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Qatar Airways has begun flying its A380s from Doha to London and will begin service to Paris and Bangkok soon.

There are a lot of luxury options between the Middle East and Europe, so I want to focus on the route between Doha and Bangkok that begins December 1.

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from gcmap.com

Award space is wide open on the Qatar A380 between Doha and Bangkok for two people in Business Class. Best of all, the award costs only 30,000 American Airlines miles one way!

Business Class passengers have fully their own fully flat beds and access to an onboard lounge that looks like it’s the nicest in the sky.

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Onboard bar for First and Business Class passengers
  • How is Qatar First Class on the A380?
  • How is Qatar Business Class on the A380?
  • What is the award space picture on the plane?
  • How can you book the award space?
  • How can you make Doha to Bangkok part of a larger trip?

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US Airways miles can get you to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent on Qatar Airways flights in Business Class. Qatar Airways flies to seven American cities with ample Business Class award space to Doha and beyond.

I’ve talked a lot about using US Airways miles lately with good reason: The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and you can currently transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 US Airways miles for all of July.

These mile earning opportunities create ample opportunity to get great deals on any one of the many airlines within the oneworld alliance on US Airways’ famously cheap award chart.

To the Middle East and India, the oneworld partner on which you want to redeem your US Airways miles is Qatar Airways for its ample award availability and great product in business class.

Qatar Airways joined oneworld in October last year.

Qatar Airways currently has tons of availability in business class from US airports to its hub in Doha as well as many other destinations in the Middle East and India.Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 2.30.40 PM

  • How can you use US Airways miles to book Qatar Airways flights to the Middle East and India?
  • Where is the United States does Qatar Airways fly?
  • Where can you search for Qatar Airways availability?
  • How can you book Qatar awards?
  • How many miles will you need and how can you get them?

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You can now route through the Middle East on Qatar Airways on your way from the United States to Africa with American Airlines miles.

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American Airlines has a unique routing rule that you cannot transit a third region on an award between two other regions. Under this rule, flying from the United States to the Middle East to Africa would require two awards, one from the United States to the Middle East and one from the Middle East to Africa. Two awards meant spending more miles for a single trip.

There have always been exceptions to this rule, like being able to transit Europe on the way between the United States and Africa or being able to transit North Asia on the way from the United States to Southeast Asia.

Now transiting the Middle East from the United States to Africa has been added to the acceptable exceptions list, which is great news, because it saves 90% on the out-of-pocket costs of booking an American Airlines award to Africa.

  • What are the new routing rules for American Airlines awards to Africa?
  • How can you find award space to Africa with American Airlines miles?
  • How can you limit the out-of-pocket cost of your award ticket?
  • Which carriers are included in the new routing rules?

Qatar Airways has fantastic Business Class award space on its Dreamliner and on its routes from the US to Doha and beyond in 2014. These routes are a high-value way to use Avios or American Airlines miles on a recent addition to the oneworld alliance.

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Your Bed in Business Class on a Qatar 787

Where do Qatar’s Dreamliners fly? Where does Qatar fly in the US? How many American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios do you need to fly Qatar?

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Qatar Airways awards are now searchable and bookable at ba.com and bookable by calling American Airlines. This is huge news because Qatar has an excellent route network from the US to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Maldives.

As announced on the oneworld site, Qatar Airways will join the oneworld alliance on October 30th. This is great news for those with large American Airlines AAdvantage or British Airways Avios balances. Doha-based Qatar Airways has a robust Middle Eastern route network and opens up connections to many places with presently poor oneworld coverage.

Qatar Route Map of Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and East Africa

The best news of all is that Qatar award space is now bookable using the British Airways search tool. For more information on searching the British Airways website, make sure to check out Scott’s post Free First Class Next Month: Searching BA.com to Find oneworld Award Availability.

How can you search for Qatar award space? How can you book it with your American Airlines miles? How many miles do you need? What regions will Qatar help you reach?

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This post was mostly written before today’s story that Qatar is joining oneworld, but it has been edited to reflect the good news.

Would they or wouldn’t they? The rumors have been swirling for several weeks about Qatar Airways joining the oneworld alliance. Today Qatar announced that it was joining oneworld, becoming the first major Middle Eastern carrier to join a global airline alliance. (No hate mail from Royal Jordanian please.) No time table was announced, but don’t expect the tie up to be complete before 2013/2014.

In the past 24 hours Qatar Airways has posted changes to the award and upgrade redemption charts of its frequent flyer program, Privilege Club. These changes will take effect November 1st.

What does Qatar bring to oneworld?

The Centre for Aviation has a concise chart that shows the new destinations in Africa, India, and the Middle East that Qatar brings to oneworld:

That’s very nice for oneworld. Why should I care?

I think that it is worthwhile to analyze the frequent flyer program of a potential new member of a major airline alliance for opportunities to travel less expensively or gain elite status and benefits more easily. While we currently only have a partial picture of how Qatar’s frequent flyer program will interface with those of other oneworld carriers, there is certainly enough information available to start analysis.

What is Qatar’s frequent flyer program?

Qatar’s frequent flyer program is called Privilege Club. Enrollment is limited to those 18 or older–so no individual accounts for the kids! Family members under the age of 18 can be added to your account and will earn 50%, 75%, or 100% of miles flown, depending on your elite status. Qmiles are the mileage currency of the program.

Earning Qmiles on Qatar Airways

Qmiles can be earned by flying on Qatar or its partner airlines and are valid 5 years from the time they are earned. According to the airline’s website, the number of Qmiles awarded is “calculated based upon the actual miles flown multiplied by a factor according to the booking class.” Here is the earning chart for flights on Qatar:

As you can see from the chart, the earning rates for several classes of travel–everything except first class and full-fare business class–will decrease as of November 1st.

Earning Qmiles on partner airlines

The inclusion of a section on earning mileage on partner airlines may seem illogical, as the presumption of this post is that Qatar is likely to join the oneworld alliance, and their current partner airlines will soon be irrelevant.  But I think it is helpful to highlight the trend of somewhat more generous mileage accrual for first and business class travel on partner airlines.

Just take a look at this–it is the current Qmiles earning chart of US Airways and the old, now defunct earning chart for United:


US Airways only allows Dividend miles accrual of 150% for paid first and business class fares, and United allows MileagePlus miles accrual of 250% for paid first class fares. But as you can see from the charts above, Qatar allowed members to accrue 300% of flown miles–Qmiles–on their partner airlines for premium fare classes.

If this trend of more generous mileage accrual for premium fares continues, those most likely to benefit from crediting their flights to Qatar’s Privilege Club are those who fly paid first and business class regularly.

This analysis doesn’t factor in the value to you of earning status through crediting paid fares. Your status goals may make your crediting decision for you. If you don’t know what the difference between redeemable miles and status miles are, see Choosing Where to Credit Miles Earned from Flying.

Transferring SPG Points

SPG Starpoints transfer to Qatar at a 1:1 ratio with a 5,000 miles bonus on 20,000 point increments, meaning that 20k Starpoints = 25k Qmiles.

Redeeming Qmiles on Qatar Airways

If award tickets are booked online more than 48 hours of travel, there is no award ticketing fee, no matter what your status with the airline. Under any other conditions, there is an impressively long list of ways that you can be charged for redeeming miles for an award ticket that can be found here.

Though the length is long, the fees are very reasonable. Date changes, destination changes, and even cancellations made more than 24 hour out cost only $25. And the close-in ticketing fees start at 7 days out instead of the American-standard 21 days out.

The Qmile redemption chart for Qatar flights is region-based–in an earlier post, I described the different types of frequent flyer miles. This chart shows the number of Qmiles needed for roundtrip travel between the airline’s hub, Doha, and 13 defined regions:

For multi-leg itineraries, each segment is priced separately then combined. For example, a roundtrip economy class award ticket from London to Male, Maldives is 60,000 Qmiles–35,000 Qmiles for the London-Doha segment and 25,000 Qmiles for the Doha-Male segment–and $443.35 in taxes, fees, and surcharges, so surcharges are a major drawback of Qatar’s program.

In comparison, a direct flight from London to Male on British Airways costs 50,000 Avios in economy–or 40,000 AAdvantage miles–and $553.68 in taxes and fees. So, you pay more miles but would save $110.00 in taxes and fees by booking the award on Qatar.

Are there any sweet spots for redemptions on Qatar?

Some of the awards for travel to countries that can be hard to get to on an award tickets are attractive. From Doha, you can get to Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Goa, and Kathmandu for 25,000 Qmiles roundtrip in economy class.

Redeeming Qmiles on fifth-freedom flights

The Points to Point B blog has an excellent explanation of fifth-freedom flights–with a trip report of a Qatar Airways Bangkok-Hanoi flight–and describes the fifth freedom as “the ability for a carrier of Country A to carry passengers on an international route solely between Country B and Country C when on a multi-leg flight that involves Country A.” Here is an award redemption chart of roundtrip prices for Qatar’s fifth-freedom flights:

For 12,500 Qmiles oneway between Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires you can experience Qatar’s international business class cabin, or just use 7,500 Qmiles for a oneway economy ticket. Alternatively, you can do some short haul country-hopping in southeast Asia for 5,000 Qmiles per oneway trip in economy.

Qmiles and cash awards

For award redemptions on Qatar airlines only–not partner airlines–tickets can be booked with 50% of the usual Qmiles required and cash. Here is an example of such a redemption, and the terrible value is fairly representative for travel for all other regions.

Shelling out almost $2,000 PLUS miles is never my idea of a good redemption.

Redeeming Qmiles on partner airlines

The Qmile redemption chart for partner awards is distance-based, similar to British Airways Avios:

There are some positive attributes of the Qmiles partner redemption program:

(1) Oneway redemptions are allowed.

(2) You can book a ticket with connections with multiple carriers without increasing the number of miles needed.

(3) You are allowed free add-on destinations in Gulf countries on an award ticket that originates and ends outside of the Gulf. According to Qatar’s website, the number of Qmiles needed for a London-Doha-Bahrain itinerary will be the same as for the shorter London-Doha trip. This benefit may interest the traveler who needs or wants to country hop around the gulf states–Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait–for business or leisure.

Here are some negatives:

(1) The award chart is expensive.  An easy comparison is British Airway’s Avios distance-based award chart. For example, a short, roughly 1,000 mile oneway trip like New York-Miami would cost 7,500 Avios but 15,000 QMiles. A long-haul flight like Los Angeles-Hong Kong, about 7,000 miles oneway, would cost 35,000 Avios but 50,000 QMiles.

(2) You can’t book partner awards on the website. To book a partner award, you have to complete a “partner award request form”:

This form is then electronically submitted to the member services center, and you receive this message:

(3) Surcharges can be hundreds of dollars or more per passenger. I would like to figure out which partners incur surcharges, but I don’t have that information.

Qatar’s “Easy Deals”

Every month, Qatar Airways publishes “easy deals” on its website. It offers reduced-mileage award redemptions on selected routes for travel during the 6 weeks after the fares are published. This month’s deals can be found here and include: business class oneway flights from Beijing or Seoul to Doha for 27,000 Qmiles and Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo for 6,500 Qmiles.

Elite status and Qpoints in Qatar’s Privilege Club

There are 4 tiers of membership in Privilege Club: Privilege Club, Burgundy, Silver, and Gold. Members of all levels can use their Qmiles to book award tickets for anyone else and use their miles to pay for excess baggage. This table summarizes some of the relevant differences between each tier. A more complete table can be found here.

Somewhat confusingly, Elite status is obtained and maintained by accruing Qpoints. Not Qmiles–Qpoints:

Qpoints are awarded after each flight and the number awarded depends on the class of service and the regions traveled. At this time Qpoints can only be earned on paid Qatar Airways operated flights. Here are some selected examples of Qpoints earnings per oneway segment by region and route:

It would take six round trip flights between Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires on discount economy tickets to get you to Silver status. Of course, unless that status is linked to elite oneworld status, the tiers and Qpoints are of little value to the non-Qatar flyer.


Qatar’s entry into the oneworld alliance happened today, though there is no firm joining date. The addition of the Skytrax “airline of the year” for 2011 and 2012 brings new destinations in Africa, India, and the Middle East to the oneworld alliance.

If you fly paid business and first class flights, Qatar has historically offered mileage accrual in its program that is more generous than most US carriers–300% for first and 250% for business class.  This could potentially allow you to generate more Qmiles for later award redemption.

Qatar’s award chart has very few good value award redemptions and comes up short when compared with other oneworld members like American Airlines and British Airways, with a few exceptions. Short, fifth-freedom flights in Southeast Asia and South America are a good value at 5,000-7,500 Qmiles oneway in economy class. The monthly “easy deals” promotion offers some opportunities for discounted award flights on selected routes. Additionally, access to cities that are difficult to reach on award tickets is greatly improved in oneworld, with direct flights from Doha to Kathmandu and Kilimanjaro from 12,500 Qmiles oneway.

For me, the absolute bottom line is that the surcharges make it unlikely I will look to earn and redeem Qmiles. But I will look to use my AAdvantage miles and Avios on Qatar, especially if American Airlines doesn’t add fuel surcharges to the award cost.

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