Qatar Airways added new restrictions to its unlimited change policy 3 days after it was announced and the sub-$500 fares are gone

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Qatar Airways added new restrictions to its unlimited change policy 3 days after it was announced and the sub-$500 fares are gone
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR.Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
  • Qatar Airways is changing aspects of its new flexible booking policy that allows unlimited changes.
  • Only announced on Thursday, the airline is now implementing a waiting period before the first change is made and requiring the same fare class be available when rebooking.
  • The sub-$500 fares from the US to Central Asian cities at the crossroads of Europe and Asia are also gone with the cheapest fares from the US on the airline now at around $700.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Less than 72 hours following its initial too-good-to-be-true announcement, Qatar Airways is starting to roll back some of the freedoms of its new flexible booking policy that allows unlimited and fare difference-free changes to bookings made before September 30, 2020.

The original terms of the offer stated that once a booking was made, passengers could immediately change their destination to any city served by Qatar Airways within 5,000 miles of the original endpoint, as well as change the origin city as long as it was in the same country. Even the dates could also be changed with no change fee or fare difference being levied whatsoever.

This meant that a ticket from Washington, DC to Yerevan, Armenia could be changed to Los Angeles to Singapore as soon as it was ticketed with no penalty, as long as the trip was completed before the end of 2020. As of Saturday afternoon, round-trip tickets between Washington and Yerevan were selling for $494, one of the cheapest of any Qatar Airways routing from the US, according to Google Flights.

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As of Saturday evening, however, Qatar Airways began removing the cheaper fares from its system, making the new cheapest itinerary from the US at the time of writing a $694 round-trip between New York and Sofia, Bulgaria. Unlike Yerevan, however, the Eastern Europe city is more than 5,000 miles from popular Asian destinations including Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The airline also implemented a few additional clauses into the policy over the weekend after the original announcement, listed on its website and reported by The Points Guy, to make it somewhat more restrictive. New customers must now wait 14 days after ticketing to make their first change and their desired new itineraries must have the same booking class available for it to be free of any fare differences.

The carrier's website now states: "Rerouting for voluntary purposes (i.e. where there has been no flight disruption) is possible 14 (fourteen) days after making the booking. New flights must be booked in the same booking class (RBD), be operated by Qatar Airways, and can be changed within the same country of origin and/or within a 5,000 (five thousand) mile radius from the original destination booking. If the same booking class is not available, a fare and taxes difference may apply."

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Qatar Airways didn't respond to a request for comment by Business Insider about the policy change or how many new bookings they received since the start of the promotion.

Thrifty travelers also hoping to book cheap Qatar Airways fifth freedom flights, where flights operate between two points not within Qatar including between Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, cannot participate in the new booking scheme.

No other changes were implemented and, for the most part, the policy is one of the most generous to be offered by an airline but only if new customers are willing to the pay the higher prices, wait the 14 days, and be willing to be flexible in case their new desired itineraries do not have availability in their fare class.

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