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Last Thursday, we discovered that Qatar Airways had introduced one of the most amazing cancellations/rebooking policies most of us have ever seen which opened up a wealth of possibilities for anyone willing to book speculative travel for later this year. Within 24 hours of this policy being confirmed, we started to see the airline taking measures to limit how easy this policy is to game with a number of rule changes and, over the weekend, it looks like the airline went even further.
Late on Friday, Qatar Airways introduced two amendments to its incredible cancellation/rebooking policy:
- Voluntary date and routing changes can only be made 14 (or more) days after a booking was first made.
- Rebookings can only be made into the same booking class as was first booked (if you booked a deeply discounted Business Class fare – R class – any new routing would have to have R-class fare availability for a rebooking to be possible)
Point 1 isn’t really an issue but point 2 will probably stop a lot of customers from finding super-cheap Business Class fares which they then can change to considerably more expensive Business Class fares 14 days later.
Still, none of this is too drastic or dramatic and, all other things being equal, this should still leave plenty of opportunities to make the most of the great cancellation/rebooking policy…but all other things may not be equal.
Just before I wrote Thursday’s post on the new Qatar Airways cancellation/rebooking policy, I checked the Business Class fares on a number of routes that are well known to be a gold mine for great Qatar Airways deals. Sure enough, as I expected, it was easy to find Business Class fares between the Nordic Countries and various cities in Asia for under $1,600 for travel from September onwards. The best deals were for travel to cities like Singapore, Bangkok, and Phuket, but there were good fares to Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong too…but not any more.
Over the weekend something changed and a quick search using Google Flights showed that most of these great fares had suddenly disappeared. Where fares had been as low as $1,483 for roundtrip travel, these are the best Qatar Airways fares on offer for the same destinations now:
- Oslo – Bangkok – $1,954
- Stockholm – Singapore – $1,992
- Stockholm – Hong Kong – $1,939
- Oslo – Beijing – $2,571
The one route on which I can still see a good fare is for travel between Helsinki and Shanghai where a roundtrip Business Class booking can still cost as little as $1,583.
Based on the rules that I checked on Thursday, all of the great Qatar Airways fares I had spotted (for travel from the Nordic and elsewhere) were scheduled to be available through 31 May but, from what I’ve seen, it looks like Qatar Airways has been purging a lot of the the “R Class” Business Class fares from its inventory over the weekend and just leaving the more expensive I Class, C Class and D Class fares in place. (VFTW noticed that the great USA – Kiev fare disappeared over the weekend too)
This is less of an issue now that rebookings have to be made into the same fare class as the class that was originally booked, but it will still make it a lot harder for travelers to book some of the more exceptional deals (e.g book the R-fare between Helsinki and Shanghai and exchange it for an R-fare between Helsinki and Sydney), and it also means that all the travelers who have no interest in making the most of the cancellation/rebooking policy and just want a great deal, will find it a lot harder to book the kinds of cheap fares that were available just a few days ago.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Qatar Airways knew what it was doing when it unveiled its new cancellation/rebooking policy and that the airline fully expected a small number of travelers to take advantage of the airline’s generosity. However, based on what we have been seeing over the weekend, it may be that the airline is having second thoughts and is now keen to limit the scope to which its policy can be gamed without having to retract the whole policy.