Qatar Airways is offering a new '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 Lite, the fare sits below the Business Class Classic, Comfort and 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 Lite is worth a closer look.
- What are Qatar Airways' unbundled business class fares?
- What do Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite fares include?
- What isn't included with Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite fares?
- What does a Qatar Airways Business Class Lite fare cost?
- Lounge access on Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite fares
- Purchase Qatar Airways lounge access
- Qatar Airways lounge access by frequent flyer status
- Airport lounge access via other memberships, or by purchase
- Seat selection on Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite, Classic fares
- Baggage allowance on Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite, 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?
Until November 2020, all Qatar Airways business class fares 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, that month saw the launch of Qatar's Business Class Classic tickets, which became lounge-less.
Under this most recent change, new Business Class Classic fares see those lounge privileges return, but with a new Business Class Lite fare family sold sans lounge entry.
Business Class Lite sits at the bottom of Qatar's fare ladder: it has the lowest cost compared to its Business Class Classic, Comfort and Elite siblings, but also fewer inclusions.
Business Class Lite fares book into 'P' class; travellers booking flights directly through Qatar Airways' website are more likely to notice "Lite" as the description for these tickets, although "Business (P)" also appears during the booking process.
Those booking through travel agents and other portals may instead see "P class", "(P)", or similar, rather than "Lite".
Business Class Classic – which also has some restrictions – instead books as R class.
What do Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite fares include?
Whether a traveller books a lower-cost Business Class Lite ticket, a mid-range Business Class Classic or 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 Lite fares?
While much of the business class experience remains the same, other aspects differ for travellers booking Business Class Lite and Classic fares, rather than those more expensive.
Seat selection, for example, is only possible at check-in on a Business Class Lite or 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 Lite itineraries: only for Business Class Classic, Comfort and Elite tickets.
What does a Qatar Airways Business Class Lite fare cost?
In exchange for forgoing key perks like airport lounge access, Qatar's Business Class Lite fares are expectedly priced below the Classic, Comfort and Elite fare families.
A spot-check of Qatar Airways' fares on the busy Sydney-Doha-London route for May 2022 showed the following rates on the outbound leg of a return trip:
- Business Class Lite: $3,392
- Business Class Classic: $3,942
- Business Class Comfort: $4,766
- Business Class Elite: $6,450
(We're looking at the outbound leg only for a return itinerary, as Qatar is still limiting ticket sales on flights into Australia well into 2022 – with only Elite fares on the days we searched – until the country opens its borders.)
In this pricing example, the unbundled Lite fare delivers a saving of $550 against choosing Classic fares on the same flights.
It's also $1,374 less expensive than Business Class Comfort, and $3,058 cheaper than Business Class Elite: almost half its price on this single leg example.
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 Lite 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 Lite fares
Although airport lounge access isn't included by default when booking a Business Class Lite 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 Lite 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 the difference between the price of Lite and Classic fares, purchasing lounge access even during both Doha transits still finds the traveller ahead.
As an example, with the 'Sydney-Doha-London' trip we searched costing $3,392 on a lounge-less Lite fare, and $3,942 on a Classic ticket, the $170 paid for lounge access still leaves $380 in the passenger's pocket overall.
In fact, Qatar Airways also sells entry to its Al Safwa first class lounge for 600 QAR (A$226): so you could potentially pay less overall than a Classic fare, and get a better experience.
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.
(Available lounges on the day of travel may depend on worldwide travel restrictions, passenger numbers, and local regulations in Qatar, so check with the airline for your latest options.)
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 Lite ticket.
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".
Eligible travellers can also use partner lounges at other airports in line with their status, as available.
Qatar Airways' Silver frequent flyers can also use the "Business Class Lounge" in Doha when travelling with Qatar Airways only.
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'.
(Temporarily, this is even upgraded to the Oryx Lounge in Doha, although the usual Priority Pass entitlement is to the Al Maha facility.)
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, Marhaba Lounge or a Plaza Premium Lounge, when and where these facilities are open.
Seat selection on Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite, Classic fares
Beyond lounge access, advance seat selection is another point of difference between Business Class Lite and 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 Lite or 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.
Baggage allowance on Qatar Airways' Business Class Lite, 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 previously 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 entry-level business class tickets.
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 Lite/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.
That's no better than what's included as standard on the Business Class Lite or Classic fare, and thus, gives 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 Lite, 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.
Business Class Lite, Classic and Comfort fares instead have varying cancellation fees, as can change based on region of travel, booking currency, and other factors.
For other changes, Elite fares provide these at no cost (subject to any fare difference), while Lite fares levy a fee with every change (as a gain varies by market, also subject to any fare difference).
Classic tickets afford one complimentary change, and Comfort fares provide two, although both are again subject to any fare differences.
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, then Classic fares, and then Lite itineraries.
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, 13,671 Qmiles in Business Class Classic, and 8,203 Qmiles in Business Class Lite.
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.
That's regardless of whether Business Class Classic is booked, or the most expensive Business Class Elite ticket.
Qantas Frequent Flyer is yet to recategorise the 'P' fare letter from first class to business class, but that's likely to occur prior to October 1 2021, when the first flights take off with Lite passengers on board.