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Savvy travellers using frequent flyer points to upgrade to business class or first class with Qatar Airways will no longer receive airport lounge access before their upgraded flight, unless their original ticket or frequent flyer status already provides this perk.
For example, passengers who book an economy class flight and upgrade to business class using ‘Qmiles’ or ‘Qcredits’ via the airline’s Privilege Club loyalty program won’t be welcome at the airline’s Al Mourjan business class lounge in Doha, or other business class lounges around the globe.
Similarly, jetsetters who upgrade from business class to first class won’t enjoy Al Safwa first class lounge access in Doha, or first class lounges in other ports such as in Sydney and Melbourne – instead, being sent to the relevant business class lounge, in line with their original ticket.
Qantas lounges also blocked to upgraders
On flights departing Australia, Qatar Airways prints either "QF Business Lounge" or "QF First Lounge" on each boarding pass, depending on which lounge the passenger is entitled to visit: so even with an upgraded first class boarding pass, there's no access to the Qantas first class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, because it won't show that magic phrase, "QF First Lounge".
An internal memo issued by Qatar Airways’ GS Policies and Procedures department and sighted by Australian Business Traveller outlines the restrictions, which took effect from February 5. The airline's website has since been updated to reflect the change, noting that “lounge access will be provided as per (the) originally ticketed cabin.”
Under the airline’s previous policy, only passengers who upgraded to business class at the airport on the day of departure were denied lounge access – with those upgrading to first class given only business class lounge access – with this latest change expanding the policy to cover all upgraded passengers.
Travellers who upgrade their flight using money via Qatar’s ‘Upgrade offer’ system are also ineligible for lounge access unless already included with the ticket they originally purchased.
However, it’s understood that passengers who use frequent flyer points to book Qatar Airways business class or first class reward flights outright – as opposed to upgrading an existing ticket – will continue to receive lounge access in line with the class they book.
Seperate lounges for frequent flyers
Frequent flyer members can also continue accessing airport lounges based on their frequent flyer status, including on upgraded tickets, but in Doha, the lounges those members can access are separate to the ‘real’ business class and first class lounges, and are of a significantly lower standard.
For instance, Platinum-grade frequent flyers can only use a segregated ‘first class lounge’ in Doha, which, despite the name, is only utilised by those who've booked economy tickets, and is a far cry from the lavish Al Safwa first class lounge, restricted to non-upgraded first class flyers only.
Gold-tier travellers are also stuck using the ‘business class lounge’ when flying in economy or business class following an upgrade, rather than the true Al Mourjan business class lounge which is significantly larger (and nicer).
As part of this month’s changes, passengers who upgrade their flight also won’t get the bigger baggage allowance of the higher cabin – instead, their baggage limit will remain as per the ticket originally purchased.
Australian Business Traveller has contacted Qatar Airways for comment.