Qatar Airways is now offering an 'unbundled' business class fare without lounge access or advance seat selection, but at a reduced price, as part of an overhaul to its fare structure.
Marketed as Business Class Classic, the fare sits below the new Business Class Comfort and Business Class Elite categories.
Like any unbundled fare, it comes with several caveats for the unwary traveller. But if the price is appealing, and especially if your frequent flyer status already provides lounge access, Qatar's Business Class Classic is worth a closer look.
- What are Qatar Airways' unbundled business class fares?
- What do Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares include?
- What isn't included with Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares?
- What does a Qatar Airways Business Class Classic fare cost?
- Lounge access on Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares
- Seat selection on Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares
- Getting a refund on Qatar Airways' new business class fares
- Earning frequent flyer points on Qatar Airways' unbundled business class fares
What are Qatar Airways' unbundled business class fares?
To date, all Qatar Airways business class fares have included the same core components such as access to airport lounges – both its own lounges and those of Oneworld partner airlines such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
However, a decision by the airline to streamline its fares into what it calls "a new and simplified Fare Families structure" also saw the introduction of a new Business Class Classic fare which removes some of the things travellers would take for granted.
Business Class Classic sits at the bottom of Qatar's fare ladder: it has the lowest cost compared to its Business Class Comfort and Business Class Elite siblings, but also fewer inclusions.
Business Class Classic fares book into 'R' class; travellers booking flights directly through Qatar Airways' website are more likely to notice "Classic" as the description for these tickets, although "Business (R)" also appears during the booking process.
Those booking through travel agents and other portals may instead see "R class", "(R)", or similar, rather than "Classic".
What do Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares include?
Whether a traveller books a lower-cost Business Class Classic ticket, a mid-range Business Class Comfort fare, or the higher-cost Business Class Elite brand, all include a basic package of benefits.
For example, all travellers can begin their journey at business class priority check-in, and can pack 40kg of checked baggage as standard on flights using the 'weight system', including those from Australia.
Priority baggage tagging, priority boarding, and of course, a business class seat on the aircraft also come standard, with all inflight dining and beverages similarly included regardless of the specific fare chosen.
What isn't included with Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares?
While much of the business class experience remains the same, other aspects of the experience do differ for travellers booking Business Class Classic fares, rather than those more expensive.
Seat selection, for example, is only possible at check-in on a Business Class Classic fare, versus being able to choose your seat at any time prior to that, as is possible on the higher-tier Comfort and Elite fares.
Airport lounge access, as most travellers would expect when buying a business class ticket, isn't part of the package for Business Class Classic itineraries: only for Business Class Comfort and Elite tickets.
What does a Qatar Airways Business Class Classic fare cost?
In exchange for forgoing key perks like airport lounge access, Qatar's Business Class Classic fares are expectedly priced below the Comfort and Elite fare families.
A spot-check of Qatar Airways' fares on the busy Sydney-Doha-London route for May 2021 showed the following rates for a return trip:
- Business Class Classic: $8,012
- Business Class Comfort: $10,902
- Business Class Elite: $12,762
In this pricing example, the unbundled Classic fare delivers a saving of almost $3,000 against choosing Comfort fares on the same flights, and a saving of almost $5,000 against the top-shelf Elite fare.
Here's how Qatar Airways presents the fares on its website (note that the pricing in the screenshot is just for the 'Sydney-Doha-London' leg of a return-trip booking):
Qatar's Business Class Classic fare largely mirrors the Business Class Special fare of its competitor Emirates, which was introduced in 2019.
Emirates' fare also provided a lower price than regular business class tickets, but without comforts such as free chauffeur drive, lounge access, and seat selection prior to check-in.
Lounge access on Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares
Although airport lounge access isn't included by default when booking a Business Class Classic fare, there are several other ways that passengers can relax in a lounge prior to their flight.
Purchase Qatar Airways lounge access
Even on Business Class Classic fares, travellers can still purchase lounge access as a standalone experience, in conjunction with their Qatar Airways flight.
In Doha, access to Qatar's Al Mourjan business class lounge – the same lounge that's complimentary when booking those other business class tickets – costs 450 QAR, or around A$170.
That might seem expensive for a lounge visit, but when considering what can be the hefty difference between the price of Classic and Comfort fares, purchasing lounge access even during both Doha transits still leaves the traveller considerably ahead.
As an example, with a return Business Class Classic trip from Sydney to London costing $8,012 on the dates we searched, and with Comfort fares on the same flights totalling $10,902, even if a Business Class Classic passenger buys two lounge entries, their total spend remains well below the booking cost of a Comfort fare.
In fact, Qatar Airways also sells entry to its Al Safwa first class lounge for 600 QAR (A$226), and the airline confirms to Executive Traveller that this will remain available for Business Class Classic passengers to purchase.
That example Business Class Classic fare (A$8,012), combined with two first class lounge passes (A$452), would end up costing $8,464 in total: still $2,438 less than the cost of buying a Comfort fare with business lounge access included, yet with access to a better lounge, at a lower overall price.
Qatar Airways also sells access to its less-impressive Doha "First Class Lounge" and "Business Class Lounge" – normally used by frequent flyers booked in economy – at a cost of 300 QAR (A$113) and 250 QAR (A$94), respectively.
(Some of these lounges are closed at the time of writing, but these rules and rates apply when access is again possible.)
The airline advises that access restrictions for Business Class Classic passengers visiting lounges operated by other Oneworld airlines will be "gradually implemented".
In the short term, this means your Qatar Airways boarding pass may still sneak you into a lounge operated by another airline under what are currently the standard Oneworld alliance rules, but that Qatar Airways is working with its partners to restrict this.
Qatar Airways lounge access by frequent flyer status
Just like when travelling in economy where lounge access isn't included through the fare, frequent flyers can still visit any lounges that their status would entitle them to visit, when booked on a Business Class Classic fare.
In Doha, that means Qatar Airways Privilege Club Platinum members can still use the expansive Al Safwa first class lounge – this being the 'real' first class lounge – regardless of the fare type they choose.
Similarly, other Oneworld Emerald members (including Qantas Platinum) can use the "First Class Lounge" for frequent flyers, while Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers (including Qatar Gold and Qantas Gold) can visit Doha's "Business Class Lounge".
Qatar Airways' Silver frequent flyers can also use the "Business Class Lounge" in Doha when travelling with Qatar Airways only.
Of course, some of these lounges are temporarily closed in light of the current travel landscape – with many frequent flyers having short-term access to the higher-tier Al Mourjan lounge – but when the lounge situation in Doha returns to normal, the rules above will apply.
Airport lounge access via other memberships, or by purchase
As when travelling in economy, there's nothing stopping members of independent airport lounge programs from using the benefits of their membership.
Have a Priority Pass card? In Doha, that remains your ticket to the Al Maha Services Transit Lounge, where you can stay for up to four hours per 'lounge entry'.
Flying out of Australia, or other global airports like London Heathrow?
You may find other independent lounges available where entry can be purchased, or may be complimentary through a credit card or lounge membership: such as an American Express lounge or a Plaza Premium Lounge, where these facilities are open.
Seat selection on Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares
Beyond lounge access, advance seat selection is another point of difference between Business Class Classic fares, and the airline's other business class tickets.
However, like lounge access, some frequent flyers may still be able to select their seat from the time of booking, even on these tickets.
This is true for Qatar Airways Privilege Club Gold and Platinum cardholders, as well as other Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members (e.g. Qantas Gold and Platinum), who can select their seat whenever they choose, even on a Business Class Classic fare.
All other travellers on these tickets, however, will only be able to choose their seat when online check-in opens 48 hours prior to departure, or at the airport.
With no 'middle seats' in Qatar Airways business class on any of its aircraft types, it won't be such a sticking point for solo flyers, but the same wouldn't be said of pairs or families travelling together.
Seat selection on Qatar Airways' Business Class Classic fares
Across all three Qatar Airways business class fare types, the airline offers a base baggage allowance of 40kg on flights where the 'weight system' is used, such as from Australia.
The airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller that any additional checked baggage allowances that would normally apply under Qatar Airways Privilege Club, or other Oneworld tier benefits, will continue to apply even on Business Class Classic fares.
Here's how that looks for elite members of Privilege Club, and other Oneworld frequent flyer programs, including Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Frequent flyer card
Total checked baggage allowance
Standard Business Class Classic allowance
Non-Qatar Oneworld Ruby
No additional allowance
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Silver
+15kg (55kg total)
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Gold
+20kg (60kg total)
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Platinum
+25kg (65kg total)
Notably, while Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers ordinarily receive 15kg of extra checked baggage under Oneworld alliance rules, the starting point for that calculation is always the lead-in allowance in economy class, even if the passenger is booked in a higher cabin.
Because Qatar's lead-in Economy Class Classic fares provide 25kg of checked baggage, a 15kg boost on that figure still equals 40kg, being no better than what's included as standard in the Business Class Classic fare, and thus, giving no additional allowance for these flyers.
As you'll see above, Qatar Airways also provides more generous checked baggage allowances to its own Privilege Club frequent flyers versus what's required under Oneworld alliance rules, as apply to frequent flyers from other airlines.
That's why you'll see extra checked baggage for Privilege Club Silver (which is also Oneworld Ruby) and Privilege Club Gold (as is Oneworld Sapphire), as well as different allowances for Privilege Club Platinum (being Oneworld Emerald) versus Oneworld Emerald cardholders from other frequent flyer programs.
Getting a refund on Qatar Airways' new business class fares
Qatar's Business Class Classic, Comfort and Elite fares are all refundable – both to a voucher for future travel, as well as a cash refund back to the original payment method – but there are some differences when cash refunds are involved.
Business Class Elite fares provide free cancellations: this being a full refund at no cost, back to the credit card used for purchase, in the event the passenger cancels.
On Business Class Comfort fares, a cancellation fee applies: A$158 on the itinerary we searched above. Where a cash refund is requested, this cancellation fee is deducted from the refund amount paid.
Business Class Classic fares have a higher cancellation fee – A$364, on the flights we searched from Sydney to London – but can again still be refunded minus that cancellation fee, the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller.
All three fare types can also be 'refunded' to a Qatar Airways travel voucher at no cost.
This means passengers booking Classic and Comfort fares who need to cancel their flight, but plan to travel with Qatar Airways in the future, could opt for a voucher in the full value of their booking, with no deduction of any cancellation fee.
If passengers choose a voucher over a cash refund, the voucher will be valid for 24 months from the date of issue, and no restrictions will apply on travel dates for rebooking, provided a reservation can be made during that time.
As Qatar Airways begins selling flights almost a year before their departure, this means a traveller could use their voucher 23 months after it's issued, for a flight almost a year after that – making any vouchers issued in 2020 usable for travel as far away as 2023.
These vouchers can be used to purchase any Qatar Airways airfare available at the time of re-booking, and if the value of the new flight is lower than the voucher's value, any unused credit will be issued to a further voucher, rather than being 'lost', the airline confirms.
Earning frequent flyer points on Qatar Airways' unbundled business class fares
In Qatar Airways Privilege Club, the number of frequent flyer points ('Qmiles') a passenger can earn is influenced by their fare class.
On business class bookings, Elite fares earn the most Qmiles, followed by Comfort tickets, and then followed by Classic fares.
Taking a one-way trip from Sydney to London would provide 21,874 Qmiles in Business Class Elite, 19,140 Qmiles in Business Class Comfort, and 13,671 Qmiles in Business Class Classic.
In other frequent flyer programs operated by partners, such as Qantas Frequent Flyer, the earning rates across Qatar's business class fares are instead often the same.
For example, a Qantas Frequent Flyer member would fetch a total of 10,400 Qantas Points plus 140 status credits on the same one-way booking, regardless of whether the cheapest Business Class Classic fare is booked, or the most expensive Business Class Elite ticket.