Qatar Airways has paid out over USD $1.2 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers since March, demonstrating its commitment to honouring its obligations to passengers who need to change their plans due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global travel.
In the context of unprecedented numbers of refund requests as airlines and passengers navigate entry restrictions imposed by countries around the world to limit the spread of COVID-19, Qatar Airways has worked hard to process almost all refunds requested since March 2020 (96%). The airline is now processing all new refunds back to the original form of payment in less than 30 days.
Additionally, the airline introduced an unrivalled flexible booking policy that has proved extremely popular with passengers. Qatar Airways tickets are now valid for two years from the date of issuance. Passengers can also choose to change their travel date or destination free of charge as often as they need, change their origin to another city within the same country or any other destination on the airline’s network within a 5,000 mile radius of the original, exchange their ticket for a future travel voucher worth 110% of the original ticket value, or swap their tickets for Qmiles.* Over one third (36%) of Qatar Airways passengers selected one of these options over a refund.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “With the impact of COVID-19 on global travel, passengers have had to change their plans at short notice and it has been difficult for them to plan ahead with any certainty. What they want and deserve are flexibility and reliability, and in Qatar Airways we hope they find an airline they can trust. The amount we have paid out in refunds has undoubtedly had an impact on our bottom line, but it is our duty to do the right thing by our customers and trade partners and as an airline we are strong enough to mitigate the impact of this.”
Qatar Airways took a number of important measures to ensure that it could manage the unprecedented number of refund requests – over 10,000 per day at the height of the crisis – from passengers that needed to change their travel plans in light of COVID-19. Firstly, it increased its automation capabilities, with customers being able to request their refund online, from which point it can largely be processed automatically. The airline also automated travel voucher requests, so that passengers were able to receive a voucher within 72 hours of requesting it online.
In terms of manpower, Qatar Airways redeployed employees from other areas of the business – for example its Cabin Crew and Ground Services staff – to join the airline’s global network of customer contact centres to help manage the large volume of online requests and customer phone calls.
The airline has also worked hard to make the refund and rebooking process as easy as possible for its trade partners, continuing to use the industry standard global distribution system (GDS) – a largely automated process that is simple to use for travel agents – to pay out refunds. Although Qatar Airways is now seeing a decrease in the number of refund requests, it remains committed to honouring its policies to passengers and trade partners.
Qatar Airways is one of the few global airlines to have never stopped flying throughout this crisis and continues to utilise its full fleet of 30 Boeing 787 and 49 Airbus A350 aircraft. The airline’s variety of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft has meant it can continue flying by offering the right capacity in each market. Due to COVID-19’s impact on travel demand, the airline has taken the decision to ground its fleet of Airbus A380s as it is not commercially or environmentally justifiable to operate such a large aircraft in the current market.