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

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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 (September 2021)

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

60,000 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 60,000 points which is a special offer running to 2nd November 2021.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 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 Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and a special 30,000 points sign-up bonus until 9th November 2021.  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)

  • Tom says:

    OW Status only gets the inferior lounge. Not great when some DOH layovers are long and in middle of night for EU – far away routes. Also seems fares not dropped, so hard to see this as anything more than devaluation

  • Goldflyer40 says:

    Wow! Just did a test booking from Europe to Asia, return. Difference between Classic and Comfort was EUR 1,328/GBP 1,197. I don’t think I’ll pay that much for lounge access. Even with the extra Tier Points, I don’t think it’s worse it. Not sure if Qatar will be first or second choice going forward.

  • Ian says:

    Pretty grim changes…and pricing seems to be bonkers for now.

    Hardly a way to encourage flying again

  • Andrew says:

    Unlikely to be allowed into the main Al Mourjan lounge if you bought classic ticket and had status. You would likely be treated as if you are a QR economy passenger with status and would use the One World Lounge. Although like the seat selection, at the moment Al Mourjan is the only lounge open and anyone with lounge access uses that one (even First class passengers as the Al Safwa lounge is also closed).

    • Andrew says:

      And in a correction to the article – other One World airline passengers travelling in business have always had access to Al Mourjan lounge – the One World Lounge is essentially an economy status lounge only. (There are 2 lounges – one for Emerald and one for Sapphire). BA business class get Al Mourjan access.

  • Dev says:

    Pricing is bonkers for now! Forget the Al Mourjan lounge, the real loss is access to the London Premium Lounge (whenever it opens up again!).

  • Dev says:

    Just realised that you can purchase access to Al Safwa and Al Mourjan for a fraction of the price difference between Classic and Comfort. Assuming we all get jabbed with a vaccine within the next 12 months.

    • blenz101 says:

      Similar situation with Emirates where you can purchase lounge actual Emirates lounges access for just over US$100 at DXB. The higher fares just seems like terrible value.

      Would love to see some more analysis on the thinking of where the logic behind these moves lie for the airlines. Is it just to bring down the headline rates for business class travel and assume that business travellers will still expense their lounge entry? A discount for whom those alcohol is haram? Empty out the lounges after all the status extensions? Encouraging anyone on a longer layovers out of the airport into the city?

      The fares just don’t seem to make sense priced at these levels.

  • Alex says:

    Interesting that Emirates and Qatar both consider that removing seat selection is a reduction from a “base” business class offering whereas BA takes the opposite position and considers that seat selection is a enhancement tries to screw you for up to GBP400 to select seats on if you don’t have status.

    Having to pay GBP400 for my wife to sit next to me was the final straw and why I no longer fly BA.

    • Andrew says:

      Were you going through a divorce? She might have been just as upset being stuck next to you for the journey after paying for her own seat.

      What really annoys me is people who ask if you will move (to a less satisfactory seat) so they can sit together, but appear outraged when you ask them for the cash for the extra you paid for the seat.

    • Catalan says:

      Alex. If you and your wife are booked under the same PNR you will automatically be seated together. Only under rare or operational circumstances will you be seated apart.

      • Jill (Kinkell) says:

        We rarely sit together , preferring a window seat each if flying F or J. He reads and listens to music, I-read or look out the window and occasionally watch a film. We’re quite happy not to talk to each other !

    • TGLoyalty says:

      BA DOES give seat selection to its highest booking classes, status customers and some businesses.

      Emirates and Qatar are just doing what BA did years ago

  • Nick G says:

    How much does it cost to buy access to the al mourjan lounge if flying economy? I’ve seen videos on it but never found out the cost

    • Andrew says:

      I did it once to upgrade to Al Safwa Friday lounge for about £80 – worth it as you get the private bedroom and bathroom. Paid lounge access is subject to availability and dress code – those people flip flopping off the plane in shorts won’t be getting in if they have a classic and want to pay, whereas they are allowed in if it’s bundled in.

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