Qatar Airways Takes The Right Approach To Coronavirus Cancellations/Changes

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Over the weekend Qatar Airways introduced a new policy for passengers who wish to change or cancel their flights due to concerns about coronavirus. Many airlines are still only applying waivers to specific routes, or including potentially confusing terms and conditions, so it’s good to see Qatar Airways take the ‘right’ approach here:

Qatar Airways has launched a new commercial policy to provide customers with maximum flexibility to suit their travel plans. Passengers that have booked or will book flights for travel up to 30 June 2020 will be offered the flexibility to change their travel plans free of charge by altering the dates of their booking or exchanging their ticket for a travel voucher valid for one year. Both changes apply up to three days prior to departure.”

The key points are:

  • Change fees are waived for all reservations until 30th June 2020
  • Changes can be made up until 3 days before travel
  • If you prefer to cancel, you can choose a travel voucher valid for 1 year
  • The policy applies to existing tickets, not just new bookings.

If you do decide to travel and are wondering about the sort of steps that Qatar (and other airlines) take to reduce infection risks, you might find the following interesting:

“As an airline, Qatar Airways maintains the highest possible hygiene standards, which include the regular disinfection of aircraft, the use of cleaning products recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and robust staff training.

In addition, Qatar Airways’ aircraft feature the most advanced air filtration systems, equipped with industrial-size HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of viral and bacterial contaminants from re-circulated air, providing the most effective protection against infection. All the airline’s onboard linen and blankets are washed, dried and pressed at microbial lethal temperatures, while its headsets are removed of ear foams and rigorously sanitized after each flight. These items are then sealed into individual packaging by staff wearing hygienic disposable gloves.

Qatar Aircraft Catering Company (QACC) was the first organisation in the world last year to achieve ISO22000:2018 certification from Bureau Veritas with UKAS accreditation, confirming its Food Safety Management System meets the highest standards. All meal service utensils and cutlery are washed with detergents and rinsed with demineralized fresh water at temperatures that kill pathogenic bacteria. All sanitized equipment is handled by staff wearing hygienic disposable gloves, while cutlery is individually re-packed.”



  1. James says

    I have a night booked at one of their stopover hotels, the 5* ones you can book at a discount rate of $28 or some such. Will that be refunded / changed FOC too ?
    Only have today & tomorrow to decide.
    My decision is whether to extend my holiday in Asia or not !!!!!!!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi James, I’m not 100% sure about that to be honest – best get in touch direct but hopefully they will be able to change it for you.

  2. Reg Henderson says

    Well done Qatar Airways – what we now need is other airlines to follow!
    A similar approach by hotels would be particularly helpful – with two fixed Hilton ‘holiday’ bookings on the horizon for my wife and me – one for four days and one for seven, even for a Diamond member my chances of even a credit for future use at the same hotel look pretty slim. Anybody got any experience of this or any ideas?

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Reg – when and where are you travelling?

      My (general) experience is that hotels are a lot more flexible about allowing changes to ‘non-refundable’ rates than most people think. The best approach is to contact them directly (ideally FAO of General or Revenue Manager), explain the situation and that you’re still really excited about staying with them at some point in the future. Refunds are unlikely, but being able to move the date is often fine – mentioning your Diamond status won’t hurt either.

      Whether the hit that hotels are seeing from coronavirus will make them more or less likely to help is hard to judge and likely depends on the specific hotel. If the hotel won’t play ball, contact the Hilton Honors Diamond team and see if they can do anything to help.

      I strongly suspect that the coronvirus situation is going to get markedly worse over the next few weeks in many countries (including the UK) so the decision may even be taken out of your hands due to UK Government travel advice, cancelled flights, or the destination country insisting on quarantine (or making visas hard) for Brits as we’ve already seen in Israel and Vietnam. In that sort of situation you would certainly expect the hotel/Hilton to do the right thing, but insurance should cover it regardless.

  3. Reg Henderson says

    Many thanks for your reply- we are travelling early April to Amsterdam and early June to Malta. Certainly too soon to conclude anything yet re June, but April is more on our horizon and we will probably leave it late to make a decision to see where we are with the spread of the virus. We are flying KLM and today we have received an e-mail re ‘free’ cancellation and rebooking, but whether that extends to Economy flights already booked is another matter!
    Agree re Hilton and a direct approach – it will be interesting to see whether Hilton adopts a European approach or leaves it to individual hotels – I suspect a lot will depend on the level of bookings/cancellations. We move in interesting times, for example what happens to loyalty status when worldwide hotel bookings are significantly down, will they automatically roll forward existing status for an ‘extra’ year?

    • Joe Deeney says

      I just heard from a friend in Amsterdam that they are beginning to lock things down a bit there (not Italy style, but banning events of more than 100 people etc), so I would imagine your trip is unlikely to happen unfortunately. Hopefully the hotel (and KLM) will do the right thing and allow you to re-book for a later date at the very least.

      Status is an interesting question and I imagine that different companies will take different approaches. IHG for example has already reduced the status requirements this year (nowhere near enough in my opinion) and I know that Hilton are looking at the issue very closely.

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