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Slowly but surely Qatar Airways has been progressing in its journey to becoming a full member of Oneworld by October 30, 2013. Last month, Qatar and British Airways announced reciprocal frequent flyer mileage earning would begin September 2 and as of yesterday, you can now search Qatar Airways award space on BritishAirways.com.
Just to test it out, I made sample bookings in economy and business class roundtrip from Washington Dulles to Doha, where Qatar Airways is based. Although there is plenty of economy space for the next few months and into next summer, business class availability is much tighter and seems to be available either in the very near-term or starting again next June and July.
The economy award redemption came in at 70,000 Avios plus $516.
While the business class award redemption rang up at 140,000 Avios plus $762 in taxes and fees.
As of last week, you could also earn American miles on Qatar and use them to book award tickets, though you cannot do so on AA.com. I pulled up some awards last week, but here’s the same economy redemption as on BritishAirways.com:
Then for the business class redemption, you’d need 135,000 miles and the same $516 in taxes and fees. However, I think the reason the fees and taxes are so high is that American still hasn’t fixed a system glitch that is imposing surcharges on some partner awards and I expect them to drop hopefully in the near future. The reason I think that is because if you were to look at the same flights for purchase, you’d see that the taxes and fees only add up to $74 in economy.
So I expect the taxes and fees on these award tickets to drop to reflect that once American works out all the system glitches with adding this new partner availability, though I don’t know why it’s taken them over a week to do so.
Which Kind of Miles To Use?
Once the system errors get sorted out with American, the question will then become, which miles to use to book Qatar flights, American AAdvantage miles or British Airways Avios?
In terms of economy redemptions, you’ll be looking at the following breakdown.
British Airways: 70,000 Avios + $516
American: 90,000 miles + $74
So if you were calculating it out, by using Avios, you’d be saving 20,000 miles compared to American but you’d be spending $442 to do so. That’s a cost of 2.21 cents per mile. Now, there are definitely ways to pull that much value from BA Avios or American miles, but I do value them each at lower than that between 1.5-1.8 cents each, so I’d suggest having a particular future redemption in mind for those American miles if you were going to use BA Avios instead. The one other reason I might consider using BA Avios instead is that the airline is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so it’s easier to top up your account with transferable miles from any of these three sources, whereas American miles are harder to come by and its only transfer partner is Starwood.
Looking at business redemptions, the case is much clearer.
British Airways: 140,000 Avios + $792
American: 135,000 miles + $74
So American beats BA both in terms of the amount of miles, and taxes and fees that are less than a tenth of what BA will charge you!
Again, taxes and fees on Qatar awards booked with American miles are suspiciously high at the moment and that hasn’t been resolved yet, so I would wait to book any awards until that’s ironed out or you could end up paying hundreds of extra dollars in erroneous fees, but once everything is normalized, I’d use American miles over British Airways Avios for Qatar flights. Just note that American redemption rules require that you fly over the Pacific and not via Europe or the Middle East for award tickets to Asia, so that is a key consideration.
Using Qatar QMiles?
You could also consider using Qatar’s own mileage program, QMiles, to book your award tickets. The redemption chart here is distance-based in bands, like British Airways':
Though there is also a mileage calculation page where you can enter your specific origin and destination, and the numbers for IAD-DOH are as follows:
Economy is 70,000 miles, business is 120,000 miles and first class is 180,000 miles. Qatar ties British Airways’ mileage requirement on economy awards and it bests both American and British Airways for business class at just 120,000 miles. According to the ITA Matrix – where you can price out various itineraries, when you find a fare you like and click on it, it will show you the breakdown of taxes and fees – the taxes and fees on a Qatar ticket in economy from IAD-DOH are only the same $74 that AA.com showed you.
On its QMiles page, QatarAirways.com also says that post-October 4 carrier-imposed surcharges and taxes on award tickets will be reduced (there have been reports of them getting up to about $500-600 on some itineraries, especially those to Europe), so using QMiles might be the best bargain of the bunch, though I’m not sure how many of them any of us has at the moment.
However Qatar is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, so you could always top up your account that way, though I personally find I get a lot more value out of my Starwood points when used on hotel redemptions than for airline transfers. Still, there are a lot of options here, and I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about booking a Qatar award (despite the limited availability of business class) to price out all their options and make sure they get the best possible value for the miles they have.
Currently, Qatar flies to Chicago, Houston, New York JFK, Washington DC Dulles, and Montreal in North America with service to Philadelphia to start next year.