Qatar Airways has paid out over USD $1.2 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers since March, which the airline said demonstrated “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”.
Rules on refunds vary globally but there have been widespread complaints over how long it is taking airlines to compensate passengers for cancelled flights.
In May for example the UK’s CAA threatened to take action against airlines which had not refunded customers within seven days of their flights being cancelled in line with regulations.
Qatar Airways however said in a statement today that despite the background of “unprecedented numbers of refund requests” the carrier has now processed 96% of all refunds requested since March. It is now processing all new refunds back to the original form of payment in less than 30 days.
Additionally, the airline introduced a flexible booking policy means 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.
So far, over one third (36%) of Qatar Airways passengers selected one of these options over a refund.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, 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.”