“Travel with Confidence” campaign gives you free rebooking
So the miles and travel community went abuzz last week because Qatar Airways launched a new campaign “Travel with Confidence“, boasting free rebooking of tickets bought from now till 30 September 2020, for travel on or before 31 December 2020.
The ‘promotion’ first started off affording customers maximum flexibility for tickets bought between now till 30 Sep, for travel commencing on or before 31 Dec 2020.
Qatar is offering practically all kinds of flexibility you can imagine:
- Hold your ticket: You can hold your ticket for a maximum of two years from the time you bought the ticket,
- Swap for miles: You can swap the value of the ticket for Qmiles, at a rate of USD1 = 100 Qmiles. Effectively, you are paying 1 US cent per mile.
- Credit voucher: You can exchange the value of the ticket in the form of credit, with a 10% bonus.
- Rebook your flight to a different destination: Rebook another flight to a different destination within 5,000 miles radius with no change fees or fare difference.
Customers are also offered a refund option, only if their flights get cancelled subsequently.
The rebooking condition is the one that created the buzz, given the incredulously generous conditions. They are so generous, Qatar Airways have tightened the conditions twice over the weekend. The basic terms as below:
- As of last Friday (15 May), Qatar originally allowed customers to rebook their flights to a destination anywhere within 5,000 miles of the original destination booked.
- No change fees, no fare difference, no surcharges whatsoever required, even for taxes (hint: change to LHR)
Of course you can count on the community to find loopholes in the system. Of which, the first to be plugged are the fifth freedom flights — the early birds in this promotion had gamed the system, swapping out $900 business class return fares between SGN and PNH for a HAN-DOH-AKL-DOH-HAN routing, all in the comfort of Qsuites.
What are fifth freedom flights?
Fifth freedom flights are flights that airlines operate entirely outside of their countries (e.g. Country A’s airline operates from Country A to Country B to Country C, and the leg between Country B & C is considered a fifth freedom flight).
In Qatar’s case, they operate three fifth freedom flights: Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City; São Paulo to Buenos Aires; Djibouti to Mogadishu.
Now, 5,000 miles is an extremely generous change policy – look at the map below and you will realise that 5,000 miles can get you a lot of leverage:
Qatar slaps on additional conditions
So obviously, anything that’s too good to be true usually don’t last too long.
Over the weekend, Qatar Airways added on two additional conditions:
Fifth freedom flights are excluded from this ‘promotion’, so only flights that pass through DOH will be eligible for the free changes. So if you have booked a SGN to PNH and want to swap it for a SGN to LHR flight, you are out of luck.
Secondly, Qatar has slapped on a 14-day waiting period before any voluntary change can be made (i.e. the flight is not cancelled, but you feel like changing it).
On top of this time-out, while you can still make a free change of your destination (origin cannot be changed) to anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius, Qatar will require changes to be made in the same booking class. If space is not available within the same booking class, you will need to pay the fare and tax difference.
The official wording is below:
Rerouting for voluntary purposes (i.e. where there has been no flight disruption) is possible 14 (fourteen) days after making the booking. New flights must be booked in the same booking class (RBD), be operated by Qatar Airways and can be changed within the same country of origin and/or within a 5,000 (five thousand) mile radius from the original destination booking. If the same booking class is not available, a fare and taxes difference may apply.Qatar Airways terms & conditions, retrieved 18 May
If you ask me, this 14-day waiting period is rather dangerous. Given how fluid the situation is, the low booking classes that you have secured now may be gone by the time the two-week window is up, and any change will result in hefty fare and tax differences.
While this is admittedly a very good campaign with incredibly generous policies, the weekend has shown that Qatar Airways will – and can – walk back on its policies.
Personally I won’t hold my breath and try to take a gamble on this ‘promotion’ (e.g. buying a $2,000 business class fare out of Manila to Europe, and trying to change it to a US destination two weeks later). If anything, I’m willing to bet on Qatar further tweaking the terms of this campaign, including a narrowing of the 5,000-mile change radius.