Did Qatar Airways Cut Lounge Access For Business Class Award Tickets? (Update)

Filed Under: Qatar

Update: A Qatar Airways spokesperson tells me the following:

“We have also not made any changes to award ticket policies as a result of fare family changes. Our valued Qatar Airways Privilege Club members booking a Business Class award flight will receive the same benefits as before including complimentary lounge access and seat allocation.”

So it seems that we now have conflicting Qatar Airways spokespeople. šŸ˜‰

I’ll reiterate that I wrote the initial post not just based on what a spokesperson said, but also conducted an experiment, and was able to select a seat on an award ticket as a non-elite member. That’s why I wasn’t convinced this policy change was going to happen, and why I’m inclined to believe that the above is correct. That would be welcome news.

You can find the original (unedited) post below in full.


Is Qatar Airways really doing the unprecedented, and cutting lounge access and advance seat assignments from all award tickets? Qatar Airways claims yes, while my experience doesn’t match that… yet.

Qatar Airways unbundled business class

Last week Qatar Airways announced that it would introduceĀ “Business Class Classic,” which is essentially an unbundled business class fare, no longer offering lounge access or advance seat assignments.

While I think the concept of unbundling business class is the way of the future, Qatar Airways did it in the worst way possible:

  • The airline isn’t lowering business class fares, but rather is taking away benefits for the existing cheapest business class fares
  • The premium to “buy up” to a non-basic business class fare is substantial, to the point that I see this new policy only causing people to book elsewhere, rather than generating additional revenue

Also, this is a tangent, but isn’t “Classic” a strange name for these fares? The word “classic” means:

  • very typical of its kind
  • judged over a period of time to be highest quality and outstanding of its kind

Neither of those describes unbundled business class fares, if you ask me. Anyway, back to the topic — it looks like this change may be worse than initially expected…

Qatar Airways has removed perks from some business class fares

Qatar Airways award tickets don’t include lounge access & seat assignments?

Executive Traveller quotes a Qatar Airways spokesperson as saying that those “booking a business class award will receive a Business Class Classic ticket as standard.”

In other words, this suggests that going forward, Qatar Airways business class award tickets will no longer offer advance seat assignments or lounge access. Presumably this would apply regardless of which program you book through, since all business class award tickets book into the same fare class, which is “U.”

This would truly be unprecedented, as I can’t think of a full service airline in the world that doesn’t offer lounge access on award tickets.

Qatar Airways is eliminating lounge access for business class awards

Is this policy being enforced?

Maybe I’m giving Qatar Airways too much credit here (especially since the airline cut lounge access on upgrades a couple of years back), but I just can’t imagine this is actually what the airline is planning on doing:

  • Personally I often don’t put a lot of weight into the comments of airline spokespeople, especially when it comes to the nuances of frequent flyer programs
  • While it’s possible that the airline could adjust its policy for award tickets, initially the airline was explicit in stating that “R” class fares would be subjected to the new rules; “U” and “R” aren’t the same, so is the airline changing its policy after the fact, or…?

Anyway, since I’m skeptical, I decided to conduct a little experiment:

  • I booked a Qatar Airways business class award ticket using American AAdvantage miles
  • I booked it for a traveler other than me, who doesn’t have any oneworld status
  • I then called Qatar Airways and had no trouble assigning a business class seat

Is it possible that Qatar Airways will still implement this policy? Yes. But based on my one experiment, this policy is at least not being enforced yet. I’d love if others could share their data points as well.

It still seems possible to select seats on awards, as of now

Don’t go down this road, Qatar Airways…

“That’s it Qatar Airways, I’m taking my award travel business elsewhere!” That’s probably not a threat that’s going to scare many people at Qatar Airways headquarters.

However, at some point policy changes like this can really reshape peoples’ perceptions of brands:

  • Qatar Airways has put so much money and effort into being known as a premium, full service airline; cutting away at benefits in a way that literally no other airline in the world has done sends exactly the opposite message
  • At some point when you hear the word Qatar Airways you go from thinking “wow, Qsuites are amazing,” to thinking “that’s the ridiculously cheap airline that doesn’t offer lounge access on $5,000 business class tickets, or when you redeem your miles”
  • Furthermore, what a bizarre time to make this change — it’s one thing to make a change like this during the best of times, but to make a change at a point like this?

This also seems to completely contradict a recent stated goal of the airline. Qatar Airways recently introduced a special frequent flyer program for students, which was well thought out. In the press release about this, the following was written:

“The airlineā€™s new programme for students is part of its wider transformation of Qatar Airways Privilege Club, which is being redefined to ensure that passengers are rewarded for their continued loyalty and receive the very best offers and benefits.”

Is eliminating lounge access and seat assignments on reward tickets really part of “ensuring that passengers are rewarded for their continued loyalty and receive the very best offers and benefits?”

This policy change seems exceptionally short-sighted

Bottom line

A Qatar Airways spokesperson claims that Qatar Airways award tickets (regardless of the program they’re booked through) will now be classified as Business Class Classic tickets, meaning they won’t come with lounge access and seat assignments.

Based on my experiment it would appear that this policy hasn’t been put in place yet. Only time will tell if it’s implemented or not, but it would set a very bad precedent for the industry…

What do you think — will Qatar Airways actually eliminate lounge access and seat assignments on award tickets? Anyone have any experiences to share?

Comments
  1. I don’t know anyone who prefers Qsuites over the old herringbone. Also If QR want to bump up their prices for lounge access they will have to start offering pork products to keep up with the rest of the world.

  2. It would make sense if you could choose between ā€žbusiness award saverā€œ and ā€žbusiness award comfortā€œ or if Lounge access can be added for a couple of thousand miles.

    Anyway, like most (?) people I exclusively use my miles when traveling privately with family or for my parents. None of them has status lounge access.
    So in the Future, award family tickets with Qatar means that I can choose my favorite child or parent to go to the lounge with me with the status me while the rest can already line up at the gate. You never know if priority boarding will also be removed.

    All in all, a big devaluation in award travel. On a vacation trip, the lounge access is part of the experience.

    BTW: Air Canada Signature Suite is also not for award travel. But one can still go to the Maple Leaf Lounge.

  3. Iā€™m in the Maldives now… we enjoyed Qsuites on awards… our two 7 hour layovers would be miserable without the lounge. I think people will start to think different options… Turkish airlines and their lounge seems like a much better points option if Qsuites doesnā€™t have a lounge…

  4. Booked award ticket using Asia Miles HKG-DOH-LAX departing Dec. Confirmed unable to assign seat on both flights. Will update regarding lounge access (HKG and DOH) after the trip.

  5. @Lucky:
    Do you know if Lufthansa executives read this blog?
    If so, please immediately delete this article. Otherwise, itā€™s for sure that Lufthansa will remove lounge access on award ticket due to customer feedback.

  6. I flew them in September from MLE to JFK. I had to get back last minute so I booked an economy ticket day. During check in, I paid $1500 to buy up to Q suites- it converted the ticket to ā€œRā€class.

    At DOH, they said R class doesnā€™t include lounge access but my one world status overrides that, and I got in.

  7. Qatar has long not abided by the spirit of OW lounge access. In some Asian airports like BKK and SIN it denies access to its proper lounge to elites, and in DOH the lounge they use for elites is nothing like their actual business lounge (or first lounge). They clearly don’t want to pay for lounge access in many cases, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to chip away at it on award tickets also.
    It’s an awful airline and DOH is an unpleasant, vast airport in a nasty little country when it comes to respecting people, so I don’t bother with them.
    I’m glad to see this blog’s sometimes slavish praise of Qatar Airlines has come to an end.

  8. Just like LH, QR has listened to the demands of us passengers and apparently we just donā€™t want lounge access or seat assignments any longer when forking out $4,000+ for a business class ticket.

  9. Would this apply to tickets already ticketed? Flying PHL-DOH-MLE with a 7hr layover and really won’t be impressed if they’ve taken lounge access away.

  10. I currently have a QSuites reservation from JFK to Doha to Male. I used to be able to change seat assignments online on their website. That option has now disappeared.

  11. I suggest EVERYONE go on their social media and post (Lucky’s) “Is eliminating lounge access and seat assignments on reward tickets really part of ā€œensuring that passengers are rewarded for their continued loyalty and receive the very best offers and benefits”?

  12. This is very disappointing. The last few pre-covid times I was in the biz or 1st lounge they were a ghost town thanks to the dispute with their neighbors.

    Can’t imagine they have more than a few dozen people in either lounge at any given time now.

    So what’s the point of this massive devaluation? Gotta figure they’re doing it now while most people are distracted. Then when travel returns they can say it’s a long standing policy.

    My Avios are becoming worthless. Cathay is near bankrupt and cutting routes. Qatar trying to become the ME Ryanair. Can’t get to OZ for domestic Qantas flights. BA still charging $1000 fees.

    Time to update your “best ways to use Avios” posts to include toaster ovens and rental cars.

    Ugh.

  13. @Klaus: “BTW: Air Canada Signature Suite is also not for award travel. But one can still go to the Maple Leaf Lounge.”

    You can actually go to the Signature Suite on an award ticket now. Awards are now available on different tiers, so for business, you an opt for “Flexible” award class which gives you access to the Signature Suites and also free change/cancellation. It costs more in points.

  14. I just got off the phone with Qatar to assign seats on a J booking done through Asiamiles and was able to assign seats.

  15. If this change is really true and they eliminate lounge access for award tickets, is it at least possible to purchase access to the lounge? Sometimes you need to do a 6-8 hour layover in Doha so no lounge access would really kill that.

  16. I get the lounge access does have associated costs. I think it’s a bad idea and waters down their value; but not being able to assign seats is beyond ridiculous for a premium cabin.

    It literally costs them nothing to assign a seat. The charge for business class is high enough as it is.

    The whole appeal of QSuites is the seating of a group of 2 or more to be together. But if they enforce this, what’s the point for someone to book their product. Might as well fly any other first tier business class product. This isn’t even penny wise, pound foolish. This will not generate more ancillary revenue than the lost business as it makes QSuites no different than the other first rate business class seats.

  17. I booked a Qatar Airways business class award ticket using American AAdvantage miles.
    I booked it for myself and I don’t have any oneworld status. I then called Qatar Airways and could not assign a business class seat online. When calling they told me to talk to AA as the ticket is purchased through them,

  18. I also prefer Qsuite over reverse herringbone. Unless I am facing backward, then it a hard call.

    I booked AC from YUL to GRU in two weeks. I purposely booked an earlier flight from from YUL to YYZ so I have time for a meal at the Signature lounge. Last time I was there (Oct 19) I really enjoyed the meal I had. But checking the AC website itā€™s not clear the Signature lounge is open. Does anyone know if it is open?

  19. @Klaus – haha! +1!

    If this is in fact true, talk about a horrible devaluation.

    For the record, I prefer the old reverse herringbone seats to Q Suites, but Q Suites looks way more expensive.

  20. I booked an award ticket on Oct. 28th using AA miles r/t DFW-DOH-CPT for travel in September, 2021. Just last week, I called AA and they were able to confirm seat assignments on all legs. Yay! Of course, have no idea about lounge access at this time.

  21. Qatar Air is about image and they love touting their awards over the years. As soon as another airline inches past them and takes their coveted Skytrax best business class away they may make adjustments to get it back.

  22. Today when I think of Qatar, I donā€™t think of high end luxury travel and Q Suites, I think of the sexual assault of the Australian females last month in Doha, their endless diplomatic standoff with their regional neighbors and the gutting of their Premium Cabin experience. They have a lot of work to do to win back their once great image. These latest moves are just more salt on the wounds.

  23. It’s only matter of time, when most airlines will say “Sir/Madam, no champagne or cocktails or service for you since you came in “classic” fare”, you will be served by economy class crew, please wait for your turn….

  24. It is a pain that lounge access is not included in Classic fares (I think the blow back from it will make them change their policy) but that fare is so much cheaper than the next 2 business choices even if you have to pay to get in to the Al Mourjan lounge (currently posted on the Qatar site for 450QAR = $123) especially if you have a killer long layover. I am interested what they will price the Al Safwa lounge at once they reopen.

  25. I haven’t flown BA in a while, but I remember they were charging 100 pounds for assigned seat in business class when booked using AA miles, plus ridiculous taxes >$1.2K for RT SFO-LHR-BLR, however they did provide lounge access with 3 hour stop-over, they may learn quickly from Qatar about not providing lounge access…

    last time I flew LAX-DOH-BLR, we didn’t have enough time to even enter lounge with all airport security and our aircraft was parked far away and we took shuttle bus to terminal…

  26. @Lucky: I have 2 AA Business Class award tickets on a 5 day courtesy hold. 2 out of 3 segments are on Qatar. I called Qatar 3 days ago and was able to reserve seats without any problem (aka without paying for those), even before the ticket is issued.

  27. @Lucky Can you please clarify the job titles of the conflicting “spokespeople”? The Head of Loyalty making a statement would would carry a lot more weight than a Twitter/social media rep.

  28. @Brent: No more Al Safwa for business class fliers.

    Last December I took their $28 per night at a 5 star hotel offer for long layover (14.5 hours), it was pretty nice. Not sure if they still have it.

  29. @ Jules — I’ve only heard from one spokesperson, who had a statement from the company (it wasn’t the head of loyalty, or anyone along those lines). I can’t speak to who the source was for Executive Traveller.

  30. It’s disappointing, and frankly quite disturbing, that it took until The Original Donna’s comment for anyone to mention the sexual assault that just happened at this airport. Why does anyone care about QSuites and Qatar lounge access when transiting via DOH means you could be the victim of airport sanctioned sexual assault?

  31. Jean must be a troll? First, because who doesn’t like Qsuites. And second becuase…pork? Who needs to eat specifically pork on a plane? 90% of the airlines I’ve flown on have never offered me pork. Sounds like some islamophobia going on there.

  32. @Jules – I’m the editor of ExecutiveTraveller.com and I suspect Ben heard from the same spokesperson as I did when it comes to the new statement.

    I’ve actually been dealing with several QR spokies from the start of this (including the ones who initially gave what they now admit was the incorrect advice re: reward bookings being treated as Business Classic, although that same incorrect info was repeated on a ‘fare families FAQ’ sheet distributed by QR earlier this week to travel agents worldwide).

    These are very senior people in the QR comms area, although it’s not policy to name them. But they’re open about this being an error at QR’s end.

  33. Like Ben said, I don’t think Jean knows many people, Def not many people who have flown on qsuites. I also much prefer qsuites, even when facing backwards, which is not a big deal. And pork? Uh, maybe I had some in the dumplings in the Cathay lounge. I can’t remember ever wanting a ham sandwich in a biz or first lounge. Anyway, the Qatar lounge access rules have been spotty for me in the past. They’ve sometimes not let me into the first lounge when connecting from biz to regional first. I’ve been capacity controlled in the biz lounge, too, but I understand that because the lounge was pretty packed.

  34. I’m booked on Qatar in business traveling with a friend from JFK-CPT via DOH. If I have platinum status with AA, can I bring a friend into the lounge at Doha?

  35. This portion bothers me – bolding mine:

    Our valued Qatar Airways Privilege Club members booking a Business Class award flight will receive the same benefits as before including complimentary lounge access and seat allocation.

    It specifically calls out PC members and does not state OW members. Are we going to see the fare bucket include award seats for PC members versus awards seats booked through partners? It sounds like maybe the initial announcement was lacking in detail and overly broad (nobody getting seat selection or lounge access), and the update provides the specifics that’ll apply at some point in the future (no seat selection or lounge access for OW awards). I hope I’m wrong.

  36. I couldn’t find if this change is already in effect but just as a data point, I was allowed access to the Al Mourjan lounge last Sunday with an Asia Miles award ticket (Qatar class U).

  37. Every time we fly via Doha we seem to have at least a 6 hour layover. (DPS-LIS, CPT-SEA etc). The lounge we have used has the day beds that are handy for a quick nap though very noisy being above the concourse.

    I am assuming that Qatar is removing the lounge access and the seat selection as they have been whittling away at their perks over the years.

    I think that this is the end of my use of QR. Especially during covid times I have no interest in sitting in a general public lounge for 8 hours between flights. Not having seat selection is also unacceptable.

    Sadly it is beginning to look like the end of the golden age of air travel (which to some started happening 15 years ago and sadly seems to be continuing).

    Hope QR changes their ‘collective wisdom’ as from now on I will not be traveling with them. Their product was not much better than the competition lately though had improved.

  38. what is so special about a pre assigned seat in business class? aren’t all business class seats nice?

    also, the lounge thing is very bad not so much the seat assignment thing i thought one of the perks of flying a premium cabin is to go into the lounge. just my 2 cents worth.

  39. They are a petty airline and always have been and frequently don’t follow the guidelines. Ben Dover is generally right with his comments above. Maybe they need to bend over … for a kick up the backside I mean.

  40. They are a petty airline and always have been and frequently don’t follow the guidelines. Ben Dover is generally right with his comments above. Maybe they need to bend over … for a kick up the backside I mean.

  41. Donna, did you stop drinking your Chai-Latte from Starbucks because they discriminated POC for using their restrooms; did you stop flying UA because of, you know, Dr. Dao? Do you boycott Delta for rebuking a woman for wearing a F*ck hat? Did you stop using Chase for their mortgage discrimination of Hispanics? No?

  42. John, a seat selection in business class is very important to those of us that travel often and have found seats we really like and those we donā€™t like. All seats are not equal in many travelers opinions.

    I want a window seat flushed against the side of the plane, away from the aisle, mid cabin away from lavatories and galleys. Iā€™m sensitive to noise and light even in a business class seat. Some people donā€™t care and have high tolerances. Those people I am envious of because they donā€™t get bent out of shape if their desired seat isnā€™t available.

  43. Booked PHL-DOH-CPT rt last week using AA miles. Was only able to book single seats via AA. Called QA and 2 hours later ( by checking AA app) we were assigned ā€œdoubleā€ Q-Suite seats on all 4 legs. Now I question will the seat selection hold and with 7 – 10 hour layovers in each direction will we have lounge access?

    Read the thread but would really appreciate a response, when available, from QA re: lounge access on AA business award tix.

  44. @DCA

    On the statement’s calling out “valued Qatar Airways Privilege Club members” ā€“ I went back to QR PR on this exact point and they confirmed the “reward as standard business class, lounge access included” is available to anyone and everyone regardless of airline frequent flyer membership.

    The specific scenario I actually used for PR was of a member using their miles to book a business class reward seat for their Mum, so would their Mum get lounge access despite having no status or ever frequent flyer membership? The reply was in the affirmative, and they confirmed there’s also no differentiation drawn between QR and Oneworld membership. So I suspect this is just a sort of ‘muscle memory’ whereby they sweeten the text by promoting QRPC every chance they get.

  45. I purchased business class seat in Jan “R” class for my flight next week. Qatar just informed me that I am not grandfathered in, and do not have lounge access In Doha. My manage booking page also confirms this as there is now an option to purchase lounge access for $94. Such BS.

  46. @David:

    That’s good to know. Thanks for doing the legwork for us. The only detail I can see being left out was that your scenario still included a booking using miles as a member of PC, albeit for someone else. I’d be curious to know the result if you reran your experiment but instead of even mentioning PC, you simply stated you were on an award ticket booked through AA with no status. I understand that’s splitting hairs, but that’s what this sort of thing is all about.

  47. I booked in October reward business flights (code U) on Qatar for this coming August and September through American Airlines. After getting my Qatar record locators from AA (not the AA ones sent with the booking confirmation) I was able to log into Qatar’s manage my booking and see the reservation. I was unable to choose seats online. Today I called and was able to get seats assigned on all legs of the journey. I amnot a member of Qatar’s loyalty program and I have no status with any One World carrier.

  48. @Endre

    How you can equate sexual assault with “a rebuke for wearing a hat,” or any of your other lame examples, is beyond me. Way beyond. My wife is never again flying through Doha, so neither will I. Qatar can give away Q Suites, and lounge access, for free and we still won’t fly Qatar again.

  49. Just discovering this. Not just for reward flights either, I was looking at a fully paid fare and there is no lounge access or seat choice. What is the point of business then? Sure, nicer seats and more leg room…..but for about $3000 more? Really? I might be reconsidering my usual choice of airline with this nonsense. Not happy QR.

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