Just because you can’t afford to buy a business class ticket – or your employer won’t pay for it – doesn’t mean you have to spend your flight down the back in economy.
With Qatar Airways, travellers can use frequent flyer points to upgrade from most economy tickets, while its own Gold and Platinum frequent flyers can also enjoy complimentary upgrades by using ‘Qcredits’ which are gifted by the airline each year.
Even if you don’t have any points or Qatar Airways Privilege Club frequent flyer status, you may also be able to upgrade at discounted rates by keeping your eyes glued to your inbox roughly a week before your flight.
Whatever your circumstances, here’s what you need to know about upgrading to business class with Qatar Airways on flights from Australia and across the globe.
Qatar Airways business class upgrades: the basics
As happens with many other airlines, upgrades on Qatar Airways are all one-class – and as Qatar doesn’t offer premium economy on any of its flights, that means you can upgrade from economy straight to business class, or indeed, from business class to first class.
To be in with a chance to upgrade, you’ll need to be booked on a Qatar Airways (QR) flight number aboard a Qatar Airways aircraft (not a codeshare flight), and your ticket must have been booked under a Qatar Airways ‘ticket number’, which begins with 157.
That’s completely different from your actual flight number – it essentially means you booked your flight directly with Qatar or via a travel agent which did the same, rather than through a partner airline (such as a round-the-world trip booked via Qantas).
In all cases, if your upgrade is successful, you’ll only earn frequent flyer points and status credits (Avios and Qpoints) as per your original economy class ticket, not at the higher business class rates.
However, upgraded passengers enjoy all other privileges of business class including pre-flight lounge access, an increased baggage allowance and use of priority security and boarding queues, where available.
Qatar Airways business class upgrades using frequent flyer points (Avios)
Although you can’t upgrade your Qatar Airways flight using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, you can upgrade using miles from Qatar’s own Privilege Club loyalty scheme.
From Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane or Adelaide to Doha, a precise 37,000 Avios could land you a one-way upgrade from the most flexible Y, H, and B economy fare types, 55,000 Avios from the mid-range V,L,K,M and S tickets and 73,000 Avios from the cheapest O,T,N and Q fares.
You could also upgrade from Australia all the way through to London for 59,000 Avios from flexible economy fares and 87,500 or 117,500 points from those same lower-range tickets.
However, upgrades aren’t possible from the lowest-priced W (Lite) fares, on tickets which were already booked using frequent flyer points or on some heavily-discounted promotional fares that Qatar Airways releases from time to time.
Upgrades are also subject to availability which can vary from flight to flight, but if an upgrade is indeed available on your flight, you can lock it in from the time you book via the airline’s website.
Free Qatar Airways business class upgrades using Qcredits
An exclusive perk for Qatar Airways Privilege Club Gold and Platinum members, complimentary upgrades to business class are also possible using ‘Qcredits’: gifted by the airline to these top-tier travellers once per year as an added reward for their loyalty.
Privilege Club Gold members each receive 40 Qcredits, while Privilege Club Platinum members pocket a higher 60 Qcredits.
As with using points, the number of Qcredits you’ll need for an upgrade varies by route, with Australia-Doha flights upgradeable by spending 39 Qcredits, and Doha-London flights by redeeming 28 Qcredits.
That means both Privilege Club Gold and Platinum members earn enough Qcredits for one completely free upgrade on a flight between Australia and Qatar each year.
Again, these upgrades are subject to availability, but where available, can be requested via the airline’s website.
Qatar Airways business class upgrades at the airport
Didn’t have a chance to upgrade your Qatar Airways flight before departure day? Then good news: travellers can also request business class upgrades from many airport check-in counters, either by using frequent flyer points (Avios), or if eligible, those free Gold and Platinum Qcredits.
The number of Avios or Qcredits needed for your airport upgrade is the same as when upgrading in advance, and while this is possible in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, know that upgrades at the airport aren’t available from Brisbane.
Also, when making your request at the airport, only your next onward flight can be upgraded – so if you’re flying from Sydney to London via Doha, only the Sydney-Doha leg can be bumped up while on the ground in Sydney.
In that scenario, once you reach Doha, you can then approach the Qatar Airways 'Upgrade on Departure' counter to enquire about an upgrade for your onward flight to London or elsewhere.
Wherever you upgrade, you’ll need to present your Privilege Club membership card – either the digital or plastic version, and where any upgrades are available, they’re offered on a first-come, first-served basis: so plan to arrive early to maximise your chances.
Paying for a Qatar Airways business class upgrade
Make sure your current email address is attached to your Qatar Airways reservation, as the airline routinely sends discounted cash upgrade offers around seven days before departure.
This isn’t an ‘upgrade bid’ where you nominate how much you’d pay: the price given by email is more so a ‘take it or leave it’ offer sent out to a number of travellers.
You’ll want to act fast with these emails, too, as they’re also done on a first-come, first-upgraded basis – so if only a limited number of upgrades are available on your flight and the offer is sent to a greater number of passengers, delaying your response could see you missing out.
There’s no way to ‘request’ a paid upgrade offer if you haven’t received one: the only alternative being to pay the full fare difference between your economy ticket and the retail business class fare, plus any change fees that may apply.