An Update On Yesterday’s Cheap Qatar Airways Business Class Fares

Yesterday I posted about some insanely low business class fares that Qatar Airways published. For travel originating in Vietnam, Qatar Airways had $500-750 business class fares to all over the world. For example, I booked a ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to New York for $676 roundtrip. I know a lot of people booked this fare (and even more were interested), so I figured I’d provide some quick updates.

The fare is dead

The deal was alive for hours and hours, but the fares are no longer available. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. But as far as super cheap fares go, this one was around for a while.

Are tickets being canceled?

Based on the reports I’ve seen, it looks like the only thing Qatar Airways has done so far is cancel reservations that are on hold — as far as I can tell, ticketed reservations remain intact. If you see a fare that’s too good to be true, never ever hold it. If it turns out to be a mistake, airlines don’t typically honor held reservations, and they don’t have any obligation to do so (since it’s not a ticketed reservation). It’s no surprise that they’ve gone ahead and canceled these tickets. The same thing happened a couple of years back when American had super cheap business class tickets between Washington and Beijing.

If this is a mistake fare, it’s one of the most confusing ever

I’m really not sure what to make of this fare in terms of whether or not it’s a mistake. Based on the fact that they allowed holds but are now canceling them, I suspect it was a mistake, at least in some form.

Sometimes we see mistake fares and it’s fairly obvious — the airline left off a zero, the airline accidentally miscoded a fare as business class rather than economy, etc.

However, this fare is a bit different, and if it was a mistake, they screwed up one too many things to make that a defense and cancel the tickets, in my opinion.

Just hours before this sale they teased there was a “small surprise” for anyone who wants to experience their business class.

More importantly, the tickets were marketed as “Golden Tickets” on the booking page.

Qatar Airways has specifically had surprise “Golden Ticket” promotions in the past, where you pay just the taxes and carrier imposed surcharges, and there’s a zero dollar base fare. Admittedly they’ve been for travel in economy in the past, but if this was a mistake, they screwed up multiple things, in the sense that they both published these fares and then also coded them as “Golden Tickets” (well, unless their IT is set up so that anything with a $0 base fare is coded as a “Golden Ticket,” in which case that’s just on them).

I’m curious to see what comes of this fare. Based on the fact that they’re canceling held reservations I suspect this fare wasn’t fully intended to be published in this way, but it was done in such a confusing way with so many screw ups on their part that I don’t think they have much of a defense.

I plan on waiting a few days before making any non-refundable bookings around this itinerary, just to be on the safe side.

Comments

  1. I have booked a similar, maybe even cheaper fare from DME to ICN via DOH quite a long time ago, no Golden Ticket or stuff like that though. Qatar Airways took their sweet time and cancelled the tickets more than a month (!) after they have been issued – 5 days before my supposed departure. Tried to contact them in written form and by phone, received extremely rude and unprofessional responses, as well as “we will give back your money for these tickets in 30 working days, and you have to be thankful”. Sure enough, after I pushed back, the money came back in 1 day. I haven’t booked any hotels in Seoul, or that could have been a much more difficult scenario.
    I’ve learned my lesson since then and will never book QR, even if the fare is dirt cheap.
    Interested in how this plays out, though.

  2. I could not be sadder that I didn’t check Twitter here in Europe before going to sleep last night. This was one of the *BEST* biz class deals ever and (as everyone knows) an ideal chance to test out the Q Suite. Also would’ve been a great way to get to NYC from Asia later this year.

    Gaaaaaaaaaaah!

    PS whatever anyone says elsewhere this was not an error fare–even if they decided not to honor hold bookings

  3. I think it is a legit fare based on the whole “Golden ticket” thing. But I think a lot of those seats were held, drying up the fare bucket, and now Qatar has a way out canceling those while still getting the exposure from the fares. I unfortunately couldn’t make it work for my schedule since I already have itineraries booked for my trips to/from HKG and BKK next year or I would have bought 3 of these to kick off qualifying for next year.

  4. Im travelling Amsterdam to Tokyo in November for €580 In Qatar business class, booked back in January. There wasn’t any job this golden ticket thing and a few hours later the fares weren’t available any more, but I’m pretty sure it’s not gonna be cancelled now

  5. Booked one for October to JFK, got ticketed (so I didn’t just hold), but it was cancelled this morning. You win some you lose some.

  6. I hope they do another fare like this as I am trying to book a flight for my grandparents to come to the US in business class. They prefer the ME3 (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar).

  7. Before I had a similar problem with another airline in the gulf region, Oman Air. Business class fare was much much cheaper than the economy class, and I catch it 🙂 .And they send an sms stating the cancellation. After several times of calling and objecting about the cancellation, they corrected the “error” and gave the tickets (as family) back.

  8. I can understand the people being upset about their ticketed and paid tkts getting cancelled, but I can’t understand people like Zach from TPG crying about a hold getting cancelled.

    Hoarding tickets you don’t necessarily intend to use or pay for is just wrong in this case, so that seems only fair.

  9. Everyone listen! (Including you Ben).
    These fares lasted for 1 day because Qatar Airways were celebrating their Business Class being awarded the best by Skytrax so they decided to publish Cheap Fares in Business Class. So it was not an Error by them or any other sort of thing.

  10. My January SGN-DO-ORD got cancelled (was a hold – not purchased/ticketed). At least now I can get some work done this morning versus trying to figure out positioning flights to Saigon!

  11. @Terminal48. I would give your comment credibility IF Qatar did not cancel this morning people’s confirmed and TICKETED reservations.

  12. The people who bought tickets have a right to be upset with it being cancelled. Seriously an airline sells you a ticket and then cancels it? That is bs and they should be held accountable. For people who had holds cancelled get out of here with that nonsense. You were trying to hold tickets for a trip that you may take while others were fully ready to make a purchase. I don’t have sympathy for people pulling that stunt on fares like this.

  13. So people who purchased a $0 fare are OK and legit customers and should be upset but people who needed to speak to a significant other or check with work first are loony nuts trying to take advantage of the system?

  14. Whenever I consider fares like this I assess whether I booked the fare on a good faith basis. What I mean by that is do I honestly believe it is a legitimate fare, or do I believe it is too good to be true and may potentially be a mistake? While I appreciate Lucky’s reasons why this fare seemed legit, it feels like purely and academic exercise. You cannot tell me that anyone booking that fare that reads travel blogs didn’t think it was a gross undersell of the market. Ultimately, if Qatar cancels all ticketed reservations within 48 hours, I don’t think I’d have much sympathy for the people who booked them.

    It’s the gamble we bear.

  15. @Stuart Also those cancellations were only to those who held their fare for 24/48 hours and not others who had already booked them.

  16. Just checked and our flights booked SGN-DOH-JFK return in March 2018 are still confirmed.
    Interesting that most of the seats for the SGN-DOH legs are allocated already, which suggests a lot of these tickets are still active in the system.
    We won’t be booking or paying for anything else for a while just in case though…

  17. While a little far out there, I still think it could possibly have been a commercial/economic hack job done by/for one of the four countries that is currently blockading Qatar. Anything is possible these days :/

  18. Ben, I’m pretty sure the tweet yesterday (Sunday) about a small surprise for tomorrow (i.e, Monday) had nothing to do with the Vietnam sale. This morning they announced a sale until August 9th, I believe that’s what the “surprise” was.

  19. Sorry, but a guy with your flight experience and in-depth knowledge of prices and airfares can’t seriously say that this wasn’t an error fare. Basically all QR destinations on the western part of HAN and SGN were bookable, a huge contrast to all previous sales. I hope everyone who booked can fly this, but please call it what it was: A mistake by QR, an error fare.

  20. People are reporting on FT that paid and confirmed tickets are being cancelled. Seems spotty though

  21. @Ron,

    You know Lucky would not admit it. So far he is very silent despite people here and elsewhere have seen their tickets canceled. Though not all of them but that would be just a matter of time when QR gets to all of them.

  22. I have to paid tickets out from SGN and both show up. I also linked them to my account and they are still showing as confirmed.

  23. 24hrs after I made the booking, Qatar emailed me a request for payment verification. It was meticulous and time-consuming, but NOTHING compared to the BS one has to deal with, say, booking a Singapore Airlines ticket for a friend/family member with your own card if you’re not traveling with them. QR is clearly trying to weed out as many of us who bagged this promo who haven’t crossed dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s. Still have a confirmed ticket, as of today. We’ll see…

  24. Ben – it’s time to take a break from counting your revenue from Credit Card ads, and take
    note of the world political scene. This was Qatar’s attempt to camouflage all the $$$ the
    Kingdom is passing to ISIS – just ask Trump.

  25. @Mark Stop being so rascist and dramatic. There’s no such thing like that happening. Also I live in Kuwait so I know all what’s happening in Qatar. Ben you are free to travel with Qatar Airways without any problem.

  26. @rick I had a payment verification request that was just an instruction to bring credit card to counter – did your email say something different or should I ring thrm anyway? Thank you!

  27. Hello everyone. My ticketed ticket was cancelled. But now it is back all of a sudden. I called Qatar and they said the tickets are confirmed and sent me etickets and receipt. Does that mean they are honoring it? My flight is this Sunday, not sure if I should go with my other reservation around this ticket.

  28. @Horatio, the email very specifically asked for the verification to be done electronically. Of course, I checked everything out to be sure it wasn’t a scam, following the email’s advice to set up a Qatar Airways online support account. I was glad I did, because QR took their sweet time with the verification, and the account was my proof the “support ticket” hadn’t vanished into the digital ether. Everything processed about 7 working days after I submitted what they requested: I received an email re-confirming my tickets, with a note that “you will be able to check in for your flight without presenting the credit card used for purchasing your ticket.” You didn’t, by chance, buy your ticket online in Vietnam? Bringing the CC to the counter sounds like a request the HCMC or Hanoi office would make, not Doha. There’s still a lot of suspicion (not shared by me) that even those of us holding payed for, issued tickets are gonna get hosed at the check in counter. Were I in your shoes, I’d be a little queasy too, having to wait until the day of travel. Credit card verification at check-in is SOP in Asia, but this is not a “standard” case. Why don’t you call the main office in Doha and tell them you’d prefer to do an online verification, as you want to be sure as sure and have other reservations to finalize? I don’t see how it can hurt.

  29. @Ryan, did you put a hold on your ticket for a brief period of time? I had mine on hold for approximately an hour before I saw the writing on the wall that QR was going to back out of honoring it. My pet theory is that this was all a numbers game: those who pushed the button immediately or had their itins on hold for less than a couple hours (like me) never got cancelled, those who had it longer but still less than overnight were cancelled but re-instated, and anyone who went to bed thinking they could pay in the morning missed the boat completely. Anyway, it’s after Sunday, so am curious if everything went A-OK for you. Hope so!

  30. @Lucky, looks like there’s gonna be an equipment swap soon on QR 971 (SGN-DOH) and QR 970 (DOH-SGN) from a A330-300 to A330-200. The seat map on my September itin is for the older 330-200 with angle-flat J seats. Yours?
    Kind of a bummer but as these are both ultra-red eyes (and considering what I paid), could be worse. Looks like those that booked out of HAN on the 77W will have a better night’s sleep.

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