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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)

  • r* says:

    The ex-eu sales will now no doubt be this con which means no more booking on qatar until they abandon this.

    Its important that people dont support this because if its a success you can be certain that will be the start of the end of lounges as soon all airlines will copy it and then all points redemptions will eventually be seat only!

    • tony says:

      Yes and no. I would say that discounted business class airfares have been falling in real terms for the last 20 years. What do we want now? Erosion of some of the soft product for the cheapest fares (so remove lounge access) or erosion of the hard product for all (as BA has done with the densification of Club Europe). I have the option of buying up lounge access either via QR or a third party. I don’t have the option of buying extra legroom on a 5hr BA schlep back from Larnaca.

      What surprises me about the pricing that I’ve seen is the size of the premium being charged. It doesn’t reflect the additional value of the services offered, especially for a single traveller. Maybe it’s QR’s play at moving to premium pricing, which is what EK seemed to do maybe 5 years back. These classic fares then become very rare, but with QR you’re paying a 5* price for a 5* end to end service. If this forces others to up their game, then maybe that’s no bad thing.

  • Paul says:

    Just been sent a fare deal for AMS to DPS for next year where QR and TK are competing on the route and TK are cheaper by almost 100 Euro per passenger.
    Now I value my One world status but this move is barking mad. You are effectively paying £300 per passenger to access a lounge. If this is the future then One World status becomes truly worthless.

    • Sandgrounder says:

      Well, with status you get into a lounge, not the best lounge, but a lounge nonetheless, so doesn’t it make status more valuable?

  • AJA says:

    It seems Qatar is doing what BA did years ago, only going one step further and removing lounge access from the “cheapest” biz class fares.

    It does srill reward those with status but to me lounge access on the ground is part of the deal with a business class fare. Seems a mistake to me to remove it but the proof will be in how many buy the “cheapest” fare.

    That said the reality is that the airline industry is in the doldrums and losing money hand over fist so are we really surprised that fares are increasing and services and benefits are being “enhanced” away in an effort to recoup the losses.

    I do hope that BA doesn’t follow suit and remove lounge access from its “cheapest” Club fares. I suspect it could be on the cards.

  • Smid says:

    Well, I knew keeping the voucher for the last cancelled flights was a mistake. Best I might hope for is to book flights which will likely be cancelled. Most of the lower end will now drop the lounge which was half the experience.

    I very much doubt the saver fares at the bottom end will include it now.

  • Lady London says:

    Some firms wont allow a meal to be claimed for a Business Class ticket saying their employee can eat in the lounge.

    At outstations where lounges are poor but restaurants can serve quality fare such as in France, Scandinavia etc., hopefully if companies force their employees onto Classic tickets this will allow the employee to claim dinner on expenses instead.

  • Track says:

    Given the vast facilities in Doha airport — and fact that outstation LHR/Paris etc lounges will remain shut in 2021 — the fare is more punitive, than a genuine cost-saver for the airline.

    I would not believe that handling a business class passenger in Doha is any significant cost beyond a coffee and sandwich.

    • Track says:

      From all the comments though — appears to be smart move from QR.

      Differentiates a price-sensitive leisure traveller who pays from own pocket, and a business traveller whose fare is paid for.

      Except that these days businesses are adamant that lowest fare to be paid, check and question things.

    • Lady London says:

      nice showers, though. And Krug if you ask the right person. But I take your point about the costs of lounges having a large fixed component so not much is saved currently.

  • VK says:

    There are no two ways about this. Unless some major airlines find a better way, all the legacy airlines worldwide will just drop everything from the lowest business class fares (not dropping the price) and increase prices for ‘normal’ tickets. This is going to be the norm. They need to make money someway or another.

  • David Cohen says:

    It appears that the classic fares with no lounge access include both ‘R’ *and* ‘I’ class buckets. That means if you want included lounge access, you’ll have to buy all the way up to a ‘D’ fare. If that is confirmed then I do find this a truly bizarre move as they are potentially doubling or even tripling the fare levels.

    • Lady London says:

      I think of Qatar fares – as quite a few of the major airlines – as a bit like hotels. There’s rack rate and then there’s what people are really paying.

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