Qatar Airways is the only one of the so called ‘Middle East 3’ airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar) that is part of a global alliance, having joined oneworld in 2013. As a result, the airline is on my radar as a potential carrier as frequent flyer benefits are alliance wide.
Having researched fares with Qatar Airways on a couple of occasions, I had come to the conclusion they were far too expensive for my budget. It looked like their rather nice looking Business Class would remain a mystery to me.
Cut to this year and I read online that Qatar Airways were having a flash sale. The most notable fare was to Auckland, New Zealand. Apparently, you could fly from Europe to Auckland via Doha and return for £1,060 / €1,373! Well, well, well – this was astonishing in the extreme!
How astonishing? In the years I had been flying between Europe and Oceania, the cheapest fare I had ever paid for Premium Economy was the exact same price! If this deal was real, it was the deal of the century.
A quick browse of the Qatar Airways web site confirmed it was real. I had a trip to that part of the world scheduled in my head for early 2017 and seats were available at this fare over Easter, originating in Pisa and returning to Berlin. Nevertheless, I decided to sleep on it.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the fare, so I spent some time justifying it. New airline – check! New aircraft – check! Business Class – check! Did I want to go to Auckland? No. My family live in Sydney and it’s a relatively quick flight from Auckland to Sydney. Could I could use my Avios miles for that? Yes, oneworld carriers LATAM and Qantas fly between Auckland and Sydney, so check!
The layover on the return flight in Doha was 8 hours and 45 minutes. I discovered that Qatar offer a complimentary hotel if your transit time is over 8 hours. I decided this was the deal breaker – if the transit hotel was free, I’d book the fare and if not, I wouldn’t. A call to Qatar Airways sorted that out immediately – yes, the fare was eligible for the hotel.
Flight booked! What I didn’t realise at the time was the flight from Doha to Auckland will also be the longest non-stop flight in the world once it commences. It’s scheduled at 16 hours 10 minutes one way and 17 hours 45 minutes the other way. It’s tiring just thinking about it!
After completing my booking online, I called up to request the hotel. My details were taken and I was told it could be up to 14 days before I received the e-mail confirming that. Happily, it came through three hours later – the Oryx Rotana Hotel if you’re interested – so I was very happy all was sorted.
The only unusual thing was an e-mail from Qatar Airways requesting a copy of the Credit Card Statement used for payment along with a copy of the card holders Passport. I called the airline and they assured me this was a legitimate e-mail and it was for fraud prevention. I was offered the chance to show the card at the airport, but ended up sending the e-mail. A reply the next day confirmed all was in order.
There is still some speculation online as to whether the flights will actually go ahead. Doha to Auckland was originally scheduled to start in December 2016. This has now been pushed back to the first week of February 2017. People who booked for December and January were originally given conflicting information on their options but now they are being told they can change the dates, get a refund or take a change in routing for free.
Personally, I am hoping the flight goes ahead as I am really looking forward to giving Qatar Airways a try as well as seeing what an ultra-long haul flight is like. It will make for quite a series of blog posts, plus I should enjoy every second of it. That price still takes my breath away… what a deal!