In May 2017, Qatar Airways introduced a stopover program called +Qatar, where passengers traveling on Qatar Airways in all cabins could get a 96 hour Qatar visa at no cost (though in the meantime Qatar has rolled out visa-free entry for 80 nationalities), one free night of hotel, and more.
One of the goals of the Gulf carriers is to develop the infrastructure of their home countries and put them on the map. One has to wonder where Doha would be without Qatar Airways, or where Dubai would be without Emirates. While these cities are known for being global hubs, the airlines are increasingly making an effort to have you actually visit, rather than just connect.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
The +Qatar program has been available continuously since it was introduced, though they’ve only extended the expiration of the program by several months at a time at most. For example, in late 2018 they updated the program to only be valid for bookings made by January 31, 2019, and for stays through April 30, 2019.
Well, after over two years of the program constantly being extended, it looks like it has finally come to an end. Now when you visit the URL for the +Qatar program, you’re instead brought to a generic page about stopovers in Doha.
So it looks like Qatar Airways has ended their free stopover hotel program. Qatar Airways’ new stopover program is valid through December 28, 2019, and offers hotels starting at just $23 per night.
With this new program:
- You can book a 4-star hotel for $23 for one night, $85 for two nights, $125 for three nights, or $165 for four nights
- You can book a 5-star hotel for $28 for one night, $110 for two nights, $160 for three nights, or $210 for four nights
This is only valid for passengers on Qatar Airways issued tickets (so tickets booked through other airlines don’t qualify), and you need a transit time of at least 12 hours to qualify.
Note that while they say 4-star and 5-star hotels, their definitions are different than mine. For 5-star hotels they’re not including the Four Seasons, St. Regis, etc., but rather are including the Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Westin, etc., which personally I’d consider to be 4-star.
The Westin Doha
As you can see, those are still very reasonable prices, though obviously not as good as free.
Why would Qatar Airways stop this program? I imagine these hotels are largely wide open, and also given the blockade you’d think Qatar would want to welcome as many people as possible.
Well, Qatar Airways lost a significant amount of money last year, and I imagine is trying to look for some easy ways to cut costs. I imagine that the rate of $23-28 per night is probably what Qatar Airways was reimbursing hotels for passenger stays, so I guess they’re just trying to pass on that expense to guests instead.
Here are the full terms of the new stopover program:
- Our special Stopover offer is a hotel offer which does not include transfers to/from airport. Feel free to pre-book your transfers to make your arrival smooth and easy.
- Booking validity: 1 February until 28 December 2019.
- Stay Validity: 4 February until 31 December 2019.
- The Stopover offer is only valid for Qatar Airways confirmed ticket holders with a minimum transit time of 12 hours in Doha.
- The Stopover offer is only valid for Qatar Airways E-ticket numbers starting with “157” and this is required to be entered at the payment page.
- The Stopover offer is only valid for a maximum of one booking per E-ticket number. Conjunction tickets are considered part of the one original ticket.
- All Stopover hotel bookings are subject to availability.
- The Stopover offer is NOT applicable for codeshare flights (outbound and/or inbound). Rack rate will be charged by the hotel directly from customers checking in based on Doha being the first or final destination.
- The Stopover offer is NOT valid for passengers where Doha is their first departure point or final destination. Rack rate will be charged by the hotel directly from customers checking in based on Doha being the first or final destination.
- A valid visa is required to enter the country. Nationals from a total of 80 countries can now take advantage of visa-free entry into Qatar. Entry into Qatar will be at the discretion of the immigration authorities. Discover Qatar is not responsible for the decision taken by the immigration authorities.
- Check-in dates at hotel must match flight arrival date in Doha. By making this booking you have accepted all terms and conditions which apply to the Stopover offer, in addition to conditions which may apply to the specific hotels, tours and services.
It’s unfortunate to see Qatar Airways finally cut their free stopover program, though I guess it’s not that much of a surprise. Paying $23-28 for a one night stay is still quite a good value.