Qatar Airways will admit eligible Oneworld travellers to its new 'premium' first class lounge at Hamad International Airport, marking a welcome reversal from the airline's policy for its lounges at Doha and London Heathrow.
The airline's new first class lounge at Hamad will open its doors to Platinum-grade members of Qatar Airways' Privilege Club frequent flyer scheme as well as Oneworld Emerald equivalents, including Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum and Platinum One.
Qatar's current Premium Terminal at Doha International Airport is restricted to the airline’s first class and business class passengers, with no access for top-tier frequent flyers of Oneworld partner airlines.
That said, delays to the fit out of Qatar's new first and business class lounges at Hamad means they won't be open to any guests until the end of July, despite the airline beginning flights from the new airport on May 27.
In the meantime, travellers will be accommodated in other lounges at Hamad to which Qatar has arranged access.
However, no change is expected to the policy for Qatar's London Heathrow Premium Lounge, which will remain exclusive to passengers booked into Qatar Airways' first class and business class cabins.
PREVIOUS | Qatar Airways has defended its decision not to allow top-tier frequent flyers of oneworld partner airlines such as Qantas into Qatar’s premium lounges at Doha and London Heathrow airports.
With Qatar joining the oneworld alliance, high-status frequent flyers of other oneworld airlines expected to enjoy access to Qatar’s flagship lounges even when they weren’t travelling at the pointy end of the plane.
That expectation was based on oneworld’s own lounge access policy for travellers with oneworld Emerald or Sapphire frequent flyer tier status.
(These respectively equate to Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum and Gold, British Airways Executive Club Gold and Silver and Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club Diamond and Gold, for example).
According to oneworld, “members of oneworld airline frequent flyer programmes with the equivalent of oneworld Emerald or Sapphire tier status can use any lounge offered by any oneworld airline when departing on any flight marketed and operated by any oneworld member airline, regardless of cabin class being flown” (italics added for emphasis).
“Emerald tier frequent flyers can use First Class, Business Class or frequent flyer lounges” while “Sapphire tier frequent flyers are welcome in Business Class or frequent flyer lounges” oneworld adds.
However Qatar allows only travellers booked into first class and business class into its lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport Terminal 4, while high-status oneworld passengers flying in Qatar economy class are shepherded into the SkyTeam lounge at the other end of the terminal.
The SkyTeam lounge is quite impressive – it’s the first of three 'Exclusive Lounges' to open under the alliance’s own brand, alongside Istanbul and a new SkyTeam lounge for Sydney set to open early next year.
Never the less, Qatar’s decision to restrict access to its London lounge to first and business class flyers seems at odds with oneworld’s own policy.
In response, Qatar says that its London Heathrow Premium Lounge “is not part of the oneworld lounge proposition” due to its exclusive nature.
“QR offers both First and Business class lounge access for the First/Business traveller, his/her guest, and Emerald/Sapphire travellers” a spokeswoman for Qatar Airways told Australian Business Traveller.
Video tour & photos: Qatar Airway's luxe London Heathrow lounge
“At this time QR continues with their use of the SkyTeam Lounge in T4” for oneworld Emerald and Sapphire passengers, including the top ranks of Qatar’s own Privilege Club frequent flyer scheme, when not flying in Qatar’s premium cabins.
“In addition, QR offers a Premium Lounge which is only for (first and business) ticketed passengers on QR or another oneworld member airline – not their guests, not Emerald/Sapphire passengers”.
The spokeswoman drew a comparison to British Airways’ Concorde Room at London Heathrow, which is only for passengers flying in BA’s first class cabin.
The same ‘Premium doesn’t count’ exemption applies to Qatar’s Premium Terminal at Doha International Airport, which is also exclusive to the airline’s first class and business class passengers.
“QR only makes this terminal available to passengers who hold First and Business Class tickets” explained Michael Blunt, oneworld’s Vice-President Corporate Communications.
“Qatar Airways’ own Privilege Club top tier members are not able to access the Premium Terminal when not travelling on First and Business Class tickets. They, like other oneworld FFPs, are offered premium passenger facilities such as priority check-in and lounges at the regular Doha terminal.”
This means that Qantas Platinum and Gold-grade frequent flyers, and their equivalents on other oneworld airlines, will need to make do with Qatar’s Oryx business lounge at Doha International Airport.
It's a similar situation to the 'Exclusive Waiting Areas' operated by oneworld member airberlin at several German airports, which are also exempt from oneworld's lounge access rules.
As oneworld's Blunt tells Australian Business Traveller, "Airberlin's exclusive waiting areas fall short of the definition of an airport lounge. They're essentially a part of the main departure hall reserved for airberlin premium customers."
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