Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Qatar Airways introduces ‘basic business class’ with NO lounge access

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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:

Classic

  • Base level Qmiles
  • 40kg checked luggage
  • 2 pieces of hand luggage
  • Higher cancellation fee
  • Seat selection at check in

Comfort

  • Higher number of Qmiles
  • Same luggage allowance as Classic
  • Lower cancellation fee
  • Seat selection at booking
  • Lounge access

Elite

  • 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.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

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:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Lounge Club card loaded with two free visits to any Lounge Club lounge – see the list 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

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

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.

Comments (100)

  • Wayne says:

    I have seats booked in R class. I didn’t take much notice at the time of booking and had already selected seats prior to this news breaking. The tickets are for March.

    I checked today and the seat selection is there but the lounge access has been removed unless paid for.

    • James says:

      I have the same, booked in R and I class. I have seat selection but access to the Al Mourjan lounge has been removed (now showing as a paid for option). It is a bit disingenuous in my view that existing bookings do not qualify as this is what was advertised at time of purchase. @Rob: perhaps you could reach out to your Qatar contact and see if they would honour lounge and seat selection for existing tickets.

      • Wayne says:

        Another website is reporting that tickets booked/ticketed before 9th November will still have the privileges and that lounge agents will know who is allowed in. Until the Qatar booking system resolves the issues (if it ever does) I would suggest flying with a printed copy of your ticket to present to the lounge agents.

        At this time I can’t gain access to amend seat selection so I’m very happy that I managed to snag the seats I did when I did. Whilst many flights are flying with plenty of availability we happen to be flying in to Bali DPS for the countries version of New Years eve, the flight was very much full.

    • Lady London says:

      can they change what you get after you book?

      do you have any previous documentation or screenshot including lounge access? if so I’d get them to put it back, in writing. If they wouldn’t I would want to cancel the flight for free.

      • Wayne says:

        I’ve just had a look at changing the seat selection and it won’t let you do it. It’s keeping what I have but no additional changes allowed, certainly online, a telephone agent may be able to make amendments but I haven’t checked. Glad I’m happy with the seat selection I have.

    • Rhys says:

      Have you contacted them? I wonder if their website can’t cope with the new options and has conflated existing R class bookings with new ones.

  • Chris says:

    I’m currently planning a holiday for next year and was serious considering booking Business Class and treating myself – but with no lounge access and no seat selection, that’s now very hard to justify. The ‘classic’ prices are no lower than a week ago, with the other options significantly more. I think I’ll save the £1,500 and treat myself at a different point in my trip!

    A very strange way to encourage booking for 2021…

  • RK1 says:

    Had 3 trips planned in Qatar business class next year – decided to cancel. Some trips have doubled in price if you want seat seat selection and lounge access. Don’t think lounge access and seat selection is worth 2000!! Will fly other airlines.

    • Rob says:

      I wouldn’t do anything rash. Seat selection in Business Class doesn’t mean anything with planes flying empty. You will be able to sit where you want regardless. At Heathrow, Qatar has no lounge anyway and T4 may not reopen for years – it was only doing 50 flights per day before covid. They may also backtrack on this move sooner rather than later.

  • Ashic Mahtab says:

    This move is quite unwelcome. Looking at the prices today, the business class prices haven’t dropped even though seat selection and lounge access has been removed. Rather they’re charging extra for things that were previously included at the “classic” price point, and significantly so; we’re looking at £4k for two adults and a child one way jumping to £6.5K for business elite. No way is it worth paying £800 per person per leg for lounge access. I can’t see this going down well. The main reason to fly business Qatar is the 560 tier points and QSuite, both of which can be availed at the classic price point. Don’t see this going down well, and it’ll likely reverse sooner or later.

  • Jackson Brown says:

    @Rob, any chance to look into @James question he asked earlier “ @Rob: perhaps you could reach out to your Qatar contact and see if they would honour lounge and seat selection for existing tickets.”

    I have the same question as I booked my BC tickets a year ago and we are flying in two weeks with 10 hour layovers in Doha each way. I bought the tickets when lounge access was included/advertised! Is there anything I can do to keep my lounge access for this trip? Thanks.