Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The bottom line is this: I am not making any speculative Qatar Airways bookings after Qatar changed the terms of its very lucrative flexible ticket policy.
An Incredible Qatar Airways Deal Remains An Incredible Deal, In Theory
Last week, Qatar Airways announced a flexible and innovative new ticketing policy, meant to encourage
advance bookings through the remainder of 2020. Ticketing options include:
- Hold on to your ticket – Now valid for two years
- Unlimited changes – Change the date or destination free of charge
- Exchange for future travel – With 10% additional value and valid for two years
- Swap for Qmiles – Flexible to use as you wish and valid for three years (1 cent each)
- Refund your ticket – full refund if your flight gets cancelled
The second option is most appealing, since Qatar is allowing you to change your travel date or destination free of charge, as often as you need, for travel until 31 December 2020. You can change your origin to another city within the same country and destination to any other destination Qatar serves within a 5,000 mile radius of your original destination.
That certainly created many interesting opportunities. For North American travelers, you could book a $1639 business class ticket from Philadelphia to Kiev and change your departure point to anywhere in the USA and your destination to anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius. That meant Los Angeles to Bangkok, Chicago to London, Atlanta to the Maldives, or New York to Shanghai among the many options.
Killer deal, right? You could literally book Philadelphia to Kiev and five minutes later change it. No re-issue fee, no hassle.
But over the weekend, Qatar Airways tightened up the deal a bit. You now must wait 14 days from time of booking to make voluntary changes to your ticket. Your new destination must also have the same booking class available. It also pulled the $1639 fare to Kiev, though there remains a fare to Tbilisi for just over $2,000.
These changes are not a deal-breaker alone, but the no-notice change in policy should send up red flags.
Count Me As Skeptical…
When news broke of this deal, I did not write about it. I thought it was a fabulous deal, but there had to be a catch. When Qatar Airways confirmed that there was no catch, I still did not write about it. Not because I saw any ethical concerns whatsoever with “gaming” bookings, but because I did not want any readers to be stuck with tickets they could not use. That was an initial fear and remains a fear.
This is not a trick, beyond a marketing trick by Qatar Airways. It is not a mistake. Not an error fare. With demand expected to remain depressed until the end of 2020, this is actually a smart strategy that will fill up open seats.
But I just hate it when airline change terms without notice. Now there is just a new waiting period and fare class requirement, but what might happen next? Will the 5,000 mile radius be whittled down? Will changes be limited to once only? What if all the cheap business class fare classes are zeroed out, effectively prohibiting changes? I’m sorry, but I’m not booking any speculative trips with so much uncertainty in the air. I predict that Qatar Airways may further modify this promotion as demand evolves.
Too bad this deal does not extend into 2021 or I would have pulled the trigger on a trip to Germany. This deal remains excellent and will make sense for a lot of people. But the old “fool me once” proverb should be at the forefront of any speculative bookings. Be careful not to get burned…