Qatar Airways and the Qatar Tourism Authority have just announced +Qatar, which is a new stopover package for passengers traveling on Qatar Airways. Passengers in all cabins (including economy) can get a 96 hour visa at no cost, one free night of hotel, and more. Here’s how the new package is described:
Passengers transiting through Doha can extend their stay to make the most of their journey taking in the sights of Doha with a completely free night courtesy of Qatar Airways and QTA or stay a little longer with a second night’s stay for a modest $50 booking fee. Passengers can choose from hotels such as The Four Seasons, Marriott Marquis, Radisson Blu and Oryx Rotana. The free hotel accommodation, available throughout the summer, will offer passengers the opportunity to explore Doha and experience city tours, desert safari adventures or a dinner cruise aboard a traditional dhow, giving visitors a taste of authentic Arabian hospitality, courtesy of Discover Qatar.
To be eligible for this offer, passengers simply book their flight on www.qatarairways.com, select ‘multi-city’ and choose their hotel once they receive their flight confirmation. The online transit visa application is also free and is eligible for those in transit between five and 96 hours. This ground-breaking offer is available for all Qatar Airways passengers, both Premium and Economy.
While Qatar Airways has a press release about the new offering, there’s not much else about it online, including the restrictions associated with it. For example, they say that the free hotel accommodation is available “throughout the summer.” It’s painfully hot in the Middle East in summer, so don’t expect to spend much time outside that time of year. Will it be extended beyond that, or is this job being offered in the very low season? I also assume this also only applies to tickets booked directly through Qatar Airways, and not to tickets booked through partner airlines.
The Qatar Airways transit visa and free stopover program is only for passengers traveling on Qatar Airways. Travelers connecting in Qatar on other airlines will have to purchase a tourist visa. Tourist visas are available on arrival for 100 Qatari Rial. If traveling with family, each additional person is discounted to 50 Qatar Rial.
To partake in the free stopover and free Qatar Airways transit visa program, book your flights with Qatar Airways. After purchasing your ticket, apply for your Qatar transit visa 7 days prior to departure. If your visa is approved, it will be good for 90 days from the date of issue for a maximum stay of 96 hours.
Do note, customers can stopover for free in Qatar on both one-way flights and round-trips flights. However, only one stopover total is free. For those traveling from Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, South Sudan and Sudan only an outbound stop in Qatar will qualify. If traveling from one of the countries listed above on a one-way ticket, a transit visa will require purchase. It seems to me that Qatar is trying to boost tourism from outside the Gulf. Maybe this is Qatar’s attempt to improve their global image before the World Cup? And finally, it might be obvious but Qatar Airways transit visas are not for customers whose final destination is Qatar, you must travel beyond Doha to qualify.
However, I am not sure what is the status thanks to current stand off with other middle east countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. The terms and conditions are not very clear but I am sure they are trying their best to accommodate more passengers thanks to loss of multiple flights due to the diplomatic standoff.