Qatar Airways pays out over $1.2 Billion to customers since March in the wake of COVID-related cancellations by passengers and flight suspensions by the airline.
Further, in what could become the new norm for the airline industry, the airline introduced an unrivalled flexible booking policy. 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, the airline said in a statement August 18.
Qatar Airways has paid out nearly 600,000 passengers, or 96% of the passengers that requested a refund since March. The airline is now processing all new refunds back to the original form of payment in less than 30 days.
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 airlines claims to have made refund and rebooking process easy for its trade partners by 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.
Qatar Airways operated throughout the crisis and continues to utilise its full fleet of 30 Boeing 787 and 49 Airbus A350 aircraft. With entry restrictions around the world now easing, the airline continues to lead the recovery of global travel, operating over 500 weekly flights to over 80 destinations worldwide via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport (HIA).