At the moment, most airlines are being more generous in allowing free changes. They need to, in order to encourage customers to continue booking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some airlines are offering to waive change fees once, for example, while still charging any fare difference that may apply. Emirates is going a step further, allowing passengers to rebook any time within the next two years, and even allowing passengers to change their destination for free. (And then there are some airlines, such as Qantas, that are no longer offering any additional flexibility for new bookings.)
But Qatar Airways’ new rebooking policy would have to be the most generous we’ve ever seen. Until 30 September 2020, Qatar Airways is allowing passengers to change their travel dates or destination for free. No fare difference applies, and the new destination can be anywhere within 5,000 miles (8,046km) of the original destination!
Here is the new Qatar Airways rebooking policy:
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.
Call any of our offices or contact centres to rebook.
Qatar Airways is also giving customers the option to extend the validity of their ticket for up to 2 years, swap the ticket value for Qmiles (at a rate of 100 Qmiles for every USD1), or get a voucher valid for 2 years with 10% extra value. And if Qatar Airways cancels the flight, you’ll be entitled to a full refund.
Qatar Airways is one of very few global airlines that has retained a large portion of its normal flight schedules throughout the pandemic. It isn’t flying its full pre-COVID schedule, but many destinations have nonetheless been retained. Perhaps Qatar Airways can afford to be a bit more generous than other airlines in offering refunds for cancelled flights because it is simply cancelling fewer flights.
In any case, the new Qatar Airways rebooking policy, valid for tickets issued until 30 September 2020, creates some interesting opportunities. For example, one AFF member managed to book a Business class ticket from Istanbul to Singapore and then change it to Istanbul-Sydney at no extra cost.
My bro is getting married in CBR in November and my aged auntie lives in IST. I am always on the hunt for cheap fares for her and searched all the J pairs between IST and <5000 miles from Sydney. SIN turned out to be the cheapest for $2550. I booked it for her (R) and then after some kerfuffle (Turkish office staff unsurprisingly unhelpful) I got through quickly (2 mins) to the Polish call center and the guy changed the destination no fuss to SYD, (D) on the outbound and (I) on the inbound. So damn good.
Unfortunately, it seems that voluntarily rebooking into a higher fare class is no longer possible following a change to the terms & conditions on Sunday night. But there is still plenty of flexibility.
Offer terms & conditions: The finer details
There are a few conditions. When rerouting, your new ticket needs to depart from the same country of origin and the new destination must be within a 5,000 mile radius of the original destination. That provides a lot of options! For example, if you booked a ticket from Sydney to London (via Doha), you could rebook from anywhere in Australia to any Qatar Airways destination within 5,000 miles of London. That covers all of Europe, the Middle East, central Asia, the east coast of the United States and much of Africa:
Qatar Airways does operate a few fifth freedom routes, such as São Paulo-Buenos Aires and Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City. Bookings on fifth-freedom routes that don’t pass through Doha are specifically excluded from this offer.
There is also a new condition that voluntary changes (i.e. where Qatar Airways has not cancelled the original flight) can only be made within 14 days of booking, and the new flights must be in the same fare class. Here’s what the T&Cs say:
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.
Rerouting following operational disruption (i.e. flight cancellation) is possible free of charge on Qatar Airways operated flights only from the same country of origin and/or within a 5,000 (five thousand) mile radius from the original destination booking.
The other main catch is that rebooking is only possible until 30 September 2020, for travel until 31 December 2020. It is still very much uncertain whether Australia’s international borders will be re-opened by the end of this year. But if it turns out that you’re unable to travel during 2020 after all, you could still extend the validity of your ticket or request a voucher.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New rebooking policy – 5,000 mile flight radius