No, It’s Not Unethical To Change Your Qatar Airways Flight
Yesterday, I wrote about how my husband and I are considering changing a Qatar Airways flight we already booked to go to a different destination. Under the airline’s new policy announced this week, they allow changes to your destination within 5,000 miles. However, I’ve seen comments on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter challenging people taking advantage of the policy saying it’s immoral, unethical, or wrong.
Last night, fellow Boarding Area blogger, Brian, wrote about this issue. I love Brian’s commentary, and he poses the question about whether it’s right or wrong to use the new policy to book a cheap fare and then change to a more expensive destination. One commenter on the blog post went so far as to say, “If you have to ask if it’s moral… you already know the answer….” So I thought I’d explain why I think it’s perfectly fine to take advantage of the change policy, and why that’s probably exactly what Qatar Airways wants you to do.
It’s Both a Policy AND Promotion
Some people are booking tickets at a good rate and then changing it to a destination that’s more expensive. Of course, that’s perfectly fine under the policy. But I think there is one key point critics are missing: this is not just a policy; it’s a promotion. Qatar Airways was smart with this because it serves to do two things:
- Fill seats;
- Increase cash flow; and
- Make people comfortable with booking/flying.
Qatar Airways is likely already calculating that those seats on those flights won’t be full anyway through the remainder of much of 2020. Qatar’s own CEO recently remarked that a full recovery could be 3-4 years away, and he warned about business travel never returning to where it was before the pandemic. Therefore, the airline sees filling a seat for $1,600 as better than not filling the seat at all.
One of the most difficult things for airlines right now is that rate by which they are burning through cash. Airlines need to find ways to curb the amount of cash they’re burning. Earlier this week, Delta announced one of the ways it would do that is by retiring its fleet of Boeing 777s. One way to stop burning cash: immediate bookings. Qatar Airways is likely picking up bookings it would not have otherwise gotten without this promotion.
And most importantly to returning to normal, airlines need to help make people comfortable booking flights and getting on a plane. A number of surveys have found people uncomfortable with the thought of flying. And a survey even found that millennials (known for their propensity to travel) are wary of returning to international travel. Policies like this instill confidence when people book, and it will hopefully lead them to actually get on a plane.
Win-Win For All
This is essentially a win-win situation for both consumers and the airline. Qatar Airways is getting the cash flow it desires and the passenger revenue it has been missing for months. Meanwhile, passengers are getting the opportunity to book great fares in one of the world’ best business class products and go to destinations they usually could not book at that same rate.
Don’t feel guilty about taking advantage of Qatar Airways’ new policy…I’m pretty sure they want you to do just that. Airlines are not charities, and they don’t typically do things out of the goodness of their hearts (some exceptions do apply – rarely). It’s not immoral, wrong, or unethical to use the policy by booking a good rate and changing the destination. It’s exactly what the policy allows.
If Qatar Airways finds that it is an abuse, they will surely change it. But I think Qatar Airways was smart to know this is exactly what people would do. And that helps curb their cash flow problem, while also filling seats on flights that likely won’t be at capacity.
UPDATE: Effective May 17, 2020 there is an update to the policy.