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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)

  • Phillip says:

    Well, to be honest, this is a lot more transparent than when I flew with BA from Larnaca a few weeks back – I was told at check in that BA no longer offers lounge access in Larnaca. Whether that’s Covid related or not, I don’t know. But on a £198 Club fare, I wouldn’t exactly complain other than for the lack of transparency on the matter!

  • Ali B says:

    As someone who travels purely for leisure, lack of lounge access really doesn’t bother me. I find them rather dreary places fully of dreary people. For me it’s just a slightly nicer environment to exercise a bodily function.

    However, airlines trying to insult my intelligence, doesn’t sit well. Charging the same price as before while stripping benefits results in the loss of my business unless it is the very cheapest available.

    • Peter K says:

      Surely it depends on the airport. At some places the terminal has little/no comfortable seating and the lounge is the only place to provide it. Smaller airports also do not have many shopping opportunities either so sitting is the bulk of the wait.

      It also tends to be quieter in lounges coming back from abroad than the main terminal, which has much value to some.

    • Dubious says:

      “ For me it’s just a slightly nicer environment to exercise a bodily function”

      In the spirit of unbundling, perhaps there’s a new business opportunity in there – don’t just have the option of lounge access at the airport, for a fee (lower than the cost of lounge access) provide business-class quality toilets.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    Lots of wailing; but more choice is always good (and if someone else is paying for your ticket how much can you complain anyway). Looking at it another way. Of course it depends on the price differences (and the market will always ultimately determine the price). We travel mainly as a group of 4. If someone came up to me in Doha and said …” if you sit in the terminal/starbucks/whatever for the next 3 hours rather than Al Mourjan then we will give you this £1200 (or more!) wad of cash right now,” I’m taking the cash every time.

    • Harry T says:

      The issue is that they will charge the same for their sale fares that they always do, but they’ve enhanced away your lounge access and free seat selection. I will be much less likely to book an exEU with them now. Especially as flying direct is safer and less likely to go IRROPS, in the era of covid.

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        “The issue is that they will charge the same for their sale fares that they always do”

        Maybe, maybe not … again ultimately the market will decide. If lack of lounge access (and the greater attraction of direct) moves the needle and fewer people want the sale fares then they will indeed be cheaper.

      • Lady London says:

        +1

  • Ali B says:

    Apparently the moderator does not allow me to use the word “dreary” when referring to many business class lounges and the people within. I deeply regret any offence caused to the dreary 😂😂😂

  • Frankie says:

    Am I reading correctly that if you were to buy the classic fare and were BA silver you’d still be able to use a lounge in Doha? And also (for example) Copenhagen on departure and Bangkok on return? If so which lounges?

    • Rob says:

      It isn’t clear. You can definitely use A lounge in Doha. Whether you get to use the main Al Mourjan one or one of the rubbish ones, used by Priority Pass or for economy passengers with status, is a different question.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        The worst bit about DOH is those crappy lounges.

        I understand you don’t want it to be as grand as the real thing but those Oryx lounges are dire.

  • Matty says:

    I’m guessing that you won’t be able to pay for entry into the Al Sawfa lounge on one of these tickets either?

    I know you could pay on the door of the Al Sawfa lounge if holding a business class ticket, effectively upgrading from the Al Mourjan lounge. But if you’ve no access to that then you’ll have no access to the other.

    • Lady London says:

      Yes I believe Qatar blocks you even from paying, for Al Safwa at least, if you’re not travellingbin a sufficiently high class on your paid ticket.

  • John W says:

    This is really disappointing. I was considering booking Qatar my favourite airline for an Xmas break . The fare I was following is now classic without lounge access . When we travel , want an experience from check in. We have had fantastic travel with Qatar . Do not see what Qatar is going to gain other than loose repeat customers who are looking at Emirates instead

    • John W says:

      The fare I am following is now £1000 more for seat selection and lounge whereas that was all included days ago for £2000 ? . What are Qatar Airways doing ???

  • Clive says:

    YHBU is stating that those who have a booking in R Class prior to the change are now denied lounge access.

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