Last year, Emirates unbundled its business class fares and started offering a basic fare that came without lounge access.
Qatar Airways is now following and is segmenting its fares into three categories: ‘Classic’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Elite’. It is also simplifying its economy fares.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the new options are already bookable, although they don’t appear to be available on all flights.
Here is what you get in Business Class in each of the three buckets:
- Base level Qmiles
- 40kg checked luggage
- 2 pieces of hand luggage
- Higher cancellation fee
- Seat selection at check in
- Higher number of Qmiles
- Same luggage allowance as Classic
- Lower cancellation fee
- Seat selection at booking
- Lounge access
- Even higher number of Qmiles
- Same luggage allowance as Classic and Comfort
- Free cancellation
- Seat selection at booking
- Lounge access
Can business class without lounge access really be called ‘Classic’?
Qatar Airways has decided that its lowest offering will be called ‘Classic’. This fare, however, removes some traditional business class perks such as airport lounge access and seat selection at booking.
Calling it ‘Classic’ when no previous Qatar Airways business class ticket came without lounge access seems like a bit of a misnomer.
Whilst adding a new unbundled fare is a positive move to the extent that it gives the passenger more choice, the nomenclature is a little misleading and might result in misunderstandings. Calling this ‘Basic’ or ‘Lite’ might more accurately represent the offering.
The losers are likely to be business class passengers who, by company policy, are obliged to take the lowest fare quoted. This will leave them without lounge access or free seat selection. It is worth noting that – whilst the cost differential in my example above is not huge – this is not always the case.
The elephant in the room is that free seat selection does not have a huge amount of value at the moment. Business class cabins are unlikely to be full for some time and the chance of not being able to sit with your partner or colleague is slim. Qatar’s closed-door Qsuite product in Business Class also means that it simply isn’t that important.
It isn’t clear, if you have oneworld status – such as a British Airways Executive Club Silver card – whether you would still be allowed into the main Qatar Airways lounge complex. You may be shunted off to one of the inferior satellite lounges used by other oneworld airlines, even if flying in Qsuite.
The real test will be whether this means genuinely lower business class fares in Classic or whether ‘lounge access’ fares are now more expensive than they would have been previously.
Classic fares will, it seems, book into ‘R’ class and still earn Avios and British Airways tier points if credited to British Airways Executive Club. I would imagine, based on precedent, that Qatar Airways flights booked using Avios WILL continue to come with lounge access and seat selection.
PS. It is not clear what happens to existing bookings, but I would assume that ‘R’ class discounted tickets will continue to receive lounge access and free seat selection.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (December 2020)
As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.
The Lounge Club list is slightly shorter than the Priority Pass list. Additional visits are charged at £20. You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card. There is no annual fee in Year 1 and a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network. Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.
The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer. Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.