- Qatar Airways just introduced a new flexible booking policy on Thursday that allows new bookings made before the end of September to be allowed unlimited changes for free with few restrictions.
- Unlike most existing “book with confidence” policies, customers can change the origin city as long as it’s in the same country, as well as the destination so long as it’s within 5,000 miles of the original destination city.
- The policy doesn’t charge any change fees, including fare differences, and flights can be changed an unlimited amount of times as long as travel is completed before December 31.
- A $494 ticket from Washington, DC to Yerevan, Armenia can be changed to New York to Singapore with no additional fees if the requirements are met.
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Qatar Airways on Thursday unveiled its newest booking policy intended to instill confidence in travelers eager to explore after over two months of lockdown and for savvy flyers, the opportunities are endless.
Customers booking new flights on Qatar Airways, according to an airline press release, will be able to make unlimited changes with no fees. Date changes and even destination and origin changes, the policy states, will be allowed free of charge, as long as the booking is made before September 30.
While most airlines have been implementing flexible booking policies, Qatar Airways’ policy takes the practice multiple steps forward. The Doha-based airline is waiving all fare differences for a change of date, change of origin, or change of arrival city as long as travel is completed by the end of the year, the country of origin remains the same, and the destination is within 5,000 miles of the original destination.
Under the new policy, passengers booking a round-trip ticket from New York to Mumbai, India on the airline for September can change it to Washington to the Maldives or Los Angeles to Singapore.
A Google Flights search at the time of writing shows the cheapest option for Qatar Airways flights from now until September from the US is a round-trip flight from Washington, DC to Yerevan, Armenia for $494. Under Qatar Airways rules, both the origin and departure cities can be changed, the former must be in the same country but the latter can be within 5,000 miles of the original destination city.
The departure can be changed to any US city Qatar Airways flies from such as New York, Los Angeles, and Boston and the destination to within 5,000 miles from the Armenian capital, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, and Paris. Nearly every city in Europe, Africa, and Asia up for grabs for as little as $500 from the US under the new policy.
Passengers may also be able to opt for an itinerary that allows for an extended layover in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the airline offers discounted tour and hotel options to encourage tourism.
Is it too soon to be booking international travel for 2020?
While the deal may seem too good to pass up in pre-pandemic times, the question of whether or not travel is safe for 2020 remains to be seen with arguably more reasons not to book than to book, especially as the threat of a second wave lingers.
The coronavirus pandemic highlighted numerous risky aspects of international travel for the year that had not needed to be considered previously. Countries have been closing borders with little notice, airlines were eager to cancel empty flights, and quarantine on arrival policies have been widespread, even in re-opened locales.
While some countries are anticipating a summer re-opening, including Greece and Italy, countries like Australia have stated they don’t know when they’ll open borders again, according to the Daily Mail.
The new policy does state that in the event a flight is canceled, which may be likely in the event that a destination is affected by the second coronavirus wave, Qatar Airways is going to refund the cost of the ticket. Passengers can also cancel the ticket and receive Qatar Airways miles, a travel voucher with a 10% bonus, or opt to extend their ticket validity by two years.
Potential travelers should also be looking at how the country they’re eyeing to visit has dealt with the initial wave of the pandemic and be extra cautious in the days and weeks leading up to any international trip.
For those hopeful about travel rebounding, the deal is a great way to visit destinations previously out of reach financially. But those taking advantage of the new policy should keep in mind, there is a risk that the price of the ticket becomes nothing more than an interest-free loan or even grant to Qatar Airways in the event that a second wave once again cripples travel and the ticket becomes useless.