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Qatar’s incredible new rebooking policy: Is it too good to be true?

Qatar Airways announced a new rebooking policy on May 14 — dubbed “Travel with Confidence” — that covers flights through Dec. 31, 2020, that are booked by Sept. 30, 2020. These changes give customers more flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak, including an ultra-generous date and destination rebooking policy, the ability to convert travel credits to Qmiles and other interesting options.

This updated rebooking policy states that Qatar Airways flyers can make “unlimited” changes to their itineraries, including changing their flight destination to anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius of their original destination. Even better? You can make these changes voluntarily (your flight doesn’t need to be canceled) and a fare difference doesn’t apply.

This is the most generous coronavirus change policy we’ve ever seen, especially when compared to the Big 3 domestic U.S. carriers. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the ins-and-outs of Qatar’s awesome new change options and help you decide what change option is best for you.

A closer look at Qatar’s change policy

As reported by One Mile at a Time, these changes come just days after Qatar Airways announced that it plans to start ramping back up its international service, with the airline serving 52 international destinations by the end of May and 80 by the end of June. This makes it clear that Qatar wants to start its return to normalcy, but has left customers wondering what happens if their travel is disrupted in the case of continued border closures, flight cancellations and — frankly — general concerns around the safety of future travel.

 

This new booking policy looks like an attempt to squash these fears and encourage future flight bookings, giving Qatar Airways immediate cash-flow. Here’s a look at all of the changes Qatar has announced so far. Again, these policies apply to bookings made by Sept. 30 for travel departing by Dec. 31.

 

  • Canceled flights are eligible for a full refund to the original form of payment regardless of the ticket’s booking class.
  • The value of canceled tickets will be valid for two years, giving you extra time to rebook a future trip when you think it’s safe.
  • You’re eligible for a 10% bonus if you exchange your ticket for future flight credit instead of a refund, so a $1,000 refund becomes a $1,100 flight voucher towards future credit.
  • You can exchange your ticket for Qmiles at a rate of 100 Qmiles per U.S. dollar, effectively letting you purchase miles at 1 cent each. Note that this is still 0.2 cents per mile higher than TPG’s valuation of 0.8 cents per point.
  • You can change the date of your flight, the origin airport (so long as it’s in the same country as originally booked) and the destination anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius of your original destination as many times as you’d like.
  • All of these are super-generous policies. In the case of the 10% bonus, a member could theoretically purchase a Qatar Airways ticket and immediately refund it for the bonus flight credit. However, there is some hassle involved with this and isn’t exactly ethical, so we don’t condone this practice.

In addition, the ability to convert a ticket’s value to Qmiles at 1 cent each is also interesting. These miles aren’t the most useful (or valuable) but could be worth considering if you have a very specific redemption in mind. We don’t recommend doing this without a plan though — “buying” miles without a plan leaves you open to a huge devaluation.

One last thing: this policy only applies to paid tickets on Qatar Airways flights, so tickets booked with miles are not eligible for these benefits.

The lowdown on Qatar’s new rebooking policy

The most intriguing part of Qatar’s new change policy is its rebooking policy. As discussed, you can rebook any ticket set to depart by the end of the year and change its dates, origin and destination airport. While you must depart from the same country, destinations can be changed to anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius of your original destination.

Better yet, the rebooking policy has made it clear that changes are not subject to any fees and apply to both voluntary and involuntary changes. However, travel must be completed by the end of 2020, so you can’t book a ticket for winter 2020 and rebook into summer 2021. This limits some of the policy’s usefulness as some countries may keep their borders closed through 2020 and it simply may not be safe to travel by the end of the year.

On the bright side, there’s nothing stopping you from rebooking a ticket and requesting a flight credit (with a 10% bonus) if you decide to not take the trip. Just keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that Qatar Airways will make it through this travel downturn, so your flight credit could be deemed worthless if the airline did go under.

Maximizing this change policy

Under this policy, you could book a ticket from New York-JFK to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) via Doha (DOH) and change it to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Sydney (SYD) via Doha for no additional charge. Plus, you could change the flight to any date before the end of the year, letting you avoid higher prices during the holidays.

Qatar Airways runs a handful of fifth freedom routes too, so you could change something like Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh (PNH) to Ho Chi Minh to Doha as the countries are less than 5,000 miles apart.

Since this policy covers voluntary changes, you could — in theory — use it to score cheap business class flights in Qatar Qsuite — just find a cheap route that departs from your home country and change it to the date and destination you’d like to book.

Is this policy too good to be true?

On paper, this rebooking policy is awesome. It provides Qatar Airways’ customers with the utmost flexibility, letting customers change their travel plans for any reason. However, the airline’s old policy only allowed customers to change their destination, leaving many to wonder if this change was a typo.

This doesn’t seem to be the case, though. The policy is cut-and-clear on Qatar’s recently-published passenger guidelines document (warning: PDF link) and nowhere in the document does it say that this policy only applies to those whose travel has been involuntarily disrupted. Likewise, this rebooking policy has been posted on the airlines’ coronavirus updates page.

On the other hand, we’ve seen reports that phone agents have advised some customers that this rebooking policy only applies to tickets that were involuntarily disturbed. This goes against the updated policy, leading us to believe this interaction was the result of a misinformed phone agent — something that’s understandable given the policy was only published this morning.

With that in mind, it may be worth waiting a couple of days to change a flight until agents are better informed of the policy and we have more data points. Likewise, there’s still a slight chance that this ultra-generous policy is a mistake on Qatar’s end and could be subject to future changes.

Which change option is best for you?

The best option for you depends on if you see travel recovering in 2020. If you already have a flight booked and think that it will be safe to travel at the end of the year, it may be in your best interest to rebook your flight at the end of the year and assess the situation. If things don’t recover, request a flight credit and book for 2021.

If your flight was involuntarily disrupted, think of how likely you will be to travel on Qatar Airways. If you’re a Qatar Airways loyalist, it may be worth rebooking your flight or opting for a flight credit with a 10% bonus. On the other hand, you may want to opt for a refund if you don’t see yourself traveling on Qatar in the future or if you don’t have a positive outlook for the future of the airline.

The only option we recommend you stay away from is converting a ticket to Qmiles. Again, these miles only have limited usefulness and consistently rank as some of TPG’s least valuable miles.

Do your research and see what option is best for you. There’s no need to make a decision now either — the policy is set to be in place until Sept. 30, so you have time to feel out the situation and make future plans as you see fit.

Bottom line

It’s great to see Qatar Airways offer flexible change and cancellation options to its customers. The coronavirus outbreak has brought a ton of uncertainty to the travel world, and customers are worried about future travel plans. Offering these options means that Qatar is telling its customers they can travel when and where they want, regardless of what was originally booked.

That said, the airline’s rebooking policy almost seems too generous. While you could book a cheap ticket only to change it later, do this at your own risk and note that – if the policy is later changed — you could be stuck with a flight credit.

Featured photo by Jordan Tan/Shutterstock.

Source: The Points Guy

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