British Airways Cancels Flights To Doha – Fantastic News For Business Class Flyers!

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UPDATE: Qatar Airways has made some changes to its schedules (see here) which affects some of the advice in this post – please read both posts before making any decisions.

British Airways has announced that it is cancelling its flights between London and Doha for a period of 3 months from the end of March and, while this may not be the best news for flyers booked into World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) it’s nothing short of fantastic news if you’re booked to fly in Business Class.

Before you think that I’ve gone mad (how can flight cancellations be a good thing for flyers?) I should point out that British Airways has entered into a re-protection agreement with Qatar Airways which means that BA flyers will be re-accommodated on Qatar Airways flights.

Now are you starting to see why this news is so good? 🙂

Last summer when British Airways faced one of its customary strikes it wet-leased a number of Qatar Airways A320 aircraft to cover some of its short-haul routes while the strike was on.

These were definitely the short-haul aircraft to fly as they came with Qatar Airways crews (complete with Qatar Airways service) and, more importantly, Qatar Airways Business Class cabins with lie flat beds.

a row of seats on an airplaneQatar Airways A320 Business Class

You had hit the short-haul jackpot if you found yourself booked into Business Class on one of these aircraft.

If you’re booked to fly to fly to/from Doha in British Airways Business Class in the next few months the news I’m writing about today is even better.

The British Airways Cancellations

British Airways is cancelling flights BA123/122 between London and Doha from 25/26 March to 1 July 2018.

This is the schedule those flights were originally set to fly:

BA123 LHR 21:00 – 06:45+1 day DOH
BA122 DOH 08:40 – 13:15 LHR

What British Airways Is Doing For Flyers

For tickets issued by 27 February 2018 British Airways is authorising agents to rebook flyers on one of two daily Qatar Airways flights:

QR6 LHR 08:00 – 17:50 DOH (787 service)
QR16 LHR 08:40 – 13:15 DOH (A350-900 service)**

QR15 DOH 21:00 – 06:45+1 day LHR (A350-900 service)**
QR5 DOH 08:40 – 13:15 LHR (787 service)

**These flights are operated by the new A350-1000 through 30 April 2018 which offers Qsuites Business Class

These are the instructions being given to agents:

  1. Rebook into lowest class in the same cabin either 3 days before or up to 3 days after the original travel date
  2. Z class Redemptions (these are Avios redemptions) MUST be rebooked into QR’s Business cabin in the lowest class available. Ticket will need to be requoted with Avios differential refunded.
  3. World Traveller Plus customers must be rebooked into Economy cabin lowest class available. Advise customers to claim a downgrade refund post travel OR follow BA’s guideline for Cabin Closures
  4. Exception for F and A class customers (First Class flyers) – rebook onto any BA*QR service between LHR and DOH, lowest available in the First class cabin
  5. For any Business or Economy cabin customers with an onward connection, please offer the above designated services first but if these do not connect then you may rebook onto a more suitable BA*QR (QR) LHR-DOH-LHR service. Rebook into lowest class in the same cabin either 3 days before or up to 3 days after the original travel date.

The first thing to note is that Premium Economy passengers are getting a raw deal here. Qatar Airways doesn’t offer a Premium Economy cabin so passengers booked into PE are being re-accomodated in Economy Class.

The second thing to note is that British Airways is allowing First Class passengers to be rebooked on to any Qatar Airways service. This isn’t BA being gracious, it’s because neither of the two Qatar Airways flights singled out to re-accommodate passengers offers a First Class cabin.

What BA Flyers Are Swapping And What They’re Swapping It For

a plane flying in the skyImage courtesy of Mark Harkin via Flickr

British Airways usually operates the London – Doha route with a 777 aircraft offering the following cabins:

  • 17 First Class seats
  • 48 Business Class (Club World) seats
  • 24 Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) seats
  • 127 Economy Class (World Traveller) seats

This is not a good aircraft to fly on.

  • British Airways First Class is no better than a good Business Class product (and it’s not even as good as the best Business Class products)
  • Business Class is antiquated and so densely packed together that the cabin is nicknamed the “flying dormitory”
  • Economy Class seats offer just 31″ of leg room and 17.5″ of seat width.

The two aircraft types that most British Airways flyers will now find themselves flying are the Qatar Airways 787 Dreamliner and the Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900 (flights QR15/16 offer the A350-1000 with Qsuites right now but, at the time of writing, this aircraft in only scheduled to fly this route through 30 April 2018).

In Business Class both offer a truly excellent seat…..

a seat with a pillow and a computer on the back of itQatar Airways 787 Business Class

….and, from my experience, the level of service is considerably higher than what you’ll get on British Airways.

Link to my review of Qatar Airways 787 Business Class

In Economy Class the Dreamliner seats don’t offer any more space than the seats you’ll find on BA’s 777s but, just as with Business Class, you should find that the level of service is a step up from what is usually offered by British Airways.

On the Airbus A350 (the aircraft I’d choose if I was flying in Economy Class) some seats offer an inch of more legroom that you’ll get on BA’s 777s and all seats offer more space to either side as they’re 18″ wide.

rows of seats in an airplaneQatar Airways Economy Class – Image Qatar Airways

That extra half-inch may not seem like much but, having flown in a 17.5″ seat and an 18″ seat back to back, I can tell you that the extra space is noticeable.

A Special Note If You’re Booked Into First Class

I’ve flown Qatar Airways First Class between Doha and Paris and, as much as the airline’s Business Class delights, I found that the First Class disappoints.

As a First Class product I didn’t think it offered anything special or out of the ordinary and, if I’m totally honest, I wondered if I should have saved some miles and flown in Business Class instead.

So, with that in mind, this is what I would suggest BA First Class flyers consider:

British Airways says that it is prepared to book First Class passengers on to any Qatar Airways flight between London and Doha……so why not take them up on that offer.

Ask if you can be booked into Business Class on QR8/QR7 (those flights specifically) and ask for a discount for taking the downgrade (this advice excludes flights between 31 Mach and 1 May 2018).

If BA is willing to accommodate that request (and if the discount is good enough) you may have just got yourself the best deal of the lot.

QR8/QR7 are flights operated by a Qatar Airways 777 aircraft and what’s this particular aircraft special is that it offers the new Qatar Airways Qsuite Business Class cabin (more info here).

a table with a tv and a screen on itQatar Airways Qsuite Business Class

a woman sitting in a chair in an airplaneQatar Airways Qsuite Business Class

You may not get £100/bottle champagne if you downgrade to the Qatar Airways Qsuite but you’ll be getting the best Business Class seat in the world – there is nothing that any other commercial airline offers that can compete with it.

Clearly schedules are subject to change so before you call BA up to ask for the downgrade make sure that the Qsuite is actually being offered on the days you’re flying.

Are You Booked In Business Class With A Connecting Flight?

If you are catching a connection onward from Doha (or London) you may be able to do something similar to what I’ve suggested First Class flyers do.

BA says the following:

For any Business or Economy cabin customers with an onward connection, please offer the above designated services first but if these do not connect then you may rebook onto a more suitable BA*QR (QR) LHR-DOH-LHR service. Rebook into lowest class in the same cabin either 3 days before or up to 3 days after the original travel date

If there is any way you can argue that the Qatar Airways flights BA is offering to accommodate you on don’t give you enough time to connect then make that argument and try to get booked on QR8/QR7 where you’ll have the joys of the Qatar Airways Qsuite.

Bottom Line

While the flight cancellations are definitely bad news for Premium Economy Flyers this is unquestionably great news for those booked into Business Class. If all you have ever know in BA Club World the Qatar Airways seats and service should blow you away (yes, they’re that much better). If you’re booked into Economy Class I would definitely try to get re-accommodated on to the A350 if the timings work for you as the extra seat width will be welcome.

Any readers out there fortunate enough to be getting a bump to Qatar Business Class?