Uh Oh: Qatar Airways Introduces “Basic” Business Class

Filed Under: Qatar

Qatar Airways is known for its incredible Qsuites business class, considered by many (including me) to be one of the best in the world.

Just as we’ve seen airlines unbundle economy class over the years, we’ve also seen airlines start to unbundle business class. This is a trend that was started by Emirates Airline last year, and Qatar Airways is now doing something similar.

I first wrote about this yesterday, but now have some more details and thoughts, which I’m sharing below.

Qatar Airways unbundles business class

Qatar Airways has announced that it’s launching “simplified fare families offering greater choice and flexibility.” Going forward, all fares will fall into the following categories:

  • Business class will have Classic, Comfort, and Elite fares
  • Economy class will have Classic, Convenience, and Comfort fares

The catch is that the airline isn’t just rebranding existing fare classes, but rather is taking things away. As noted by Executive Traveler, with these changes Qatar Airways business class fares that book into the “R” fare class will no longer offer the following as standard benefits:

  • Lounge access
  • Advance seat selection

The new fares have already been loaded into the system. When you go to select a business class fare, you’ll now see that in many markets the cheapest option reflects seat assignments only being available at check-in, as well as lounge access not being mentioned.

Qatar Airways’ new business class fare structure

I’ve now managed to clarify a few more points, so let me go over those below.

This doesn’t apply to previously booked tickets

If you booked your ticket prior to November 8, 2020, the rules at the time you ticketed your reservation apply. In other words, previously booked “R” class tickets are still eligible for lounge access and seat assignments.

That being said:

  • If you reissue your ticket you may be subjected to the new rules
  • While the above is the policy, it’s anyone’s guess if individual lounge attendants will be aware that previously booked tickets are eligible for lounge access

This doesn’t apply to award tickets

This policy change applies specifically to revenue discounted business class tickets, so it doesn’t apply if redeeming miles, whether directly through the Qatar Airways Privilege Club program, or through a partner program like American AAdvantage.

So if you redeem miles, expect you can still select seats and access lounges.

Qatar Airways’ new business class fares don’t include advance seat assignments

Oneworld elite members can still select seats

Here’s some good news — oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members (whether through the Qatar Airways frequent flyer program or a partner program) can continue to select seats in advance, even if booking one of these discounted fares. Just make sure you add your frequent flyer number at the time of booking.

Select elite members are exempt from the seat assignment restriction

Oneworld lounge access rules still apply

If you’re a oneworld Sapphire or Emerald member, you can still access lounges in line with the standard lounge access policies. Note that:

  • Generally speaking Qatar Airways doesn’t allow oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members into the Al Mourjan Lounge Doha, but rather redirects those passengers to inferior lounges
  • However, other lounges are closed right now at Doha Hamad International Airport due to lack of demand, so temporarily all passengers are being redirected to this lounge

So the good news is that oneworld elite members will still get access to some lounges when traveling on these Qatar Airways fares, but just generally not the same quality lounges.

The cheapest business class fares no longer include Al Mourjan Lounge access

Qatar Airways has NOT lowered business class fares

I’m sure Qatar Airways will no doubt try to make it sound like this is a great new option for cost conscious travelers, suggesting that fares have been lowered with the introduction of this new option. That’s also what people genuinely seem to believe. Just look at some of the comments on this post so far:

  • “FINALLY!!!!”
  • “This would make me fly them more”
  • “If the savings were great enough then I’d consider a cheaper fare with no advanced seat selection or lounge access as long as luggage and onboard service was the same.”
  • “Ben what is all the drama about?! So you don’t get lounge access (most have Amex lounges and/or priority pass) and can’t prebook a seat (they are basically the same). If it saves me $500 I will jump on it. Why do you have to be a drama queen about everything?”
  • “A good thing if you are leisure traveller who does not have a status anyway.”

Folks, don’t fall for it:

  • Qatar Airways has not lowered business class fares with the introduction of these new restrictions
  • Fares cost just as much as before (as of now), but with fewer inclusions

Now, it’s possible that this could change in the future, but unless the airline backtracks, I see no reason it would. It’s not like the airline is introducing new fare classes or has adjusted its fares, but rather it’s just changing the inclusions on existing fares.

This eliminates a big incentive to book Qatar Airways

Why Qatar Airways is taking the wrong approach

Let me start by saying that I think the concept of unbundling business class is absolutely the way of the future, and we’re going to see a lot more of this. The problem is just that Qatar Airways is going about it completely wrong. Let me explain.

The reason to unbundle business class is because you’re trying to increase demand among consumers for business class, and not because you’re addressing any cost issues:

  • It doesn’t cost Qatar Airways anything to assign someone a seat, and there’s not even a direct revenue opportunity here, since they’re not letting those on “basic” business class fares pay extra to assign a seat
  • The cost of admitting a passenger to a lounge is minimal; we’re talking almost nothing if the lounge is managed by Qatar Airways, while maybe $20-30 if we’re talking about a partner lounge

Airline pricing is a complex art, and the motivation behind “basic” business class should be pretty simple — how can you get people to buy up to business class who wouldn’t otherwise do so, without cannibalizing the revenue you’d get from people who are willing to pay for business class.

There’s arguably even more value to be had with this on Qatar Airways than other airlines, since Qatar Airways doesn’t have premium economy. How can the airline capture the business of people who are willing to pay more than an economy fare, but not quite a business class fare, as there’s a huge gap here?

That’s why Qatar Airways got this so wrong:

  • Fares haven’t been lowered, so economy travelers  aren’t any more likely than before to buy up to business class; if anything they’re less likely to buy up, since they want good value, and these fares now offer less value
  • For those people booking discounted business class fares, no one in their right mind is going to buy up to the next higher business class fare, if it’s literally thousands of dollars more, as a seat assignment and lounge access aren’t worth that much; if the airline wanted to get business class passengers to buy up to higher fares, the price difference should be smaller
  • If anything, the only impact of this change is that people may end up booking other airlines

Let’s be very clear here, Qatar Airways has just cut lounge access on plenty of roundtrip tickets that cost $5,000+. We’re not talking about super cheap business class fares, but rather pretty standard ones. A roundtrip business class ticket from New York to Bangkok that costs $5,200 roundtrip ($2,600 each way)? Yep, that no lounger includes lounge access.

A $5,200 business class fare no longer includes lounge access

Bottom line

Qatar Airways has introduced new unbundled business class fares, which no longer include lounge access and advance seat assignments. The good news is that oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members can still select seats in advance, and can use lounges in line with their oneworld privileges (which largely excludes Qatar Airways’ own lounges).

Personally I find this move to be incredibly short-sighted. I do think “basic” business class will become much more popular, but Qatar Airways has gone about it wrong — the system creates no incremental demand, and wouldn’t make any reasonable person buy up to a higher fare. Instead it may just push people to book another airline.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the airline either backtrack with this policy, or actually introduce an unbundled business class that makes sense at some point in the future.

No matter how you slice it, this is a sad change for one of the world’s best business class products, and this also seems like an especially strange time to make a change like this. I can’t think of a single other airline in the world that denies people on $5,000+ business class tickets lounge access.

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ new “basic” business class fares? I’d love to hear from anyone who disagrees with me and thinks Qatar Airways’ implementation of this is logical.

  1. Last year we booked 3 R fares on Qatar. Guess we will not be flying with them- the whole point on booking Q suites was to sit together in luxury and we enjoyed the lounge during long layovers in Doha.

  2. Wait, twice the fare to be able to select a seat at booking and lounge access? Does this win an award for worst travel deal of 2020?
    I know it’s a tough time for airlines but surely the negative news this generates will do them more harm than good?

  3. Nothing short sighted about QR’s move at all. Travelers with the financial means to afford longhaul business class travel on personal/leisure trips do not want to play silly games with FFPs and their asinine rules. I’ve long expected Basic Business longhaul fare offerings would become a new normal in the marketplace by 2022, and I stand by that prediction.

  4. I assume any existing bookings in the R fare class wouldn’t be affected? Although if they’re changing the rules for an entire fare class I might be a little worried about consistency of application of that rule?

  5. @ Ben — And what about R fares already booked under the Travel with Confidence policy? Will these still re-book into R but have the already-purchased benefits denied? I am not happy…

  6. Errr what are they thinking? Is the marginal cost of lounge access that huge? What are they achieving? Don’t get the point.

  7. @ Gene @ Bgriff — It’s a great question, I’m sure we’ll find out soon. And yeah, even if they do grandfather old tickets into this, I would still expect a lot of confusion among lounge staff/inconsistent understanding of the rules.

  8. @ HeathrowGuy — You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m not sure who exactly you think redeems miles for business class? Qatar Airways has some of the most affordable business class fares out there. People who pay for business class on Qatar Airways aren’t just people with unlimited funds. It’s one thing if we’re talking about a $100-200 price difference, but twice as much for an advance seat assignment and lounge access? That’s going to deter a lot of people.

  9. Lucky – just a couple of weeks ago, I redeemed AA miles (150K r/t – what a bargain!) from DFW-DOH-CPT (A350-1000 with Q-Suites all 4 legs). I just want to make sure that reward bookings will NOT be impacted by this?? I haven’t done it yet but I should still be able to reserve seats in advance and have lounge access?

  10. FINALLY!!!!
    I fly business for the seat. That’s all.
    I have allergies AND I only eat kosher so the fancy food and lounge is completely wasted and I pay for amenities I do not consume. I don’t drink either.
    It would be nice to select a seat but if the ticket is cheaper, put me anywhere in J, leave me alone, and let me sleep/relax.
    I hope the rest if the carriers follow suit.

  11. I don’t think they can prohibit access to the Oryx or Business lounge for One World Elite Members. And Oryx is priority pass as well. So while this is a HUGE downgrade… it’s not an end of the world change for me. As long as I have a shower and a quiet place to sit on longish layovers…. I’d buy cheap Qatar fares. I’ve rarely been on a flight that is full in business on Qatar and certainly for the forseeable future imagine seat selection won’t be a huge deal. A negative, but expected change.

  12. @ I Love Dan — I think your excitement may be a little optimistic, saying “FINALLY” and “if the ticket is cheaper.” To be clear, we have no reason to believe the ticket will be any cheaper. The airline will just charge the same and offer you less.

  13. Checked a few options and tickets are not cheaper. They just removed seat selection and lounge access. I guess as PC Platinum / Emerald I would still get lounge access even with R class ticket. Seat selection probably as well.

  14. The talk of cheaper J class fares is all marketing non sense. When Emirates launched their ” Special Fare ” in J class in the M.E, all they did was convert the existing Saver fares to Special and jacked up the Saver. QR will prob do the same I guess.
    Cheap shot move IMO.

  15. This move makes little sense. They already had capacity restrictions on R class tickets. When they felt a flight was filling up they could shut it off and sell D fares. Enticing an R class booking and then punishing punishing passengers by removing Business Class benefits found on airlines around the world just alienates customers. They should use inventory control or more dynamic pricing to fill flights.

  16. Interesting, though the seat selection fee isn’t exactly new (*cough*BritishAirways*cough*) and a lot of these fares are the oddball “some random second or third tier European city-Bangkok connecting in Doha” fares QR files that are the ones they use to fill the J cabin, no? The ones you see on FlyerTalk in the Premium Fares for mileage running forum?

    It’s not positive for sure, but if you’re someone who uses those cheap fares to pile up miles and status 😉 you probably have Priority Pass and you maybe have status that helps out, so it may be that your worst case, you’ve gotten a lounge downgrade. I can’t say that the super fancy lounges and seat selection are a reason to pay an extra thousand USD in airfare.

    Still, if you want a rep as an amazing business class, BA isn’t exactly the airline you’d follow.

  17. Expected. Good business move… no heart burn for me as long as they don’t change baggage privileges.

  18. Is this different to ‘Business Promo’ that QR has been offering for years? That has been particularly cheaper than Economy Flex. So, Will this be even cheaper than “Business Promo”?

  19. @ bruh — It’s not likely to be cheaper, but rather existing Business Promo fares will likely just come with fewer perks included.

  20. Looks to me that they have just added a lower level Business Class ticket and the normal with lounge access etc is the same price as before(looking at the picture you added to the post) 15k SEK for ARN to BKK is what i’ve been paying the past 4-5 years with Qatar.

  21. @ Andrew — Those are one-way fares, based on a roundtrip. You’ve been paying 30K SEK roundtrip ARN to BKK?

  22. As a leisure traveler I would pay $1600 for a roundtrip ticket in business class from US to Asia . I’m fine without a seat selection , frequent flyer miles , or food catering onboard. It’s still the same comfortable seat and IFE. I can stock up on snacks at the airport kiosk before boarding.

  23. Theoretically this could be valuable (not specific to qatar).

    As elite member, you get most of the perks anyway. The value of a C seat is thus much lower then for a pax without status. Being able to buy a seat and not pay for your elite perks has some merrit.

    Theoretically, because no airline is gonna implent it like this.

  24. Removing lounge access is a stupid move for a middle east carrier who is totally dependant on transfer traffic. None of us enjoy a stop in the desert in the middle of the night and we sure as heck are not going to enjoy it more with no lounge. Seat payment would work I think, but no lounge is a showstopper for me. If I was merely flying to Doha no worries, but 90%+ transfer.

  25. This is actually excellent news, as it provides further disincentive for revenue pax to fly a carrier complicit in the sexual assault/rape of a number of its female passengers. Good riddance.

  26. 1) Agree 100%! The 2x – 3x spreads in fare tiers between are ridiculous for fares that more correctly/honestly should be called:

    a) “Biz Minus” (or simply “B-“), the bare bones, no advance seat selection, no lounge access, reduced mileage/points accrual since calling this vastly inferior, vastly devalued product is not just extremely disingenuous, but also a full-on, insult to one’s intelligence slap in the face because it’s such a bald faced lie!

    b) “Biz Standard” (“B”, NOT to be confused with the fare basis of the same letter), or the more approximate “Classic”, even if slightly devalued when compared to the original version being eliminated

    c) “Biz Plus” (“B+”) or “Elite” as the airline is calling it.

    Again, doubling & tripling the fares between Biz Minus/B-, Biz Standard/B & Biz Plus/B+ is flat out ridiculous unless…

    2) Does the airline believe the widespread use of smaller gauge aircraft models going forward such as Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 instead of the much larger A380s, Boeing 747s or even the widely reported switching (or “deferrals”) from 777-9s to 787s at several leading airlines & the corresponding reduction in Biz class capacity (or even 1st class at airlines such as Lufthansa with its A380s possibly grounded for good) provide it with the type of extreme pricing power that these otherwise outrageous difference in Biz class fares suggests?

    Just wondering!

    Finally, just a reminder that Qatar’s 787s don’t/won’t feature the full Q-Suites that its larger & wider aircraft models have.

    Just sayin’ 😉

  27. Correction re my comments above:

    Calling the vastly inferior & vastly degraded Biz Minus/B- “Biz Classic” is the full-on, insult to one’s intelligence, bald-faced lie.

    As Ben pointed out, it’s NOT the same product, so rebranding it using the term “Classic” is disingenuous.


    With apologies for any confusion in the original comments above.

  28. I would love for the ability to pay a discount for just the seat but unfortunately, I agree with Lucky here. There’s absolutely no reason to believe this will be any different than the intro of basic Y across the industry. The cheapest fares will be the same, pax just won’t get all the same benefits. Perhaps some deals will be available while Covid persists, but once things start to return to normal, these basic J fares will resemble what you would have paid pre-covid for a traditional J experience. With business travel expected to take longer to recover than leisure, expect more airlines to devalue business class like this so they can fill those seats.

  29. @Lucky

    For once maybe have a bit of belief in the system.

    For starters you have shown no evidence to actually suggest Qatar Airways have infact made the previously cheapest fare now the ‘basic unbundled option’. Secondly I do agree that twice as much for lounge access and picking a seat is crazy as in your example.

    But by your logic this makes no sense. As if QR did just make the cheapest fare before now the basic one wouldn’t their whole business plan be to try to get people to upsell to the more expensive bundled one. But no one in their right mind would pay twice as much, therefore they would just stick with the cheap option, or look elsewhere.

    You have contradicted yourself:

    “Don’t fall for it. Qatar Airways is highly unlikely to actually lower fares here, but rather this is intended to get people to buy-up to a higher fare class to get what was previously included.”

    “It’s one thing if there were a reasonable upcharge for the next highest fare (call it $100-200), but I’m not paying twice as much for the privilege of accessing a lounge and assigning my seat.
    At that point I might just find myself booking other airlines.”

    By your logic Qatar would be losing lots of customers and revenue????

    Finally this is positive as the cheapest option is far cheaper than competitors and this gives people the chance and oppurtunity to fly business class, who wouldn’t have before.

  30. This would make me fly them more i dont care about lounge access when lounges were crowded and spare before corona and now they are just empty with no premium offerings id rather save my money and eat an amazing meal at a real restaurant before going to the airport. Plus i dont really care much on seat selection if everyone has aisle access which qatar biz already has. And last point who on here doesnt have a priority pass, airline lounge or amex lounge access anyways?

  31. @Ben

    Actually I take back what I said (the option to delete comments would be handy @Tiffany). You were 100% right.

    A recent example I just did PER – PRG return in business I priced it literally 3 days ago for late next year came in around $8,200 AUD now thats the same but for the basic option and the more expensive one is over $9,000.

    F*** You Qatar!!!!!!!

  32. Not sure why the gnashing of teeth.

    US airlines have been unbundling fares for years.

    Some people like it some don’t. Pick the fare you want.

    If the savings were great enough then I’d consider a cheaper fare with no advanced seat selection or lounge access as long as luggage and onboard service was the same.

    I’m not sure chosing a date to price up a fare close to the easter weekend is the most approriate example to select for a fare comparison though

  33. @ ChrisC — That’s the standard/non-festive/cheapest business class fare in the market…

    And again, I’m not sure I get the “some people like it some don’t.” The airline hasn’t lowered prices with these fares, and I see no reason to believe that the airline will. So please do tell me who these people are who like paying the same but getting less, because I have some things I’d like to sell them. 😉

  34. @ Steve_CC — Totally fair that you’d rather save your money, but there’s no indication that you’ll be saving any money here. You’ll be paying the same and getting less.

  35. In tourist/economy class there are lots of bad seats – inc middle seats. In business class there are rarely “bad” seats, and you are not subject to the constant nudging of a neighbor as in economy. So a lack of choice is not so very important. Being a retired person, no longer a business executive, I pay for my own seats and will happily pay less in business, although I used to insist on getting a decent aisle seat in economy.

  36. As OWE I did a dummy booking and found after entering my details I could select seats on a R fare for free, I would with hope assume to have access to the OWE lounge in Doha and in most Origin and Destinatioms combinations via Doha the lounge would be the same.

    I could find £1600 (USD 2250) fares from EDI-DOH-ICN which I feel is great value and I would assume given you could previously pay for Al Safwa when flying business they will do something similar for R to get into Al Mourjan.

    They have though completely got it wrong for the middle tier which is completely at odds at what Emirates have done. The middle tier should be about £150 (USD 200) each way at most more expensive.

    The lounges in Doha are nice for Premium passengers but not double the fare nice!

  37. I think its a dumb move. Most QR business is Europe – Asia (and Africa). If you already have to walk through an airport in the middle of the night, it sucks not to be able to visit a lounge. I’d still fly them to places not well served by European airlines and if their fares are significantly lower but not if there is a comparable flight on offer.

  38. It’s a shrewd business experiment

    Agree not hopeful it will do much to lower fares – although not sure it will result in much buy-up accretion for them either. Even $50 each way for lounge access is a rich price vs the value it provides.

  39. My family and I flew long-haul Qatar Airways flights more than once with these fares and it was great. The fares sans lounge access suit our needs. The following is what is important to us:
    —additional space during a pandemic with Q-suite external walls/barriers at a substantial height for safer air quality within the Q-suite
    —ability to sleep in comfort on long-hall flights (rest is very important to keep immune system strong)
    —extremely nutritious and healthy food options a la carte for the entire flight
    —larger bathrooms that are shared with fewer passengers, and the bathrooms are cleaned after each passenger use
    —requirement of wearing mask yet the face shield is optional
    —arriving at destination refreshed and strong

    Also note that we were assigned Q-suite seats together so we were able to put the internal barrier down and have our own family room. The agents assigned these seats without our having to ask.

    We are VERY happy with this product.

  40. QR also did not allow lounge access when paying an upgrade fee from Economy to Business.

    As OW FF you will have access to their Business lounge, which will be FULL once travel returns.

    Or you can buy access to the empty QR lounges (which they wanted upgrades to do). This is where the $200 fee comes in, which Ben is willing to pay.

    Leisure travelers won’t mind, but Business travelers with a corporate travel management department will now end up having to pay for lounge access on their own, if the company only pays for tickets.
    That could shift business to others as layovers are often very long.

  41. Yep, I just booked a sample ticket to/from Kathmandu, and the basic business fare is $5560, but the upgraded “comfort” business fare (which allows reserved seats & lounge access) is $11,608.

    That’s absurd!!! I was until today a dedicated Qatar flyer (two round trips USA to Nepal each year) — but from today on, I will certainly not fly them again (unless they do away with this change)……

  42. @Lucky, the charges also covers I fares. At least in some markets. I need to book a D fare to get lounge iand seat selection included. Though the fare in increase here is less in percentage, it is still around 30%

  43. Have always loved QATAR airways business class even before the introduction of the Q suites… I am not going to pay double for the same amenities heretofore were included in ALL Business class tickets…. There are still other quality airline available to the identical destinations.

  44. I love this new changes. Meaning less traffic in the premium biz lounge in Doha. The status holder of can be put to the inferior lounges nearby. Better seat choices. Hopefully redemption tickets in J are seen as the basic R fare.
    If you book cheap, you only get the basics.

  45. Lucky,

    It remains an assumption that Qatar Airways will actually remain a member of OneWorld, they have discussed leaving for years now. The lounge access issue in particular shows that they are disrespecting the elite members of partner airlines.

  46. The comments section is exactly why Qatar and other airlines do this.

    Despite the fact that Lucky had repeatedly addressed the point (in the post and in the comments), most people still can’t understand that Qatar isn’t lowering the price of tickets and selling them as Basic. Qatar is removing services and selling it at the same price as before.

    There is literally no benefit to this, not even if you never use the lounges or seat selection. It is at best, inconsequential, and at worst a material downgrade for the SAME PRICE.

    Just to repeat it for people who can’t read: YOU ARE NOT GETTING A DISCOUNT FOR BASIC FARE.

  47. Ben what is all the drama about?! So you don’t get lounge access (most have Amex lounges and/or priority pass) and can’t prebook a seat (they are basically the same). If it saves me $500 I will jump on it.

    Why do you have to be a drama queen about everything?

  48. The issue of lounge access generally surely depends on whether you are connecting, and the length of time involved.
    Connections between DOH and Australian ports can be a reasonable 2 hours, or 7 or more hours. Not really long enough to grab a hotel room, but far to long to hang around (any) airport, especially when your body it telling you it’s the middle of the night.
    So for me it’s lounge access, by whatever means it takes.

  49. The only possible benefit is if this means additional R inventory becomes available.

    Ben and multiple comments reference paying twice as much to get seat selection and lounge access. Where does this twice as much come from? I just checked fares in EF for a test round-trip and found:

    – R fares ranging from $2,393 to $5,351
    – I fares ranging from $3,317 to $6,275
    – D fares ranging from $5,096 to $9,515
    – C fares ranging from $7,990 to $12,411

    Obviously, what one needs to pay to move up from R depends on availability and fare rules (for applicability to any specific trip), but I don’t see evidence that one must pay double to get lounge access and advanced seat assignment.

  50. @ Matt — The fare being twice as much refers to the first example I picked out randomly, between Stockholm and Bangkok. Even in your example, we’re talking about $1,000 extra to pick out a seat and get lounge access. It’s one thing if we’re talking a few hundred dollars for a roundtrip, but $1,000? That’s steep.

  51. @ AA Flyer — “If it saves me $500 I will jump on it.” “Why do you have to be a drama queen about everything?”

    I’m not sure how often I can say the same thing, but you understand you’re not saving anything, right? The same fares that were available before now don’t include lounge access and seat assignments. There are zero indications that fares are being lowered with the introduction of basic business class.

    This part is addressed to people in general — I’m a bit in disbelief here. I addressed this specifically in the post, and have now mentioned it several times in the comments. I would totally agree with some of you if fares were actually being lowered with the introduction of these new fares. But that is simply not the case. The same exact “R” fares as before are available, except they include less.

  52. @ Frederik — I think it’s highly unlikely Qatar Airways actually leaves oneworld. Al Baker just talks a big game. Keep in mind Qatar Airways owns a significant stake in IAG, and BA is a founding oneworld member.

  53. A good thing if you are leisure traveller who does not have a status anyway.
    – You don’t need actually to choose your seat
    – You don’t really need the lounge as you arrive last minute to airport, having short transit time esp between Europe and Asia
    -May not be cheaper fares always, but surely the reduced flexibility unlock more spectacular campaign prices
    Verdict: It may not be something favorable to readers of this blog, but I do see a demographics there

  54. Not good. Agree with your comments. I also value the lounge access and reserving the seat. Sounds like an economy fare kind of move, but on the other hand, sounds like there’s nothing else missing (e.g. on board is the same). May give more value to Priority Pass.

  55. Firstly, interesting article. Secondly, i encountered this very issue last night, LON-BKK holiday travel. Being a leisure longhaul traveller only, my reasons to purchase are not points based, purely product and service. I was going to buy QR, changed upon looking at the fare brackets. I expect, if i am using my money, to have lounge access and to chose a seat when i book business (i fly to Brazil 2-3 times a year, family). As this change s supposedly trying to attract people like me, it failed. Miserably. I will book another carriier. Its the same reason i never book BA.

  56. I had been looking at an itinerary for MUC-DOH-NBO and back the last couple of weeks. The business classic today is what Qatar was still offering earlier on. So basically one is paying the same while getting less services.

    This is bad for passengers period!

  57. Will this apply to R class fares that were purchased before this was released? I purchased R fares last October, for a trip in 2021. I already picked my seat for the trip. Just wondering how they will distinguish for lounge access

  58. @ Jen — It shouldn’t apply to tickets purchased before November 8. Of course it’s anyone’s guess if lounge staff will be properly trained when it comes to this. Hopefully the system is automatically able to distinguish based on booking date.

  59. With schedules and networks being significantly less than they were at the beginning of the year this means many routes will have no alternative than a long connection time in DOH. For me personally 1h or so with no lounge is fine. Over 3h it’s a different matter. Especially since the new classic flights aren’t cheaper than the biz promo flights previously were.

    However as a OWE seat selection is still free at the time of booking and at the moment only the Al Mourjan lounge is open so no great change until the Business and First lounges reopen in DOH for status passengers.

  60. the concept is fine, but not the fare structure. BA has been charging for J seat assignments for years, and their product is salty garbage. But its an up-charge, not double the fare.

    On a random Tues / Tues in March, JFK-JNB roundtrip prices at:
    $2900 for “Classic” and $5300 for “Comfort.” Yeah … no.

    Same dates & itinerary on DL / VS: $2975 roundtrip

    SO I could pay an extra $2400 bucks for the QR seat assignment & hour-ish stay in the Al Mourjan (the layovers are favorable) or just book VS and get all of the perks included, and the VS A350 is great. I mean, QR is great, but for $2400 I could almost take a whole extra person with me. That’s not right.

  61. Any idea whether this would apply to those who purchased tickets before the pandemic and had their flights cancelled and reissued a voucher to use with Qatar instead?

  62. The only thing I see in this move is that QR besides a change of the CEO they also need to have a new Marketing Manager! I’m going to apply.

  63. You said you don’t know of any other airlines but EK do have it on a number of routes, but to be fair I think they might be cheaper. E.G. SIN – DXB IS $2K SGD return on EK for unbundled whereas its $3K SGD return on SQ. But don’t know the original.

    @Ben do you know if EK have expanded their unbundling approach to the majority of routes, or is it still being trialled or did they find it unsuccessful, or is it being put on hold beacause of Covid. Also would love to hear your thoughts on it – do you think EK has done what QR has done or is it actually cheaper with EK??? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Exec Traveller has some info on it, but still is it cheaper?


  64. You guys who are cheering this (i.e, saying “FINALLY!”) are absolute fools. All they did was strip a lot of benefits that you formerly received with a business class ticket while not lowering the price. And, if you want to keep those prior benefits (basics like lounge access and advanced seat assignment), you have to pay double to triple now.

    And you’re happy about it? Seriously? Then I’ve got some prime real estate to sell you in the beautiful mountains of Afghanistan. It’ll cost you, but you’ll love the views!

  65. Very solid reporting as always, @Ben
    I too am in disbelief that many commenters seem to like this awful development.

  66. I wondered if this was a first step towards further changes. Pure speculation on my part, but the (permanent?) grounding of the A380s means the end of longhaul 1st class service and also that there’s going to be an awful lot of empty space in Doha’s 1st class lounges.

    Does the segmentation of Business into three — whose highest fare is called “Elite” — offer an opportunity to use some of that 1st class lounge capacity?

  67. Ben, any idea how this affects QR “Promo” fares? They usually book into the “I” bucket. I suppose they’ll now book into “R”?

  68. @ Ben — Thanks for the update. I assume that when the Al Mourjan business lounge reopens, purchased access will be an option (~$120 USD pp IIRC). I would probably just try to keep our connections in DOH short (1.5-2.5 hours) so that it wouldn’t really matter or very long (>12 hours) to get a hotel room (usually cheap way to pick up a QN at a nice hotel). No way would we pay $240 for the two of us to sleep in one of those horrible cubicle thigs again.

    If this results in lower prices for R class in the long run, this would be a good change, but the way the fares are pricing now, this seems like a bone-headed move on QR’s part.

    Is it possible that the fairly small Oryx lounge is bursting at the seams right now with the Al Mourjan lounge closed, and this is a temporary way to resolve that issue?

  69. @Ben, if you look at the sample fares I posted, it’s not clearly “$1,000 extra to pick out a seat and get lounge access” because there is significant overlap among the fares. Many of the I fares are less than many of the R fares. As I noted, it comes down to inventory on specific flights and the details of the fare rules as to which are applicable to a specific trip on specific dates.

  70. What a stupid move Qatar!

    This is not offering lower BC tickets, just “undressing” and hoping people would buy more expensive tickets for lounge access.
    Well, for me this would mean not flying with Qatar anymore.
    One flies with Qatar ONLY to have a connection in Doha. Imagine, being in Doha airport in the middle of the night, having some hours layover and be redirected to some inferior lounge for OW Emerald members? No way… such poverty.

    I do believe that many other airlines will be happy to have my business once air traffic is normalized again and not make me feel like a second class BC passenger.

    Bye bye Qatar.

  71. Bye Bye SKYTRAX best business class in the world. After this change they won’t even make it to the top 10.

    Really stupid move.

  72. I can’t make sense of the thousands-$$$$ spread between the fare classes if they won’t at least make seat selection available a la carte like BA does. I’d pay $100-200 extra, not thousands more. Mind-numbingly stupid.

  73. In good news anyone, even a non-status economy passenger can pay $120 for access to Al Mourjan in Doha, so depending on the fare compared to other airlines and considering the on-board experience where Qatar excells then it may be an option, they have really missed a trick though by not have bundles to add on basic fare for both frequent flyers and infrequent flyers planning a special occasion!

  74. I zeroed in immediately on “refundable as a voucher”. Is this new? So, despite a cancellation penalty, no cash refunds? If that’s the case, then I agree, definitely a deterrent. Would only make sense for us as a mileage booking.

  75. In January 2019 my wife and I went to Singapore from Stockholm via Doha business class for £2485.00,we were away for a fortnight also travelling to Phuket,this fare(R) allowed us the lounge in Stockholm,doha(AL MOURJAN)and the on the way back the brand new(well new to us)the Qatar lounge in Singapore,and doha again,loved all the lounges,and choice of seats which we could do.
    But now the new fare for the same trip this January is classic £2827.40. NO LOUNGE ACCESS,OR CHOICE OF SEATS,and for comfort £5085.40 with lounge access and choice of seats
    Why would you choose to go with Qatar at these prices when you don’t get the benefits.
    My home work starts now to find a new carrier.

  76. Mileage booking all the way for 140k points, esp. for travels to Asia in winter or summer.
    But this surely is a bummer if purchasing by cash.

  77. @Gregg

    >> Ben, any idea how this affects QR “Promo” fares? They usually book into the “I” bucket. I suppose they’ll now book into “R”?

    I’m not Ben, but the QR promotional fares I’ve seen have all booked into R. These are exactly the fares being discussed here.

  78. @ Justin

    >> I love this idea from Qatar.

    Why? As @Ben has explained over and over, QR has removed benefits without lowering the fare. What’s to like?

  79. I think this is quite insulting to consumers. Add to this what they have done to the women on the flight to Sydney…..well, it’s a final nail in the coffin for me!

  80. maybe the whole idea is to get people fly more to get status? anyone can buy once in a lifetime or in a year Business Class ticket…

  81. I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I think it could work for some people. For example, you’re flying London to Sydney and your connection is Doha is very tight (1 hour or so) then it doesn’t make sense to have lounge access. If you have OWE/OWS, then seat selection could be free of charge.

    I just wonder, let’s say you’re in Singapore and you want to enter the Qantas/BA/Cathay (I know Cathay and Qatar don’t operate from the same terminal in Singapore) lounge on a business class R ticket but you have OWE status – will you still be eligible for entry? I’m guessing you would – just not the Qatar one? So surely it’s not too bad in that sense.

  82. Looks like Akbar Al Baker has decided to go down the road of Willie Walsh when he was at British Airways.

    Just when you thought it was just Economy class was race to the bottom, Business class passengers are now brought into the battlefield for the race to the bottom. 😀

  83. Very simple. In the Middle of a pandemic a Middle Eastern airline is INCREASING FARES. That is the only way to characterize less service for the same price. To get the same service as before (i.e., Lounge and Seat Selection), one MUST pay more for a higher fare ticket. That is a fare increase. Period.

    This will actually hurt tourism in Qatar. If I am traveling to Asia, I will only fly on an airline that gives me all the perks of Business Class (unless they undercut the competition on price by a significant amount). Sad. I had always wanted to fly Qatar and was planning on doing so when Alaska joins OneWorld. And, no. A secondary lounge does not count. Even SQ gives lounge access to its business class passengers, but only sends StarAlliance elites to the second tier lounge. They protect those flying SQ. I am more likely to fly SQ or EK.

  84. @ A_flyer — I highly doubt it. Keep in mind the airline has closed most lounges at Doha Airport, so if lounges were crowded they could open more. And airlines don’t typically announce permanent changes to fare structures if something is intended to be a short term solution.

  85. Kinda works for me – that’s one less airline website to browse when I book my next trip between Asia and Europe…

  86. Qatar’s business lounges are going to be near empty. As most people stated, nobody is going to pay nearly twice as much just for a few hours in a lounge and early seat selection. Once I use the voucher I already have, I will book with Singapore for the same price.

    I get it that airlines have to change their entire business to survive, but this is a case of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Goodbye Qatar.

  87. I booked a business ‘R’ fare (Man-Doh-Ceb) on 6 November and QR customer services told me yesterday this change applies to my ticket retrospectively. I will need to pay to enter the lounge

  88. Longtime lurker here from Germany with first comment now… for 10 years now spouse and myself are flying with Qatar once a year from Munich of Frankfurt to Bangkok (and two years ago from Stockholm because of an incredible cheap fare). Of course, having lounge access and the seat reservation was part of the fun. Since we are not flying on a monthly base we sure did enjoy knowing that we will wait in a lounge before the flight will start, changing planes in Doha was easy and sometimes we chose a flight connection to Bangkok one hour later so we could enjoy the lounge a bit more. For us it was part of the fun we had come to expect.
    We are not willing to pay 2000 Euro a ticket anymore without having all the amenities we‘d like to have so I guess Lucky is right when he says a lot of people without a frequent flyer status are appreciating things like lounge access coming along even with a R class ticket. At least we are not talking about cheaper pricing, they only decided to take away something that was part of the deal. Not clever!


  89. Anyone else having trouble picking seats on award tickets? Just bought tickets this morning but I can’t seem to find any way to pick a seat.

  90. Edit your article please …
    “If you booked your ticket prior to November 8, 2020, the rules at the time you ticketed your reservation apply. In other words, previously booked“ R ”class tickets are still eligible for lounge access and seat assignments.”
    It’s wrong!! If you booked an R fare before November 8, 2020, you will no longer have access to the business lounge!
    I confirm that fares are the same but with fewer inclusions!
    In this period it’s ridiculous …
    Qatar Airways = scam

  91. Update to my post of Nov 11
    I emailed [email protected] and they replied stating customer service advice was wrong and the new fare terms for “R” class only applies to tickets issued 9 Nov onwards BUT
    They failed to write my ticket WILL allow lounge access although I can & have been able to select seats

  92. I read an article on an Australian site called Executive Traveller about this.

    It specifically addresses @John’s concern regarding access to partner lounges: according to QR, this will continue as usual initially, but they are working with partners to restrict it.

    It also has some sample pricing on SYD-DOH-LHR and back as $5,822 US in R and $7,922 in the next higher non-R. This is in effect a fare increase of $2,100 USD to get the same product. As the Executive Traveller article notes, lounge access will remain available for purchase at a cost of 600 QAR ($165 USD) for the Al Safwa first class lounge, or 450 QAR ($124 USD) for the Mourjan business class lounge, per visit.

    The article also notes that all fares are refundable to a voucher without penalty, but the “Classic” and “Comfort” fares have a cancellation penalty for a cash refund (the penalty is highest for the ‘R’ fares).

  93. Confirmed in writing by QR.com that flights ticketed before 9th November retain originalT&Cs as long as it’s not amended in any way.

  94. Fwiw, I had 2×2 business class fares in R from YUL to CPT. Meant to reschedule both trips, now this. Their agent confirmed yesterday that on the rebooked flights there would be no more lounge access, no seat assignment, etc. I asked to get all 4 bookings refunded. They acceded to that request. The end. Shame, I enjoyed flying on Qatar Airways. At least I got a pile of $$ credited back to my card. Good luck to that airline. Surely business class will be even emptier going forward ‍♂️.

  95. So, now it seems that Business Award bookings are impacted and do not receive lounge access, nor advance seat selection?

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