Has Qatar Airways Just Made a Huge Mistake?

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The “unbundling” of Business Class has arrived to Qatar Airways. For tickets issued after 8 November, 2020, you will no longer be eligible for free seat selection and lounge access on the cheapest “R” class Business Class fares. (the ones many British Airways Executive Club members love, often departing from Scandinavia!)

What is Qatar Airways Thinking?

In general, the objective of “unbundling” fares is to entice passengers to pay a bit more for the full package. But the cost of buying up to a lounge-inclusive “I” fare is far greater than the value of a few hours in a lounge. You also cannot pay separately for seat selection, at least at the moment. So apart from a small handful of people paying for lounge access in Doha, these changes don’t appear to drive any revenue growth from Qatar Airways’ existing customer base.

Qatar Airways also doesn’t appear to have reduced its “R” class fares. For now at least, there is no effort to offer lower fares to attract those passengers who might travel in Premium Economy on a competing airline. And there’s certainly little hope of convincing an Economy Class passenger to pay substantially more for “Business Lite”, especially since some companies have “economy only” travel policies, irrespective of the cost of Business Class.

Cost cutting? Allowing passengers to pre-select a seat online is irrelevant to an airline’s costs. And there’s only so much food and drink that a Business Class passenger will desire, but if they don’t get that glass of wine in a lounge, they’ll simply drink it on board…

The News Isn’t All Bad Though…

Most InsideFlyer UK readers are flying on Qatar Airways to earn Tier Points from British Airways Executive Club. Due to the connection in Doha, most Europe to Africa / Asia itineraries in Business Class will earn 560 Tier Points. In normal times, this gets you very close to Silver’s 600 Tier Points (you also need 4 flights on British Airways or Iberia).

Unless you are attempting to earn BA status for the first time, you should already have Silver or Gold status – equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald – which entitles you to…

Free Seat Selection

Your Oneworld status automatically comes with free seat selection.

Lounge Access in Doha

Silver / Sapphire allows you access to the Business Class lounge. (with one guest)

Gold / Emerald allows you access to the First Class lounge. (with one guest)

At the moment, both lounges are closed, so all eligible passengers are using the Al Mourjan lounge.

Oneworld Lounge Access

One perk of elite status with a Oneworld alliance partner is that you can access the lounge offered by ANY Oneworld partner, irrespective of the Oneworld airline that you are actually flying. (for example, when flying BA from London Heathrow’s Terminal 3, I often choose the Cathay Pacific lounge, rather than the BA lounge)

Because of this policy, you can continue to access any Oneworld partner’s lounge. You should also be able to enter any “contracted lounge” that Qatar Airways has offered in the past.

The only exceptions appear to be the Qatar-operated lounges in London Heathrow (Terminal 4), Paris Charles de Gaulle, Beirut, Bangkok and Singapore. I believe that you can access alternative lounge options in all five of those airports.

The Bottom Line

Qatar Airways has made a change that doesn’t appear to do much to drive revenue growth or cut costs. But it does give some potential Business Class passengers a reason to avoid the airline and choose a competitor.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section…



  1. Dave S says

    A big own goal. If the price was lowered, then would have been ok but no change in price and the cost of the seat selection and lounge access fare was almost £1200 more!!!! Makes no sense.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yes, either lower the price and/or make the price difference vaguely reasonable. £150-200 extra for a return, plenty of people might go for it – £1200? No chance. There are actually a number of ironies about this: 1) I can’t imagine lounges are very busy right now. 2) Plenty of Qatar Biz flyers will have oneworld status for lounges anyway. 3) When I checked yesterday, passengers (including Economy) could still buy access for about £100 each way anyway…

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