Feb 29 Update: Delighted to say that within 24 hours of our article pointing out the errors in Qatar Airways booking process, these pesky mixed cabin fares are gone when you search for business class. Feeling pretty great about that. You can catch up on what was happening below…

You walk into the lovely ice cream shop on a warm summer day. Chocolate or vanilla, they say. You say chocolate, naturally, and then wait for your freshly scooped goodness, only to be handed a cone full of vanilla. No, chocolate – you say, but they say “sorry you already paid, here’s vanilla anyway”.

This is basically what’s been happening with Qatar Airways website and online flight searches, since someone in the web IT department decided to make a search between business class and economy incredibly hard to distinguish…

Search For Business, Get… Some Business?

Whether you’re searching on Google Flights or directly with Qatar Airways, buyer beware when you go to buy a Qatar Airways business class ticket. No, it’s not because Qatar has a bad business class offering, quite the opposite in fact – with arguably the best overall.

The airline has simply introduced an IT glitch which is catching many off guard, where even when you specifically search for business class, the lowest fares you see may actually be a combination of economy and business class, without an entirely clear warning! Let’s walk through the booking process…

You logon to the Qatar Airways website, and wow – an amazing business class offer! 11834 NOK is about $1250, or £985 round trip for business class to the stunning city of Singapore – woohoo! So naturally, you press book now!

Note: this problem also exists if you run your own search on Qatar or Google Flights without looking at their offers and extends to virtually all markets and flights, not just one random route.

the website is proudly displaying a business class price which doesn’t actually exist, and it’s displaying them all over the world.

Note the all grey banner proclaiming business class.

Potential business class buyers are then presented with a very clear, clean interface with prices clearly on display in the “business class” column. It’s sharp, and couldn’t appear more clear that you are booking business class, which is what you wanted – right?

All displayed in the grey umbrella of business class, during a premium only search. I had already filtered out economy!

Yep, perfect. It says business class, shows business class and even has the “Q” logo to illustrate that the flight offers Qatar Airways Flagship Qsuite, one of the two best business class seats in the world. You assume all is good, and then go to select a flight.

Still looking really good! If you’re paying close attention, it says multiple cabins, but if you click the pictures for each flight, it just shows you two different business class cabins. One with the Qsuite, and one with the older flat bed seating.

Note that the picture for both flights shows an iteration of business class, which could explain the term “multiple cabin”.

It’s safe to assume you’re in business, and why wouldn’t you – you searched for it – right? Should be.

Even if you press “select” you’ll still have no idea at this point that the fare you see is actually only half business class, and half economy! Unless you click the tiny exclamation point (in blue) after the word multiple cabin, you’ll be taken to the penultimate page in the booking process, with no idea you aren’t actually booking business class. Just some of it…

This leads to plenty of questions, with only one answer – it’s dumb.

Anyone who searched business class must now go back and modify their selections, after the false hope that they found a great deal has faded away. Prices are typically a few hundred more, which may be a deal breaker.

So is Qatar Airways…trying to dupe passengers into booking half business fares? I highly doubt it.

Are they trying to frustrate business passengers by making a cumbersome booking process? I highly doubt that too. Perhaps they’re just failing a bit in the IT department with a new update? Maybe.

Google Flights Filters

But its been weeks and I alone have wasted hours chasing phantom fares displayed on both Google Flights and their own website. No one likes a wild goose chase, particularly people forking over thousands on airline tickets.

In fact, Google Flights allows travelers to filter out certain airlines, so if the problem persists long enough, many may choose to exclude Qatar Airways from Google Flights searches to avoid fools errands, which could lead to a drop in sales.

It’s hard to imagine anyone wants that.

The problem is that this glitch extends beyond Qatar Airways website borders. If you search for business class on Qatar Airways via Google Flights, the same issues will pop up. You’ll see amazing flight deals, click to book and make plenty of clicks before you have the faintest clue – that’s if you’re paying attention – that you’re booking the wrong thing.

If you’re not paying close attention – or even if you are – you could easily be fooled by the product photos which show business class seats, even on the flights where you’ll be in economy. Yikes! This is simply a no win result for Qatar. All travelers hate fools gold – aka deals that don’t exist – and no one wants to make six clicks before they find out that a business class fare isn’t business class.

When Delta experienced similar issues in displaying Virgin Atlantic economy as premium economy, the initial response was that it was Google’s fault, before the issue was mostly resolved. With the same issue cropping up on Qatar Airways own website, not just Google Flights, it’s hard to blame third party content.

If Qatar wants to continue succeeding with one of the world’s greatest business class options, they may want to figure out how to properly sell it online again. Offering an economy passenger a chance to pay extra for a business class segment is entirely different than unwittingly having a passenger aiming for a business class ticket business winding up with half economy.

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