companies receiving money from our US government to be used to pay the employees is a little bit different than Qatar Airlines basically being fully backed by their government. Also I have read American Airlines is currently the largest airline in the United States that has the most mechanics that do their own work. Let’s support the United States.

  15. This really does work, book a ticket, call up and change your destination to someone within 5000 miles, no need to pay a difference in fare.

  16. Again, are you 100% sure the 5000 miles would be measured from Kiev?? How is the mileage determined: Kiev-BKK (as the crow flies–non-stop/direct) or by sector, i.e. Kiev/DOH/BKK?? Can make a difference?? Thanks

  17. What about taxes? For example, you book a cheap ticket to (say) BRU and then later change that to LHR. Are QR going to swallow the iniquitous UK departure taxes or pass them on to the customer?

  18. Can you then just book to Doha and then change the destination to JNB ?

    That’d be a change from 2 flights to 4 flights.

  19. I have flown on Qatar and like it . Also, I hear what everyone is saying but I am feeling a little concerned about them. They have been price gouging now for 6 weeks , quoting ridiculously high fares for people to get home to Europe from Australia/Asia etc . An example is Fri 29th May Qatar HK/Athens Euro 1064 ,Turkish Airlines Euro 351 . How can they justify a price three times higher ??? These prices have soured Qatar for me , and maybe my trust for them in the future . Will they move the goal posts later ??

  20. Instead of asking Gary, has anyone who is actually considering buying tickets (with the intention of changing them) called Qatar to ask these questions? Q Suites are a bucket list thing for me, and while I love reading about this opportunity, I’m not able to take advantage. But please update we dreamers when you’ve made your purchase – and your trip!

  21. Fun how this is both sides gaming things…Qatar spurs demand and gets cash in hand, the travel hackers get more desirable itineraries for cheaper…seems to be win/win.

  22. @Experienced Traveller : Why didn’t you take another provider. E.g. private jet? Sounds like Qatar had the best deal on that route at that time.

  23. I like the idea of buying then changing destination. Is there a simpler way to find the inexpensive routes like PHL to KBP. I would like to find airport that is within 5000 miles of South Pacific or Indian ocean?

  24. @ Donald, fares into South East Asia are starting from approx $3K from differing US cities. This would have you being able to change to Australasia/South Pacific. A $2K fare to Tbilisi would have you within reach of the Indian Ocean. Kiev could see you transferring the ticket to the Maldives as well.

  25. Any news on any QR flight equipment changes? If I recall, all US QR routes were going to QSuites as of August 1, 2020 (with addition of QSuites planes to DOH-ATL on June 1 and DOH-MIA on August 1). Is this still the case with COVID?

  26. By phone Qatar Airways is now amending this policy and only allowing 1500 miles… what else will they change as time passes?

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