Changi Airport News Oneworld

No more lounge access or seat selection on Qatar Airways business awards

Qatar Airways Business Class award tickets will no longer get you an invite to the carrier's own lounges, including the new Singapore Premium lounge.

What are your alternatives, with and without status?
Good news! Qatar Airways has confirmed to Executive Traveller that its initial guide distributed to travel agents about the upcoming change was not correct, and that passengers booking Business Class award tickets “will receive the same benefits as before, including complimentary lounge access and seat allocation”.

That’s great news for our readers redeeming on the Middle East carrier to and from Singapore, as it means a Business Class award redemption from Singapore remains your ‘golden ticket’ into one of Changi’s finest new lounges for some pre flight à la carte dining.

Earlier this month Qatar Airways announced it was ‘unbundling’ Business Class fares with the introduction of a new bare bones ‘Classic’ option, offering the cheapest fares but forgoing some features usually integral with the experience – lounge access during your journey and pre-departure seat selection.

Now when you search for Qatar Airways cash fares in Business Class, the ‘Classic’ fare is available to those who don’t mind doing without these perks, but still want the flat-bed experience with the usual on-board service.

You have to be paying attention (our emphasis!)

In return you pay a lower fare (though not necessarily lower than other airline alternatives on the same route!). For example on a return trip from from Singapore to London in September 2021, we found the following Business Class fares available:

  • Classic: S$3,453
  • Comfort: S$4,209
  • Elite: S$10,893

As you can see the new ‘Classic’ fare is saving you at least S$756 per person, however there will be no luxury of pre-flight seat selection or lounge access, including during your transits in Doha.

Awards will be treated the same way

The worst part of this news is that it’s now been reported that Qatar Airways will assign any award bookings in the Business Class cabin to the new Business Class ‘Classic’ fare code (R).

This will prevent access to any of the airline’s worldwide lounges, including those in Doha, contract lounges and unfortunately also the new Premium Lounge in Singapore.

This is by far our favourite option at Changi, meeting First Class standards in many respects including a choice of Champagne, a Martini Bar, spacious shower suites and à la carte dining.

Ironically, those on Business Class award tickets with other oneworld carriers like British Airways, Qantas and Malaysia Airlines, even those redeemed with Qmiles, will still be able to access Qatar’s Singapore Lounge!

Not all is lost however, since even on a ‘Classic’ Business Class fare code you will still be able to access partner oneworld lounges.

At Changi (in normal times) that means the British Airways Singapore Lounge and the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge will remain available.

Qatar Business Class customers will still be welcomed at oneworld lounges, including the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge, once it re-opens. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

These lounges do not restrict access for Business Class passengers flying on other carriers by fare code.

Similarly if you’re taking a Qatar Airways flight from Bangkok (where fares are usually cheaper and awards often easier to come by), you’ll be able to use the Cathay Pacific and JAL lounges there before your flight, but not the excellent Qatar Premium Lounge.

Will this change? Executive Traveller reports that Qatar Airways may be working to prevent ‘Classic’ Business Class ticket holders (and therefore award bookings) from accessing oneworld partner lounges too.

“The airline advises that access restrictions for Business Class Classic passengers visiting lounges operated by other Oneworld airlines will be “gradually implemented”.

“In the short term, this means your Qatar Airways boarding pass may still sneak you into a lounge operated by another airline under what are currently the standard Oneworld alliance rules, but that Qatar Airways is working with its partners to restrict this.”

That’s bad news, with many of these facilities (including all of them in Singapore) still closed due to COVID-19. By the time they reopen, it’s possible that these Classic fares and award tickets in Qatar Airways Business Class will be ‘red stamped’ from oneworld partner facilities, leaving you searching for a Priority Pass alternative.

In Doha itself, lounge access will be payable at the Business Class, First Class or Al Mourjan lounges for those on award tickets and ‘Classic’ fares:

  • Business Class Lounge: 250 QAR (S$92)
  • First Class Lounge: 300 QAR (S$111)
  • Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge: 450 QAR (S$166)
  • Al Safwa First Class Lounge: 600 QAR (S$221)
You can buy your way in to one of Qatar’s lounges in Doha when flying on an award ticket, including the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge (pictured) for around S$166 per passenger. (Photo: Qatar Airways)

Alternatively, the Al Maha lounge is a (fairly basic) Priority Pass option, including shower facilities, with a single visit good for a four-hour stay.

Status will help

If you’re a Qatar Airways Privilege Club member with premium status, there are some benefits you’ll still enjoy even on a ‘Classic’ Business Class fare or Business Class award ticket:

  • QRPC Silver: Free seat selection, free access to the Business Class lounge in Doha
  • QRPC Gold: Free seat selection, free access to the Business Class lounge (plus one guest) in Doha
  • QRPC Platinum: Free seat selection, free access to the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge (plus two guests) or Al Safwa First Class lounge (plus two guests) in Doha
QRPC Platinum members on Business Class awards will still be able to use the Al Safwa First Class lounge in Doha during their transit, despite (bizarrely) being denied access to the Singapore Premium Lounge, for example. (Photo: Qatar Airways)

There are also additional benefits for those holding oneworld status with a different airline, such as British Airways or Cathay Pacific:

  • oneworld Sapphire: Free seat selection, free access to the Business Class lounge in Doha
  • oneworld Emerald: Free seat selection, free access to the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge (plus one guest) or First Class lounge (plus one guest) in Doha

oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status holders will also be able to invite one guest into any oneworld operated lounge when flying Qatar Airways on a ‘Classic’ or award Business Class flight, the standard alliance benefit (for now!).

Summary

Qatar Airways already had a relatively complicated lounge access policy, denying those who had upgraded their tickets to Business Class using Qmiles from entry and operating a mishmash of facilities and policies at its Doha hub, sufficient to confuse even the most seasoned travellers.

This latest move will restrict many of our readers redeeming into the airline’s (excellent) Business Class cabins, including the Qsuite, from accessing lounge facilities during their journey.

For 99% of travellers, f​​​​​​lying with Qatar Airways means a forced transit in Doha, so you’re not only losing some of the best lounge access at the start of your journey, but also during your layover, unless you’re willing to pay.

With oneworld lounges to fall back on, all is not lost, though there’s a worrying intention to further restrict access even to these facilities in future.

If you have sufficient Qatar or oneworld status, the good news is that you can still select your seats in advance, and use some lounges in Doha and elsewhere on the network in accordance with your usual alliance benefits.

Qatar Airways has excellent on-board products, including the Qsuite, but its lounge policy is all over the place. (Photo: Qatar Airways)

Some Doha transits when flying with Qatar can be 3 or 4 hours long (any more than that and we strongly recommend the Oryx Transit Hotel anyway, though it doesn’t come cheap).

To us, the lounge is a key differentiator in the overall Business Class experience, especially the airline’s excellent Premium lounges in London, Bangkok and now Singapore. This new ‘unbundling’ of fares including award tickets is an unfortunate development, which will certainly make us think twice about choosing Qatar Airways in future.

Hat-tips: Executive Traveller, The High Life, FlyerTalk community

(Cover Photo: Qatar Airways)

4 comments

  1. I am still confused about access to QR lounges for award business after reading all articles. Please could you advise on the TRUE situation
    Many thanks
    Bill

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: