Qatar Waits Weeks, Won’t Honor Mistake Fare, Fibs About its Cause

I’ve always said I have no moral qualms taking advantage of ‘mistake fares’. If an airline publishes a far of, say, $28 to Paris and decides to honor it — if some people are going to get to go to Europe at a very very low price — then I would like to be one of those people.

I don’t generally complain when such deals aren’t honored, and to me that’s a relevant moral difference. I don’t want to miss out, but I also don’t feel like there’s a moral claim against the travel provider either. “I’m going to sue” doesn’t really enter my thoughts.

However, I do think that travel providers owe a certain clarity and expediency in communicating about the deal and how they intend to handle it.

If it’s a mistake and they decide to cancel it, do it the next day and reach out directly to all affected passengers and my general view is no harm, no foul. Extend some sort of olive branch in the form of a future discount or miles and I’m ecstatic.

What I do have a problem with is not communicating at all or waiting several weeks and then not honoring a deal. After several weeks the standard is to assume that a deal will be honored. People begin to formulate plans, set up vacation time with their employer, incur non-refundable costs for other travel related to the deal (whether positioning flights or hotels).

It’s this category that Qatar seems to fall into with their recent business class deal between Cambodia and Vietnam that permitted routing via Doha.

Here’s what Qatar sent out to customers about three weeks after tickets were purchased.

You recently purchased a ticket at for travel within South East Asia, including a transfer through Doha.

This itinerary through Doha was quoted to you for a price that is intended only for short haul direct flights in Asia. This happened due to an error in our system, outside the control of Qatar Airways.

If you did not realize the error prior to this email we would like to apologize for any inconvenience the incorrect routing display may have caused. We would like to offer you the following options to demonstrate our appreciation of your loyalty and understanding:

1/ For your convenience, we already rebooked you on the direct non-stop service to your destination, and would like to offer you 10 000 Qmiles as compensation to offset any inconvenience this may have caused. To have the miles credited, please confirm your Privilege Club membership number and reply to this email to opt in. Please note that miles will be credited after your flight is completed, and only one passenger per booking is eligible to receive the compensation.

2/ In case the new routing does not fit your travel needs, we would like to hereby apologize and offer a full refund on your ticket. To apply for the refund, please confirm in a reply to this email, or submit the refund request form at
Unfortunately we are unable to offer further compensation in this case.

3/ If you would still prefer to travel on your original itinerary through Doha, we hereby offer you a 15% discount on Business class, or 10% discount on Economy class. Please contact the Qatar Airways office in the country of your departure to make a new booking, and submit a refund request at

The discount is applicable on the lowest available net fare, excluding taxes and promotional fares, and miles will be credited to you based on regular class and tier eligibility.

Please note that you can only choose one of the three options from above, and you need to respond to this email within 28 days, otherwise the above offer will be withdrawn.

We would like to apologise again, and we look forward to welcoming you onboard soon.

Qatar isn’t honoring the deal. You can either fly the short hop non-stop and take miles as compensation (but these are Qatar’s miles and not partner miles), refund the ticket, or take a small discount on paid travel that matches the original itinerary.

It is a flat out falsehood that the price happened “due to an error in our system, outside the control of Qatar Airways.” It happened because of the way that Qatar filed the routing rules for the fare.

I don’t have a problem with an airline that doesn’t honor its mistakes, as long as it does so promptly (not done in this case). And as long as they don’t lie about it.

Poor showing, Qatar.

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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, 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. I am more concerned with the human rights and labor abuses taking place in Qatar, where the state owns the airline.

  2. I would love for someone to call (Gary) and ask them to explain why the mistake was outside of their control. 🙂

  3. The tone starts from the top, and the head of QR has shown himself to be anything but reliably open and honest.

  4. I’m guessing you canceled and refunded? I’m holding out to see if they change their mind, but if they don’t I’m not going to push it. I agree with your stance — don’t wait 3 weeks and lie to my face. Not to mention they had 3 rounds of these “promo fares” (their words in the fare rules)

  5. It has been almost a month since I booked my QR ticket on an US based OTA. My ticket is still intact, and I haven’t heard from QR. My travel is not until next summer with a 6-day stopover in DOH. Methinks I will hear from them eventually, meanwhile, they get to keep my money. QR, Just get it over with and send me an email so I can start the refund process.

  6. GUWonder is right as always.
    I always feel uneasy about the ME airlines in Alliances.
    After years of flying these alliance awards, one expects some sort of value in elite status and treatment when things go wrong.
    QR has never been good about customer service in my experience.
    I think a lot of AA flyers are in for a shock when some flight is canceled and they are on an AA award on QR.
    I am sorry there has been a mistake in your ticket and you are now in economy is the standard line on QR rather than op-ups

  7. I am re-posting what I wrote 2 days ago on a previous thread, as a testimony to Gary’s post:

    Shame on Qatar Airways! Very bad experience. I bought this ticket on September 5, while on a trip in Vietnam, for a ticket PNH-DOH-SGN on September 23. Everything fine. Just took a bus/boat for SGN-PNH. Then in PNH, I checked in online for the whole trip, printed my boarding passes, both PNH-DOH and DOH-SGN, went to the airport, no pb. When in the lounge, waiting for boarding, a rep for Qatar came to show me a letter, dated September 17 (!) they said they sent me the same morning (September 23!) by email and that I could not board. I said I have a valid ticket and valid boarding passes for the whole trip, and they have no right to deny me boarding, whatever mistake they made. A stand off ensued, but at the end I was denied boarding, and no compensation, not even hotel bill, nor miles, nothing just the refund. What a joke of an airline!!!

  8. In my case, the behavior of Qatar is even worse than what Garry is disclosing since they ruined my plans at the very last moment, not a few days before, just in the lounge while waiting boarding. Did anybody manage to get the ticket honored? Was I the first or even the only one denied boarding on the spot? This was a horrendous experience with Qatar Airways, as I had changed my itinerary to go to Cambodia and set up a couple of meetings with acquaintances in Doha and could not even go back to SGN that day as I had no more visa to Vietnam. All that was ruined. Even United did honor their mistake tickets recently. Qatar Airways is a shameful airline. Please share your experience, if any.

  9. You all are just spoiled from living under democratically elected governments. Qatar is an emirate, not a democracy, and QR’s business practices reflect that. If DCbanker or others actually make it to DOH, they would do well to remember that their right to draw breath and very lives lie completely in the hands of Sheikh Tamim. Don’t complain–it’s not your right, for the Sheikh did not grant it to you.

  10. Qatar should not have done what they did to DCbanker. It’s airlines like this that give the sound industry a bad name. It’s a shame that this airline got a 5 star ranking and even has the audacity to flaunt it. If the things I hear about Qatar unexpected downgrades are true, I will try my utmost to avoid this airline at all cost.

  11. I completely agree that it would be an honorable thing for an airline to declare immediately that the the mistake will not be honored, even if reserving itself a little time to put the mechanics of the alternatives into place.

    I don’t think, though, that anyone booking an obvious mistake really has much right to get upset when it isn’t honored. I doubt there was even one person who really had been planning to go from Phnom Penh to SGN with a stopover in Doha as part of the normal course of their lives. Everyone was swooping in on a pricing error, hoping to get something for almost nothing at the expense of the airline. Sometimes it works, but sometimes you’re going to get burned doing that. This way Qatar also protects itself next time it puts out a blatant mistake fare – I’ll bet not many jump all over a crazy “deal” next time.

  12. @Marc

    Thank you for the soothing comment. Qatar decision to deny boarding at the last moment, when all documents were valid and checked, was unfair, deceiving, and likely illegal. Worse, it was stupid, as they lost money and pissed me and some others off, while letting me go on board would have cost them nothing, except a few glasses of champagne, as the Qatar rep, who stayed half an hour on the phone with Doha during the stand off at the lounge, admitted.


  13. @DaveS

    I agree with you that I first figured out that the deal might not be honored. When more than 2 weeks after purchase, I heard nothing from Qatar airways, I started to assume that the deal will be honored, and then I had to make plans to go to Phnom Penh (as I was in Vietnam). I was eager to go to Doha, even for a few hours, to meet friends who work there, and this was the opportunity. So, yes I completely changed my plans, went to Cambodia, no news from Qatar, checked in online,and went to the airport and the lounge. Only then, I was told of Qatar position, which was to deny me boarding. Did I have “much right to get upset”, as you ventured? I let (you and) the readers judge.

  14. I’ll agree with DaveS that I think the airlines have a direct monetary incentive to make it painful for people to take advantage of mistake fairs (while having a less concrete reputational incentive to make it easy to get out of them).

    The other thing I’ve never understood is why airlines who are forced to honor mistake fares don’t close the loyalty program accounts of habitual advantage-takers and confiscate the points. I can’t really see any definition of “loyalty” that includes flying to Asia for four miles or the deliberate taking-advantage of some of the more flamboyant mistakes.

    Don’t get me wrong — like Gary, if someone is going to get to fly on a fantastic fare, I’m happy if it’s me (although unlike Gary, I don’t have the opportunity to regularly use these fares). But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the airlines take a more aggressive stance towards people who frequently take advantage of fares that are clearly mistakes.

  15. @DCbanker, I certainly agree that they should not have waited until you were at the airport to let you know the fare wouldn’t be honored. An appropriate response would have been a statement as soon as they realized the error along the lines of, “We regret that a mistake fare entered our booking system (details)…We will announce shortly a procedure for those who booked the fare to receive refunds or make alternative travel arrangements.” I don’t think they had any obligation to honor the fare, but they should have handled the process more honorably.

  16. I think these days, mistake fares are increasingly hard to tell, especially in Asia. A lot of airlines offer 0$ promo-fares regularly and I can’t read their mind whether they “mean it” or not.
    I agree with Gary – if it is a mistake, they announce it within 24h and ideally offer a fix/compensation/apology – ok. Several weeks later or even worse, like in DCBankers case, at the airport is unacceptable and the carrier should show some accountability and take responsibility for their mistake.
    In the US, they would be sued. In Asia or Middle East, tough luck…
    One more reason not to fly Qatar..

  17. Qatar Airlines had its best time – also for the passenger and privilege club members – some time ago under the “Senior Management”. Now it went simply down to ordinary average in all aspects. The “Young Management” doesn’t care anymore or is resting on the laurels of their Founders. Searching for other Airlines could be the only solution to avoid further frustrations. Nowadays even Qatar Airlines demonstrates, if you buy something cheap, you get something cheap. Whether the “mistakes” are created due to “over saturations” or simply are “commercial tricks”,
    shall be observed. Even Qatar will have to learn, that they might be able to fool a few clients for a long time, or many for a short time. But never many for a long time. (Internet Communications Truth)

  18. Only about 1,000 paxs took advantage of the promotion and Qatar refuses to honour the fare.
    It seems like Qatar is having it both ways …it gets compensation from Sutherland for the mistake and it doesn’t honour the fare.

    Dear CCO,

    We have an issue recently that during the week of 8 September, 2013; Sutherland did a wrong fare filing resulting in over 600 PNRs(about 1,000 pax) of 5th Freedom direct Asian flights sold as 6th freedom via DOH, majority in Business Class, with travel period ranges from Sep 2013 to July 2014.

    Top O&Ds affected (both one way and round trip) includes PNH-SGN sold as PNH-DOH-SGN, HAN-BKK sold as HAN-DOH-BKK and HKT-KUl sold as HKT-DOH-KUl. Average price of these tickets are only at USD200-300 including YQ and they were sold both on and through travel agents.

    It is obvious to the best interest of the company not to honour these tickets.

    After consultation with QR legal, we will explain to customers that the wrong routing and fare was a result of a technical issue beyond QR control.

    We propose the following handling that customers can choose from 1 of the 3
    1. Rebook customer directly on the 5th Freedom flight and send them direct to their destination. As a gesture of goodwill, we will offer 10,000 bonus miles.
    We will rebook them direct on the 5th freedom sector(s) regardless if they have “X/DOH” or “o/DOH” and the goodwill gesture of 10,000 bonus miles is to mitigate adverse customer handling or their escalation through consumer tribunals or legal means.

    2. 15% discount in JCl / 10% discount in VCl on the correct nett fares to DOH based on their original itinerary.
    We discovered that there are customers who intentionally construct their itinerary sector by sector through DOH. In this case, we will explain that the technical issue has led to a wrong fare quotation. We will fully refund their original ticket and offer them a 15% discount (JCl) / 10%
    discount (YCl) on the correct nett fares based on their original itinerary to purchase a new ticket that will enable them to travel to DOH. Average Business Class return fare from these SEAsian stations to DOH is at about USD2,500 nett. The dissounts will be exercised using Discretionary Discount Authority.

    3. Customers can also opt for a refund without any penalty. However, QR will not be responsible for any third party charges and service fees (if any) incurred. We have mobHi,ed resources in the Contact Centre team fO~ t] s ice recovery process. May we please seek your support in our proposal.

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