To encourage travellers to make bookings during the pandemic, Qatar Airways is offering unlimited date changes for 2021 trips. Rose Dykins reports

In a move to boost booking confidence for passengers, Qatar Airways has announced unlimited date changes and fee-free refunds until the end of 2021.

This will apply to all plane tickets issued before April 30, 2021, for travel completed by December 31, 2021, (some fare rules apply).

In addition, Qatar Airways is making the option to exchange tickets online for a travel voucher with ten per cent extra value a permanent service. The airline says those who redeem travel vouchers via its website typically receive them within 48 hours.

Since March 2020, the airline has refunded more than £92 million to customers in the UK due to the pandemic. Globally, it has paid out more than US$1.2 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers during this period of time.

The airline says it will continue to process all new refunds back to the original form of payment within a 30-day window.Qatar Airways A350-900“Throughout 2020, we have provided customers the ability to modify travel without penalties as a result of the disruption to global travel caused by Covid-19,” says Qatar Airways’ group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker. 

“Qatar Airways will continue to be by our passengers’ side, offering continued flexibility throughout 2021 as the airline they can rely on.”

Similarly, Air France has made all its bookings: “Fully changeable or refundable, free of charge and without proof, up to the day of departure, for trips up to September 30, 2021”.

The airline’s Air France Protect programme was launched last year. It combined a fully flexible ticket policy with the safety measures the airline has taken as part of the pandemic – such as the requirement of face masks for passengers, social distancing, hand sanitiser and regular disinfection of its self-service check-in kiosks.

Globetrender identified “Unprecedented Flexibility” as a key trend for Travel in the Age of Covid-19. Rather than rock-bottom prices, passengers are looking for reassurance and understanding from airlines if Covid-19 curtails their trip.

Meanwhile, airlines are keen to retain the revenue of a postponed trip – rather than losing it to a refund – so it is in their interest to make it easier and cheaper for travellers to move their booking to a later date.

Last year, in line with this trend, several airlines in the US removed their change fees for domestic flights – with United announcing it will do so permanently.

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