UPDATE 19/11: Qatar Airways has reversed its decision (saying it was a “communications error”) and business class award seats will continue to come with lounge access and other standard benefits.

PREVIOUS 18/11:

Qantas partner and oneworld alliance member Qatar Airways has overhauled its fare structure to offer several types of business class fares, including an ‘unbundled’ type called Business Class Classic which excludes lounge access and advance seat selection but allegedly comes with a reduced price.

As part of this move, Executive Traveller reports that the airline will assign business class award bookings to the Business Class Classic fare, meaning passengers will not have automatic access to a lounge at the airport nor advance seat selection – perks that are almost universally expected when travelling business class, including on points.

Seat selection will only be available when customers check in. Other benefits like priority baggage tagging, priority boarding, and inflight dining and entertainment will continue to be provided.

Choosing your seat with Qatar becomes more complicated

This is a shocking move for a ‘premium’ airline and will no doubt come as a big surprise and disappointment to passengers. I imagine many will not be aware they can’t access the lounge until they arrive at the airport and are told by staff. That will ruin the experience for many people.

No matter whether you book using Qatar Airways’ Qmiles or Qantas Points, you’ll now need to rely on status to get you free advance seat selection and lounge access, or pay extra to do so.

Travellers with gold or platinum status with Qatar or Qantas, or the equivalent with another oneworld airline, will continue to have complimentary lounge access. For everyone else, you’ll need to find a lounge with paid entry (which does include Qatar’s Doha lounges, costing upwards of $100 per person) or rely on a credit card to get you in (eg. the American Express Platinum Card comes with worldwide lounge access).

Travellers with elite status should also continue to have free advance seat selection.

This is such a disappointing move from Qatar Airways. Let’s hope other airlines don’t follow suit.

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