Cheap Qsuite: Using Qatar’s new rebooking policy to score a huge discount

May 15, 2020

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Editor’s note: At TPG, we paused traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and federal governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

Yesterday we reported on Qatar Airways’ new rebooking policy that lets Qatar Airways passengers change their ticket date, destination and origin for all 2020 travel. In short, this policy lets passengers change the origin of their flight to anywhere within the original country of departure and the destination to anywhere within a 5,000-mile radius of the original destination with no fees or fare difference.

This is the most generous coronavirus change policy we’ve seen to date, and it left us wondering if the deal was too good to be true. After all, you could use this policy to buy a cheap ticket now — like a sub-$1,800 Philadelphia (PHL) to Kyiv (KBP) via Doha (DOH) round-trip ticket — and rebook to any destination you’d like during the holidays.

Now just one day after this rebooking policy was announced, we’re happy to report that it actually works. We’ve seen reports of successful date and destination changes around the internet, meaning that you can use the policy to score discounted tickets on just about any Qatar Airways route for late-2020 travel.

We’ll give you a look at how you can use this booking to score cheap tickets in Qatar Airways business class. But before that, let’s take a look at successful rebooking stories we’ve found around the internet.

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Successful Qatar Airways rebookings

The first successful rebooking we found was a reader submission to One Mile at a Time. According to the article, a reader was able to book a discounted fare from Philadelphia to Kiev via Doha and rebook to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Hong Kong (HKG) via Dhoa. This takes advantage of both the origin and destination change policies and saved the passenger thousands of dollars in the process.

We’ve also seen mixed reports on FlyerTalk, a major frequent flyer forum. Many users have reported success in changing their tickets, while some have reported being unable to make the change. We’re assuming that this was due to the policy being so new and that many phone representatives aren’t yet aware of the change.

In addition, a writer at frequent flyer blog Suite Smile has successfully rebooked a ticket as well, turning a short fifth-freedom route into a flight from East Asia to New Zealand. We’ll discuss this booking later in the article.

So from the looks of it, Qatar Airways is indeed honoring this deal, but you may want to wait a couple of days to make your own changes. This gives Qatar’s phone agents more time to familiarize themselves with the new rebooking policy, saving you time in the process.

Using Qatar Airways’ rebooking policy to your advantage

We want to preface this section with a word of caution. This rebooking policy was put into place to give those with Qatar Airways tickets more flexibility in a time where travel is uncertain. So while the terms do say that any ticket changed by Sept. 30 is eligible for this change, there’s always a chance the airline could pull this policy and restrict it to involuntary changes.

However, the terms are pretty cut-and-clear, and you’re not breaking the airline’s terms and conditions by making a change to a newly-booked ticket. As discussed in the last section, you may have trouble with this rebooking as the policy is just over one day old, and not all agents are informed of the policy.

In addition, note that booking travel for late-2020 comes with its risks. There’s no guarantee that the coronavirus outbreak will be contained by the end of the year, so you may be forced to cancel your ticket. If this is the case, you’ll be able to cancel for a flight voucher worth 110% of the value of your ticket. Cash refunds are only available to those whose travel is involuntarily disrupted (for example, route cancellations).

Further, the travel industry is on rocky financial ground right now with the TSA reporting record-low passenger loads. While we’re confident in the future of Qatar Airways, there’s no guarantee that the airline will survive the ongoing coronavirus travel downturn. Be aware that your tickets or travel credit could be rendered worthless if Qatar Airways went into bankruptcy or otherwise went insolvent.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at a few ways to maximize this change policy.

Related: Could the coronavirus end the decade-long U.S. airline expansion?

Travel from the U.S. West Coast to Asia for $1,767 in Qsuite

Qsuite seat (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
Qsuite seat. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

Kyiv, Ukraine is a great destination that’s rich with culture. Further, we’ve seen consistently cheap fares for Kyiv from both Philadelphia and New York City on Qatar Airways, with a stop in Doha each way. You can book a flight on this route for $1,767 through American Express’ International Airline Program at the time of writing this article.

JFK-KBP Qatar Price Amex

But say you prefer a vacation to Asia instead. In this case, you could book a ticket on this route and change the destination to anywhere within 5,000 miles of Kyiv. Some cities that fall into this zone include Hong Kong, Bangkok (BKK), and Phuket (HKT).

In addition, you can change the flight’s origin to anywhere within the U.S., meaning that you could change a flight departing from New York-JFK or Philadelphia to Qatar’s West Coast gateway in Los Angeles (LAX) or anywhere else in the U.S. Other Qatar gateways include Dallas (DFW) and Atlanta (ATL) amongst others, so you have plenty of choices.

All of Qatar’s U.S. routes feature the airline’s top-notch Qsuties business class product at the time of writing this article. Further, flights to Hong Kong and Phuket also feature this product, you can enjoy it for over 24 hours if you fly all the way from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. Just note that plane types are subject to change, so an equipment swap could put you in Qatar’s older business-class product (which is still pretty great).

(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

For reference, a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong via Doha costs $4,776 in December 2020, so you’re saving almost $2,900 by changing a New York/Philadelphia to Kyiv itinerary using this rebooking policy. If you credited this flight to AAdvantage, you’d earn a whopping 24,442 redeemable miles, 36,663 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and $7,333 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) as the fare books into the R booking class.

Even better? Under American’s modified elite-status qualifying requirements for 2020, you’d earn American Airlines Platinum elite status from this single round-trip flight.

Extend fifth-freedom routes

Fifth-freedom flights are one of the most interesting things in the travel world. In short, these are when an airline has the right to fly between two cities that are both not located in their home country. Qatar Airways runs a number of these flights, including:

  • Phnom Penh (PNH) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
  • Sao Paulo (GRU) to Buenos Aires (EZE)
  • Djibouti (JIB) to Mogadishu (MGQ)

The most useful of these routes is Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. Under this new change policy, you could change your Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh flight to Phnom Penh to Doha as the cities are less than 5,000 miles apart. We’ve also heard FlyerTalk reports of being able to change Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh to even longer routes like Phnom Penh to Sydney (SYD) (via Doha) as the cities are just under 4,400 miles apart.

This can be an excellent way to transit from East Asia to the Middle East and beyond.

Fly for less during the holidays

Holiday travel can be really expensive, especially when you’re flying internationally in a premium cabin. Thankfully, though, you can use Qatar’s new change policy to move a flight booked any time in 2020 to late December, letting you take advantage of cheaper fares.

For example, a flight from Chicago to Delhi (DEL) via Doha costs $2,575 in October 2020 and as much as $4,662 in late December 2020. Simply book the flight in October and change it to depart in late December, and you’ll save over $2,100 in the process.

You can combine this with the Kyiv deal, too. If you’re planning on spending the holidays in Delhi, you can book the New York to Kyiv deal and change it to Chicago to Delhi as Kiev and Delhi are only 2,870 miles apart.

Save money on flights to New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand March 2018. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Auckland, New Zealand March 2018. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.)

We want to start this section with a quick word of warning: Despite largely containing the coronavirus, New Zealand has closed its borders to international travel for the foreseeable future. That said, this deal is best for New Zealand citizens living in the U.S. or those who think that the country will reopen its borders by the end of the year; again, there’s no guaranteeing that this will be the case.

That said, business-class flights from the U.S. to New Zealand are expensive. At the time of writing this article, a flight from Chicago to Auckland (AKL) via Doha costs a whopping $10,318 in Qatar Airways business class. However, a flight from Chicago to Jakarta (CGK) via Doha is only $3,147.

Jakarta and Auckland are only 4,763 miles apart, so you can use the airline’s rebooking policy to move your flight for free. And if you really wanted to take the long route, you could also move your departure to Los Angeles, racking up 34,674 redeemable American miles and 52,011 qualifying miles in the process and qualify for AA Platinum Pro status.

Bottom line

Qatar Airways’ new rebooking policy is the best in its class, and there is plenty of value to be had if you’re considering travel in late 2020. Just keep in mind that this policy is subject to change and that there’s no guarantee that the coronavirus will be contained by late 2020 if you plan on taking advantage of this deal.

That said, the worst possible outcome is that you’d be forced to cancel and rebook your travel for a flight voucher. Qatar Airways is currently offering a 10% bonus on all flight vouchers issued, so you’d still come out ahead if you’re planning to travel with Qatar Airways in the future.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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