The pandemic has shaken the travel industry harder than a Molotov cocktail. Masks are now compulsory, international travel is now illegal for Australians, and there is also a lingering climate of cutbacks, as airlines attempt to recoup some of the costs they have suffered.
Qatar Airways, however, is one of the airlines that has most Kept Calm & Carried On, being one of the few airlines with the resources to continue running flights to Australia all throughout (for expats returning home, and for citizens with an exemption to leave for essential reasons).
That doesn’t mean it is immune to a bit of stingy behaviour, however. Speaking of which – we almost choked on our soy Flat Whites the other day when we logged onto Qatar’s website to have a browse of fares to Europe in 2022.
What did we notice? You now have to pay to select your seat in business class.
One frequent business class flyer we asked about this said: “Paying to select your seat is a joke.”
“They are now charging you to select your seat in business class. Even when you’re paying $7000 for a return ticket.”
DMARGE asked frequent business and first class flyer (and owner of Flight Hacks) Immanuel Debeer about this change too. He told us: “Would be fair if tickets were genuinely cheaper but hard to say (7k ish return isn’t cheap in my opinion).”
He also said: “Yep happened in November last year when they introduced the ‘Classic’ unbundled fare type. No seat and lounge in exchange for cheaper ticket (supposedly). Same applies for award tickets.”
It’s not quite as violent a shock as, say, Virgin Australia’s Noodlegate saga but still: a sign of the times.
It’s also worth pointing out Qatar Airways isn’t the only airline with this policy. Some airlines, like British Airways, had such a rule in place before the pandemic even hit, much to some passengers’ consternation on Twitter.
@MartinSLewis having a debate with BA. Paying literally £1000’s to upgrade to business class flights yet you then have to pay £200 to select a seat next to your partner. It’s beyond wrong?
— simply sharing (@1973mlr) July 3, 2018
Hi Richard, whether seat selection is free or costs extra depends on a number of factors, including the type of ticket you purchase, your class of travel and your personal circumstances. Helen
— British Airways (@British_Airways) May 13, 2019
Hi Chris, you can pay to reserve seats in advance, however, they are still free to book 24 hours prior to your flight when you check in online. Lindy
— British Airways (@British_Airways) October 22, 2019
Sorry you’re unhappy with our seating policy, Bruce. I’m afraid we’re unable to comment on other airlines policies. The pricing of seats is available to view on our website prior to travel. ^Lisa
— British Airways (@British_Airways) November 2, 2018
It’s not the first time people have worried about the ‘Americanisation of business class’ in recent years.
Last year Immanuel told DMARGE the Noodlegate incident was illustrative of “appalling cost-cutting in VAs business class.”
“I think Bain is on a cost cutting spree and these days you can get away with almost anything in the name of Covid.”
“Virgin used to have (in my opinion) the world’s best domestic business class product in terms of food, service and seats. Now we’re seeing the (don’t take offense) ‘Americanisation’ of business class.”
“Aussies are used to getting better so it’s no wonder the Bain ‘budget carrier’ approach won’t go down well unless the prices of the tickets reflect the actual service.”
Adele Eliseo, founder of The Champagne Mile, told DMARGE, “With all Virgin Australia lounges closed indefinitely and economy grade hot meals served in Business class, unfortunately there’s [now] very little to differentiate between the Virgin Australia’s onboard business class experience and the economy cabin.”
Not to mention the incandescent Singapore Airlines passenger whose rant over champagne not being served due to pandemic health concerns went viral in 2020, both infuriating more reasonable souls, and also sparking an important ‘new normal’ debate.
Storm in a delicate cup? Or The Big Issue Of Our Time? Much to ponder.
While you mull that over, why not watch the following video, which shows the benefits of checking the seat map before you choose your business class seat.