Every now and then, airlines make a blunder that opens a loophole passengers joyously exploit. Remember those rock bottom priced Cathay Pacific first class fares briefly on sale early last year? This isn’t quite as good, but Qatar Airways’ current free change and rebooking policy, which allows you 5,000 miles of wriggle room, has got plenty of attention. The good news is the policy is still running. The bad news is conditions have tightened – slightly.
A very generous policy with a lot of wriggle room
Last week, Simple Flying reported on Qatar Airway’s 5,000-mile ‘promotion‘. It is a very generous policy that allowed passengers to change their itinerary, adding as much as 5,000 miles to the distance traveled. As our report noted, that opens up a lot of places to go to.
If you were originally ticketed to fly Manila to New Delhi, you could change that to say, Singapore to Moscow. For free!
Bargain hunters zeroed in on the cheapest sectors, book, pay, and then promptly changed origin and destination airports, flying further, and importantly, flying on what’s usually far pricier sectors.
It was quite the loophole, and reportedly, plenty of people piled in. But word leaks out or, in this case, floods out, and Qatar Airways has moved to tighten conditions.
Still generous but some tightening of conditions
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not the free for all it was. This is the new policy according to Qatar Airways;
“You can change your travel date or destination free of charge, as often as you need, for travel until 31 December 2020. You can change your origin to another city within the same country or any other destination we fly to within a 5,000-mile radius of your original destination.”
But the airline has closed off a few loopholes. Key amongst those is a 14 day wait period to make a change after paying for your original ticket. You cannot call up to make the change two minutes after making the original booking, as some people were doing.
Second, the new flight you want to change to must have availability in the same booking class as what you were originally ticketed in. If you were planning on Qsuiting it, there are at least three business class booking classes. In economy class, there are over a dozen booking classes.
Cannot transfer off a fifth freedom route
Third, if your original itinerary includes a fifth freedom route, you can’t re-route off it. So if, for example, you were flying Canberra-Sydney-Doha-Frankfurt, you cannot opt-out of the fifth freedom Canberra-Sydney leg. But you can still change your destination (Frankfurt) to anywhere within 5,000 miles of that destination. You could, for example, change your destination to Chicago because it is within 5,000 miles of Frankfurt.
While the modified Qatar Airways change and rebooking policy isn’t quite as generous as it was, it is still a very liberal policy.
The Doha based airline is carving out quite a niche for itself these days. It’s still operating a half-decent schedule to most of its destinations, you can transit through Doha, there is a great in-flight product, and the refund and change policies are generous.
It is 5,000 miles away from what many of its competitors are doing.