As Fine Travel's most popular Business Class option to the UK and Europe last year, it was encouraging to see Qatar Airways start offering an alternative for travellers from New Zealand who need to get to the UK and Europe (despite border restrictions).
Qatar Airways was one of the last international airlines to halt its flights to New Zealand and its hub in Doha remained open for transit passengers (unlike many of its competitors).
What is available
Qatar Airways became well known in the New Zealand market for aggressively discounting Business Class airfares, the long direct flight between Auckland and Doha and then the release of the revolutionary and highly acclaimed Business Class Qsuite.
Although Qatar Airways had anticipated recommencing its direct flight between Auckland and Doha at the end of May, ongoing border quarantine measures and overall weak demand for international travel has delayed this until at least 25 October 2020.
In the interim, Qatar Airways is operating a limited schedule via Australia and Doha to select cities in the UK and Europe (including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Zurich). As at 26 May the following are available:
Outbound from Auckland:
- Tuesdays via Melbourne or Brisbane
- Thursdays via Sydney
- Saturdays via Melbourne or Sydney
- Sundays via Sydney
Inbound to Auckland, leaving Doha:
- Tuesdays via Sydney
- Thursdays via Sydney or Melbourne
- Friday via Brisbane
- Sundays via Sydney or Melbourne
Qatar Airways has partnered with Air New Zealand and Qantas for the trans-Tasman flight from Auckland to connect with the international flight. This has the advantage of all flights being on one ticket so if there is a disruption or delay that causes flights to no longer connect, the airlines have a responsibility to accommodate the passengers.
Unfortunately, although the Qatar Airways flights are offering Business Class, many of the trans-Tasman flights (if not all) are Economy Class only. This means that although you may be buying a Business Class airfare, the trans-Tasman component is likely to be in Economy Class.
Qatar Airways Flexibility Policy
In our article on what to consider before booking flights to the UK and Europe again, we discussed uncertainty in the Covid-19 environment and ensuring there is a plan if you are prevented from travelling.
Qatar Airways offers a comprehensive "Travel with Confidence" policy that is regularly updated and that your Fine Travel Consultant can discuss with you. Importantly it currently includes (at the time of writing) a refund option for Involuntary Changes / Disruptions (airport closures, flight cancellations etc). For Voluntary Changes (where you can still travel but choose not to) credit options are available rather than refunds.
As Qatar Airways only flies via Doha to the UK and Europe, in the event of a disruption in Doha it is unlikely that an alternative route will be offered with another carrier via another hub. A refund may then be the best option, however does present the risk that a last minute replacement flight with another airline will be more expensive.
At the time of writing, other airlines are offering limited services to the UK and Europe, including:
- Air New Zealand direct to Los Angeles and then British Airways to London: Border restriction make this route of limited appeal as the US currently does not allow passengers from the UK to transit the US so only a one way flight is possible. The UK is also imposing a 14 day quarantine measure from 8 June 2020.
- Etihad from Australia: Etihad has commenced weekly services from Australia via Abu Dhabi to the UK and Europe. These tickets include the trans-Tasman flight, which will generally be in Economy Class (even for Business Class tickets).
- Emirates from Australia: Emirates is starting limited services from Australia via Dubai to the UK and Europe. Emirates has not partnered with Air New Zealand or Qantas to incorporate a trans-Tasman flight and therefore a separate ticket is required. The risk of a separate ticket is that in the case of a delay or disruption, the airlines are under no obligation to accommodate you.
Your Fine Travel Consultant has direct access to each airlines' reservations system so can provide you with the available options for your preferred travel dates.
Restrictions in Doha
Although Doha is allowing passengers to transit, they are not currently allowed to stopover or leave the airport.
Australian border restrictions
Australia has relaxed its border restrictions for New Zealand passport holders who are in transit. More details can be found on the Australian Border Control Covid-19 website.
International border restrictions
Although international border restrictions are now more settled, examples like the UK imposing a 14 day quarantine from 8 June show that there is still some uncertainty. IATA provides current information on its dedicated Covid-19 Regulations website, but not forward looking announcements (like the UK).
New Zealand border restrictions
At the time of writing, New Zealand's compulsory 14 day quarantine measure remains in place and therefore would apply to anyone returning from overseas.
Before travelling, please check with your travel insurance company to see what cover they are providing for international travel. Many companies are now excluding any claims associated with Covid-19 (including medical claims).