Update (May 17): Qatar Airways has now amended the policy to require a 14-day waiting period between booking and making the change. Moreover, fifth-freedom routes (like the PNH–SGN example originally mentioned here) are excluded, while there also needs to be space in the same fare class in order to make the change.
It’s still a very generous policy, although not quite as overly generous as the original, especially as most of the US$1,600 fares between North America and Kiev are no longer available.
If you have hopes of travelling in the latter half of 2020, there may be a killer opportunity to try out Qatar Airways Qsuites at an exceptional value, simply by taking up the airline on their newly introduced and extremely generous rebooking policy.
Like all airlines around the world, Qatar Airways is strapped for cash and would go to some pretty great lengths to incentivize customers to make future bookings with them.
Their new Travel with Confidence rebooking policies are some of the most generous we’ve ever seen, and might just tempt you into rolling the dice on a Qsuites trip later this year.
What Is Qatar Airways’s New Rebooking Policy?
With the aim of providing customers with as much flexibility as they need when booking flights, Qatar Airways will provide all tickets issued by September 30, 2020 for travel by December 31, 2020 with the following change and refund options:
Extend your ticket: If you decide to travel at a later date instead, you may change your ticket to a future date within an extended validity period of two years from the date of issuance.
Future travel credit with 10% bonus: If you instead exchange the full value of your ticket for a travel voucher with a two-year expiry period, then you’ll receive a 10% bonus on top of the value of your original ticket
Swap for Qmiles: You can swap the value of your ticket for Qatar Airways Qmiles at a rate of US$1 = 100 Qmiles. This is equivalent to buying Qmiles at a rate of 1cpp (USD), although generally speaking, Qmiles are nowhere near the most useful points currency out there
Refund: If your flight gets cancelled by Qatar Airways, then rest assured that you will receive a full refund to your original method of payment
Unlimited changes: You can 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 or any other destination we fly to within a 5,000 mile radius of your original destination.
That last option is clearly the most interesting, and the 5,000-mile allowance opens the door to some very creative and very lucrative rebooking options.
When the rebooking policy was first announced, there was justifiably some skepticism as to whether the policy was too good to be true. Surely the 5,000-mile allowance was a typo, and should really be a 500-mile allowance, right?
However, the official Qatar Airways PDF document outlining the terms and conditions of this policy confirms that this is indeed as it appears. As long as travel takes place by December 31, 2020 (i.e., no part of the ticket takes place in 2021), booking agents are instructed to “waive difference in fare, taxes, fees, charges, surcharges, [and] rebooking penalty”, which is truly quite incredible. Moreover, I’ve already heard from a few people who have successfully changed their tickets in this way.
With the 5,000-mile allowance in changing your destination, everything we know about how airfare is supposed to work is thrown out the window. A flight to Delhi can become a flight to Perth. Indonesia becomes New Zealand, while Eastern Europe becomes East Asia. Let’s have a look at some of the most intriguing possibilities then, shall we?
A Few Examples
Perhaps the most appealing fare for North American residents to book is the ~US$1,600 / ~C$2,270 fare that’s currently available between New York or Philadelphia and Kiev, Ukraine, via a layover in Doha.
You’ll be able to fly Qatar Airways Qsuites on the New York route, and you could also get to sample Qatar’s older but still excellent A350 reverse herringbone business class as well.
This is a pretty good deal in ordinary times, but with the ability to change your destination within a 5,000-mile radius, it becomes extremely powerful. The following map shows you just how far-reaching the 5,000-mile radius from Kiev spans.
You could fly Qatar Airways business class to anywhere among Zanzibar, Seychelles, Kilimanjaro, India, Central Asia, East Asia, and the northernmost slice of Southeast Asia, all for $2,273.
Remember that you can change your dates for no charge either, as long as the trip is scheduled to complete before December 31. This means that you could book a dummy trip on Philadelphia–Kiev for any date you find, before calling Qatar Airways to make the change.
(Note that the change policy also allows you to change your origin to any other Qatar Airways destination in the same country. Therefore, West Coast folks could book the same fare out of Philadelphia, and then change the origin to Los Angeles or San Francisco to give themselves an easier positioning flight.)
Of course, $2,273 is still a fair bit of money to spend if you aren’t accustomed to booking revenue fares in business class. However, take into account the current Double Rewards promotion on the Canada-issued American Express Platinum Card, and the value becomes clear for all to see.
Think about how many points this $2,273 would be equivalent to under Double Rewards. With the Platinum Card, you can redeem MR points against statement purchases at a rate of 1,000 MR points = $20, so a $2,273 ticket would be equivalent to redeeming 113,650 MR points on a round-trip business class fare.
You’ll also earn 4 MR points per dollar spent under Double Rewards, which translates into 9,092 MR points on a $2,273 purchase. That reduces your net effective outlay to 104,558 MR points.
Now consider that a program like Aeroplan would charge you 150,000 miles plus taxes and fees to fly to Asia in business class, and 104,558 MR points seems like a steal, doesn’t it?
(Another way to book with points would be to use RBC Avion points at 2cpp if you held one of the higher-end Avion cards. The $2,273 fare would cost you 113,650 Avion points as well.)
Moreover, don’t forget that when you purchase airfare outright, you’ll earn additional miles from crediting the flights to a frequent flyer program; in Qatar Airways’s case, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and American Airlines AAdvantage would probably be the program of choice for most North American travellers.
And that’s just one example. If you’d rather not connect through the US with all of the uncertainty that it brings, you could also book a cheap fare directly out of Montreal, Qatar Airways’s sole Canadian destination, which also offers Qsuites on the Boeing 777.
The cheapest fare I found was $2,930 round-trip to New Delhi…
…which could then be changed to destination as far as Tokyo, Manila, Langkawi, Bali, Jakarta, and even Perth:
$2,930 would equate to 146,500 MR points under Double Rewards, which is still less than the level of miles that Aeroplan would charge for all of the above destinations – and that’s without considering that you’d be flying the world’s best business class product that outshines anything you’d be able to book via Aeroplan!
If you’d rather stick to a one-way booking (perhaps booking a Christmas and New Year’s trip by combining this opportunity with a separate flight to return home in 2021), the savings are less substantial, but still considerable. The cheapest fare out of Montreal I found was to Bangkok, at $2,327 or 116,350 MR points for the one-way journey.
5,000 miles from Bangkok includes the East Coast of Australia, so you could make this a luxurious one-way flight to Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. 116,350 MR points is relatively costly for a one-way flight to Australia, but it’s still a justifiable premium for the world’s best business class.
Lastly, for any particularly ambitious travellers who are planning extended international travel in late 2020, Qatar Airways’s fifth-freedom flight between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City is available for only $545 in business class, I’m just saying…
A further angle to optimize all of these bookings would be to use a US-issued Amex Platinum Card to make the booking. That’s because the US-issued Platinum comes with a strong International Airline Program, which offers further discounts when booking international premium fares via Amex Travel.
One Mile at a Time writes that the New York–Kiev fare can be lowered even further to US$1,564 (C$2,197).
You’d also earn 5x US MR points when booking airfare on the US-issued Platinum Card, and could then offset an equal amount of purchases from your Canadian-issued Platinum Card under Double Rewards if you’d like to “cover” the purchase with your points.
Of course, the fact that one must complete travel by December 31 is a major limitation, as I know that some travellers may not feel comfortable planning travel until next year.
The good news is that Qatar Airways assures customers that if your flights get cancelled by the airline, then you will be given a full refund and won’t be forced to accept a two-year travel credit or anything – unlike what we’ve seen from Canadian airlines. If you’re comfortable with this assurance, it should give you the peace of mind to secure a Qsuites booking at spectacular value sometime in late 2020.
Travellers should be allowed a 24-hour transit period via Doha, which would allow you to explore the Middle Eastern city while getting to book a stopover hotel at a reduced rate.
While this policy has been confirmed by numerous people’s experiences, there’s also the possibility that Qatar Airways may backtrack on such a generous policy at any time, so I’d encourage you to take a look at the possibilities sooner rather than later.
Moreover, the low fare we’re seeing to Kiev is very unusual, and could disappear at any moment; on the flip side, we could just as easily see cheaper fares pop up in the future too.
I’m strongly considering taking advantage of the Kiev fare and transforming it into a Qsuites bonanza en route to Beijing or Shanghai for sometime later this year.
(Update: I have just successfully ticketed Philadelphia–Doha–Kiev for US$1,638 and rebooked it over the phone as Chicago–Doha–Beijing for no additional cost.)
Qatar Airways’s Travel with Confidence guarantee has thrown up a completely new kind of sweet spot, especially when paired with the equally lucrative Double Rewards promotion on the American Express Platinum Card.
With an openly published refund policy providing travellers with peace of mind, I dare say that this is one of the most incredible opportunities to try out Qatar Airways business class, which is widely considered the world’s best, that we’ve ever seen.