Watching a persons face as they walk down the aisle of a plane can be quite amusing. Ooh, first class looks nice. Business class, yeah that bed will do, premium, not shabby at all, but then the big reveal in economy typically requires an exhale, and a “you can do this”.

Knowing many travelers would love to escape the rear cabin, but can’t quite stump for the thousands the cabin typically demands, airlines are unbundling the perks, allowing travelers more opportunity to pick and choose what they want, and offering lower fares for people who just want the seat.

Qatar Airways Unbundled Business Class Fares

Executive Traveller was the first to report on Qatar Airways new ‘unbundled’ business class fares, which propose discounts in exchange for fewer flying perks. The fares are already live, and represent a sweeping change to Qatar Airways booking options.

When Qatar Airways launched “R” class fares just a couple years ago, the offering became the new lowest fare code available for a business class ticket, but nothing went missing from the actual experience, other than flexibility to make changes or get refunds.

Now, as many speculated at the time of launch the airline will use the new ticket type as a way to slash customary benefits from the flying experience. For the right price though, many travelers are fans. Qatar Airways new fares are broken into three categories in business, and economy.

Qatar Airways Business Class: Classic, Comfort, Elite.

The price differences are huge, but are only good for customers if the lowest fares are cheaper than before.

Qatar Airways Economy: Classic, Convenience, Comfort.

Qatar Airways new economy fares give you more baggage weight allowance and lower cancellation fees with each fare.

The fare system in economy is not at all unlike Virgin Atlantic, which started the Transatlantic trend with “lite”, “classic” and “delight” fares in 2018 for the economy cabin. The fares represent huge pricing differences and varying perks, depending on what you select.

So, What’s disappearing when you buy a Qatar Airways unbundled business class “R” fare ticket, which is now called Business Class “Classic”? For ‘Classic’, Qatar Airways is removing lounge accessm and seat selection prior to check in from all these discount “R” class “Classic” business class fares, as part of the new offering.

Qatar Airways still offers seat selection and lounge access on Comfort and Elite business class fares.

Qatar Airways isn’t the first to do this, and won’t be the last either. Emirates started the trend, Finnair picked up on it, and others too. British Airways added “R” to its booking classes in recent years, though no benefits have been taken away on these fare, yet. Rumors are now sure to swirl about the future of business class.

Break it down…

Basically, you’ll still get the bed, all the blankets, champagne and dine on demand on board, but in the airport you’ll just be another traveler. No lounge access, and you’ll get whatever business class seats haven’t already been selected.

For those who receive lounge access as a perk of being a frequent flyer, it’s unclear how Qatar will honor that obligation when flying on these fares, however third party lounges operated by other Oneworld airlines would still likely have to comply.

Even Qatar has a separate Oneworld lounge for passengers who aren’t eligible for lounge access by flying business class, but do have elite status.

Qatar Airways will also likely reduce the number of miles you’ll earn on these fares, though this element hasn’t been confirmed. This could also impact the ability to easily earn elite status, if partners of Qatar Airways also lower the “earn” rates on these tickets.

Great For Business, Bad For Travelers?

Qatar Airways has been one of the most aggressive airlines in the world with business class pricing, with fares occasionally dropping under the thousand dollar threshold.

The airline has given many travelers who never dreamt of business class an opportunity to sample one of the best offerings in the sky, and since all these deep discount “Classic” fares typically code into ‘R’ class, it means deal hunters will soon get less for their savings, or need to pay up a bit more for ‘I’ class, the next cheapest fare.

With airlines, extra choice can be good, but taking away things which were once a happily included part of the experience is never popular. Many travelers though will be happy to pay less for services they didn’t care much for anyway. Business travelers rarely have time to indulge in lounges, instead cutting time at the airport as short as possible. Many also opt to eat before flight, not that Qatar is taking away food.

Qatar introducing “unbundled” business class could mean even lower fares, which offer a greater number of people the opportunity to get a taste, and get hooked on paying more to travel. With covid-19, the extra space is worth something too.

Lounge access can cost airlines in excess of $100 per passenger on a round trip, and withholding seat selection allows Qatar Airways to encourage bigger spenders to pay up, so as to select the most sought after seats. And yeah, they’re all the same to an extent, but some people love a window!

More remains to be seen from these fares, and ultimately, whether they’re great, or terrible news is up to you.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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13 Comments

  1. Just looked up a flight I take often with Qatar, which is Manchester to Singapore next June, £2,168 return in business without seat selection, lounge access and less q miles, against £3,539 for the same flights with lounge and a seat, the price delta is huge and quite restrictive, would be interesting based on my one world emerald status, BA full service on the same dates are £3k, maybe great to get the premium cabins at a lower price, but if i have to fly and have a large layour, the delta in price would stop me from booking Qatar.

    1. Good news for some. It appears that if you booked prior to the changes in fare structure Qatar are now honouring any R & I class tickets purchased and reinstating what was offered at the time of purchase.

    1. Why are people assuming the fares are going to be cheaper, or significantly cheaper?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they reduce the price by a minor, and insignificant amount, while doubling the price for “regular” business class fares.

      QR is ass-backwards in this thinking.

  2. I’d go for it. Enjoy Lounge access but if fare is $400-$500 lower I can do without (or buy it). Also have Amex Plat and CSR so full range of Amex lounge access and priority pass. I can usually find a lounge. Almost certainly not as nice as their business class lounge but WiFi, quiet and a drink is all I need

    As for seat assignment I do like to pick one but would also give that up for the right price. They are all the same after all except for location

      1. I too am a pessimist by trade, but have seen myself proven wrong. I ridiculed Virgin Atlantic when they launched “lite” economy, saying it was just a way to get more out of passengers, but then transatlantic fares dropped to new lows at least £50/$75 cheaper than previous lows. Time will be the judge, but so far it looks like it’s less favorable than would be hoped.

  3. We all enjoy the Qatar experience, given the chance to do it but play seat roulette and pay for a 3rd party lounge will still be positive if prices are competitive.
    After COVID-19, many businesses will not spend like they did before on travel, Qatar have created a way to encourage leisure travellers to fill the seats with a clear offer. In the past we have jumped on offer fares, these may become rare going forward.
    I think this is going to be the new norm to fill seats at the front.

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