As we tentatively look ahead to the prospect of more quarantine free travel in 2022, and the recent return of Qatar and the UAE to the UK’s Amber Travel List, we look into the changes Qatar Airways has made to its discounted Business Class airfares from New Zealand to the UK and Europe.
In our article, Does choosing a discounted Business Class airfare mean missing out?, we canvased some of the history of the different discounted airfares that airlines were offering at the time. Qatar Airways made an aggressive play for the New Zealand travellers Business Class dollar and the launch of its Qsuite was a significant competitive move. Once Qatar Airways had cemented its position in the New Zealand market, we saw its prices drift upwards towards that of its main competitors in the Premium Business Class space.
To find the cheapest Qatar Airways Business Class airfares for Fine Travel clients we were hunting for the increasing elusive “R Class” booking class. This booking class had the benefits of the more expensive Business Class airfares, without the higher price tag. In theory, when we wrote about planning ahead for the cheapest Business Class airfares, the expectation was that the greatest number of airfares at the R Class level would be available. Due to its popularity though, Qatar Airways started to release more “I Class” airfares and fewer R Class airfares. The result was that although discounted Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe were available, fewer were being sold as Qatar Airways appeared to try and align its pricing with the likes of Emirates and Singapore Airlines (rather than China Southern and Korean Air).
Since this article was published Qatar Airways has reversed the removal of lounge access for their R Class fares. Lounge access is now included again.
Since Qatar Airways returned to New Zealand skies (via Australia) it has taken the opportunity to adjust the benefits attached to R Class by removing lounge access and the ability to select a seat in advance of check-in. These benefits now only apply to I Class airfares and above. So what does this mean for Fine Travel clients? Depending on the price difference, booking the more expensive airfare with the full Business Class benefits may be the easy solution. In one example we looked into the difference between the two booking classes was only $177. There are also options to purchase lounge access so if you do find waiting in the departure lounge to be too much, you have that flexibility (One World Members may also be able to rely on a higher tier level for complimentary lounge access).
Overall these adjustments by Qatar Airways reflect a continuation of a move from their aggressive entry into the New Zealand market, and then subsequently adjusting the prices and Business Class benefits to be in line with the quality product they offer. Having just won Airline of the Year 2021 by AirlineRatings Qatar Airways will no doubt feel justified in its moves.