Qatar Airways has extended and updated its travel advisory, offering one of the most flexible rebooking options in the industry. In fact, it is arguably TOO generous.
You can see the ‘Travel with Confidence’ policy on the Qatar Airways site here.
Anyone with a Qatar Airways booking now has a ream of options if their flight is cancelled or they want to change their travel plans.
EDIT: Qatar Airways has made two tweaks to the rules since we published this article. First, you cannot change your ticket until at least 14 days after booking it. Secondly, the same sub-fare class needs to be available – which is trickier to spot. If you bought a very heavily discounted ticket, you are unlikely to be able to change it unless there are very heavily discounted tickets for sale on the new route. Check for any other changes to the rules before booking.
Once you have booked a Qatar Airways flight for travel in 2020, the following options are available to you. For clarity, you do NOT need to have a cancelled flight to take up these options. They are available to everyone with a Qatar Airways booking.
Keep your ticket:
You can keep your ticket ‘open’ for up to two years, allowing you to rebook at your convenience. You don’t need to select a new date at the moment. (To be honest, I wouldn’t select this option if your flight is cancelled and you have the option of a cash refund.)
Unlimited date changes:
Date changes are free and there is NO fare difference if travel is completed before 31st December 2020. This is very attractive. It would allow you to move your trip to a peak period, such as over Christmas, without paying a penny extra.
Take a travel voucher for the value of the booking, plus 10%:
This option was first announced several weeks ago and has since been implemented by various other airlines such as Aer Lingus. Any voucher claimed prior to 31st December 2020 is valid for two years.
If you choose not to fly, this is a better option than taking a cash refund because of the 10% uplift. Of course, there is no indication that flights will remain at pre-Covid prices so you are taking a gamble on Qatar Airways still offering excellent value fares at the time you rebook.
Exchange your booking value for Qmiles
This is a new and interesting option. Instead of cashing out or getting a future travel voucher, Qatar Airways is offering the opportunity to exchange the value of your booking for Qmiles.
For every $1 of ticket value you will receive 100 Qmiles. In effect, you are buying Qmiles for 1 cent each.
Qatar Privilege Club and Qmiles have never had a lot of traction in the UK because, not surprisingly, most people who fly Qatar Airways prefer to credit their flights to British Airways Executive Club. There is no Qmiles credit card partner in the UK and few ways of topping up. However, let’s take a look at the numbers.
In normal circumstances, you can buy 1000 Qmiles for $30, or 3 cents per Qmile. On the face of it, the ‘Travel with Confidence’ offer is good value as you are paying 1 cent per Qmile – 66% less than normal.
In reality, whether this is good value or not depends on the redemption. Let’s take a look at a simple return flight between London and Doha in business class. This would normally set you back 116,000 Qmiles plus a $50 fee per one-way sector booked plus taxes.
Based on ‘buying’ 100 Qmiles for every $1, this isn’t particularly compelling. In general, Qmiles redemptions are poorer value than using Avios for the same flight. However, it is worth doing a quick calculation based on your preferred destination and comparing it to the average fare price using the Qmiles calculator.
Unlimited destination changes before 31st December:
On the face of it this is the most compelling of the options, and with good reason. Qatar Airways is offering unlimited destination changes within 5,000 miles of your original destination for FREE.
There is no change fee and no fare difference charged. The only condition is that you complete travel before 31st December.
This is – clearly – huge. 5,000 miles is a long way! It is further than flying from London to Seattle. Take a look at this map from the Great Circle Mapper which shows all areas within 5,000 miles of Hong Kong:
Under the new policy, you are able to re-book your flight to virtually all of Australia and Asia. You can check the 5,000 mile radius for any airport using gcmap.com here.
Some people have seen this as offering potential for abuse, but if you live in the UK this isn’t really the case. Qatar Airways fares are relatively similar to most parts of Asia. The only potential way to substantially abuse (or ‘game’, depending on your perspective!) the situation would be to swap an Asia flght to Australia or, from those destinations close enough, New Zealand.
However, where you fly will most likely be dictated by any country’s entry policy. There’s no point flying for a three week holiday to, say, Australia if it still requires a 14 day quarantine period later this year. Remember that this option is only available until the end of the year and there’s no guarantee that Australia or New Zealand will have opened up. Nonetheless, the ability to change your destination does offer an exceptional amount of flexibility.
Why is Qatar Airways being so generous?
With the majority of flights grounded, every airline is struggling to maintain its cash flow. Bookings are massively down but airlines still have (expensive) bills to pay.
This problem is compounded by the fact that they are often legally required to give refunds in cases where flights have been cancelled. British Airways, for example, has already paid out more than €1 billion in flight refunds since March.
Airlines are trying their very best to encourage you to maintain your bookings or exchange them for future travel vouchers. Qatar Airways is no different, except it is offering a genuinely compelling reason not to claim a refund. Letting people change their destination for no additional fee or fare difference is a sure-fire way to motivate such behaviour!
At the end of the day, Qatar Airways still gets your business. Even if someone does buy a c£1,200 business class ticket from Stockholm to Asia and switches the destination to Sydney, Qatar Airways is still ‘up’ if the plane was not going to be full – and that is unlikely to happen for a while.
PS. Remember that Qatar Airways flights earn Avios and British Airways Executive Club tier points too. In most cases, you earn MORE tier points than you would earn flying the same route on British Airways. A return Business Class trip to Asia would earn 560 tier points for example. We wrote a long explanation of how it works in this article on a Qatar Airways fare sale earlier in the year.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)