Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly Qatar business from the U.S. to South Africa for 75,000 miles and $16

May 2, 2021

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I like booking American Airlines reduced mileage awards. And I’ve gotten excellent value from my American Airlines AAdvantage miles when redeeming to fly intra-Japan on Japan Airlines.

But, my favorite way to redeem American Airlines miles is to fly Qatar Airways one-way between the U.S. and Africa. In particular, I enjoy stretching my redemption to southern Africa to visit Johannesburg or Cape Town. The miles cost of this one-way in business class: 75,000 American Airlines miles. And, for a one-way from Chicago to Cape Town via Doha, the taxes and fees come out to just $15.70.

Today I’ll tell you more about this redemption and give step-by-step instructions for booking. Then, I’ll conclude by providing suggestions for earning more American Airlines miles if your balance is a bit low.

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In This Post

Why it’s special

Qatar Qsuite
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

All of Qatar’s long-haul business class products are enjoyable. I’ve always enjoyed my Qatar Airways business class flights, from the food and drinks to the cabin service.

Best of all, you can typically fly Qatar Qsuite on flights between the U.S. and Doha (and on some other routes. And flying Qsuite is a memorable experience, especially if you’re traveling as a couple and can snag two of the center seats that cabin attendants can make into a double bed.

Qatar Qsuite double bed
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

You could redeem 70,000 American Airlines miles plus minimal taxes and fees to fly Qatar Qsuite one-way between the U.S. and the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent. While that’s a great way to redeem American Airlines miles, you can add a flight between Doha and African cities served by Qatar for just 5,000 more miles.

In particular, you can fly transatlantic one-way between the U.S. and Africa for just 75,000 AAdvantage miles and minimal taxes and fees. For example, flying two-long haul Qatar flights in business class from Chicago to Cape Town, South Africa, would cost 75,000 miles plus $15.70 in taxes and fees. And, you may even find an itinerary that allows you to connect domestically in the U.S. for the same cost. Based on TPG’s valuations, 75,000 American Airlines miles are worth about $1,050.

The easiest way to check whether your flight has Qsuite seating is to take a look at the seat map. I use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to do so. For example, a Qsuite A350-900 flight from Philadelphia to Doha would look like this:

Qatar A350-900 with Qsuites in business
Qatar A350-900 Qsuite business class seat map (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer)

Meanwhile, a non-Qsuite A350-900 flight from Doha to Cape Town would look like this:

Qatar A350-900 without Qsuites in business
Qatar A350-900 business class seat map without Qsuite (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer, which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures)

Of course, there are other ways to fly in business class to Africa using points and miles. And TPG has a post on the best ways to get to South Africa on points and miles. But, redeeming American Airlines miles to fly Qatar business class is my preferred method.

Related: Brian Kelly’s thoughts on flying Qatar Qsuite as a group of 4

How to book this award

Qatar Qsuite
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Booking this award is straightforward. And, now that you can cancel and redeposit AAdvantage awards until departure for no cost, there’s no harm in booking an award even if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to take the flight. However, I don’t recommend transferring points into AAdvantage to speculatively book awards. After all, you may be left with devalued miles if you end up needing to cancel your award.

You can search for award availability even if you don’t have the necessary miles. After all, if you follow the steps below, you won’t be asked to sign in until the fifth step. Here’s how to find award availability and book this sweet spot.

Step 1: Start your search on American’s home page

On American Airlines’ homepage, select the “One way” option (even if you want to fly round-trip, searching and booking one-ways may be easier) and click Redeem miles. Enter your origin, destination and dates and select the number of tickets you want. Then, click search.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

The next page will hopefully show some results. If not, consider searching for fewer passengers or alter your origin, destination or dates.

Related: Approaching perfection: A review of Qatar Airways’ Qsuite business class on the 777-300ER, Doha to JFK

Step 2: Limit your search to select airlines

Next, you’ll want to limit your search to specific airlines. If you are flying from a city served by Qatar in the U.S., you may want only to select Qatar when selecting airlines. But, if you want or need to connect within the U.S., you should also choose the airline you want to connect on.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

By selecting only Qatar Airways (or Qatar Airways and your connecting airline), you’ll eliminate other pesky options. And doing so will help as you move on to the next step and search for availability on different dates.

Related: How to book Qatar Airways flights with points and miles

Step 3: Use calendar search to check alternate dates (if needed)

Next, click on Calendar to see a calendar of award availability. Then click on the “Show all classes” drop-down and select “Business/First.” Doing so will result in a calendar search that only shows dates with business class awards operated by the airlines you selected in the previous step.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

If this calendar search doesn’t provide any itineraries you like, you may want to go back to Step 1 and search for a ticket from a different airport or another destination (such as Johannesburg instead of Cape Town). In particular, I recommend searching from a U.S. airport served directly by Qatar, including:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington (IAD)

Related: Flying Qatar’s Qsuite business class on the inaugural San Francisco flight

Step 4: Select your award and check the trip summary

If you click on a date on the calendar, you’ll see all the awards available for that day.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Click on the award you want to book and check the trip summary. Then click Log-in and continue.

Related: What to do with 5,000 or fewer American Airlines AAdvantage miles

Step 5: Log in, check your passenger info and select seats

You’ll need to log in on the next screen. Then, you’ll need to enter the passenger information and trip contact information. However, this information may be preloaded for you. Then click continue and move to seat selection. However, you won’t be able to select seats for Qatar-operated flights on American Airlines’ website.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

After your ticket is issued, I recommend calling American Airlines to get the Qatar PNR. Then, you may be able to select your seats on Qatar’s website. But, if you want specific seats that show up as blocked on the ExpertFlyer seat map, you’ll need to call Qatar and ask them to unblock them. After all, Qatar typically blocks the Qsuite quad seats for couples and larger groups.

Related: Sweet Spot Sunday: How to fly to Hawaii for just 15,000 miles round-trip

Step 7: Review your flight and pay

Finally, you can review your itinerary one final time and check the cost in both miles and cash.

Booking American Airlines award to fly Qatar
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Then you’ll need to pay for the taxes and fees on your award. I recommend using a credit card that provides travel protections even when you only use your card to pay for the taxes and fees. My go-to choice is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is also a good choice.

Related: When to buy travel insurance versus when to rely on credit card protections

How to earn miles for this award

Earning enough American Airlines miles may not be an issue for some American Airlines loyalists. But, for many travelers, the most challenging part of booking this award may be earning enough American Airlines miles. After all, the only major transferrable currency that you can transfer to American Airlines is Marriott Bonvoy.

Transferring Marriott Bonvoy points

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)

You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines AAdvantage at a 3:1 transfer ratio. And Marriott will give you a bonus 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you transfer. But, even with the bonus miles, this transfer ratio can be challenging to swallow.

After accounting for the 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred, you’d need to transfer 180,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to book just one one-way award. To put 180,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in perspective, you could spend 18 to 45 nights at Marriott Bonvoy Category 1 hotels or four to seven nights at Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 hotels with these points.

Depending on how many Marriott Bonvoy points you have and how you typically redeem Marriott Bonvoy points, transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines may seem like a terrible idea or a great idea. If you want to earn Marriott Bonvoy points to transfer and get some Marriott-specific perks like elite night credits and free night certificates each year, you may want to apply for one of the following Marriott Bonvoy credit cards:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership. ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made within the first three months of card membership. ($125 annual fee, see rates and fees)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each free night award has a redemption value up to 50,000 bonus points, that’s a value of up to 150,000 total points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 10X total points on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations within the first 6 months from account opening. ($95 annual fee)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. (no annual fee)

Related: Here’s why you need both a personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Earning with American Airlines cards

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Of course, you can also use the cobranded American Airlines credit cards to earn more American Airlines miles. In particular, you could sign-up for a new card or spend on a card you already have.

Unfortunately, none of the American Airlines cards currently offer a large enough sign-up bonus for you to book a one-way award after you meet the bonus’ minimum spending requirements. But, several cards can get you most of the way there. In particular, here’s an overview of the top American Airlines cards to consider:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, Citi AAdvantage Business Platinum Select, AAdvantage Aviator Red and the AAdvantage Aviator Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The best uses of 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles

Other methods for earning American miles

You could also transfer World of Hyatt points, IHG Rewards points and Choice Privileges points to American Airlines miles. But, the transfer ratios typically don’t make any of these hotel partners a compelling option. You could also buy American Airlines miles, but ensure doing so will provide good value before completing your purchase.

If you’re looking for other options, be sure to read our complete guide to how to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Related: Should you earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles instead of cash on your savings?

Bottom line

It’s relatively easy to find Qatar Airways business class awards. Sure, you may need to be slightly flexible with your travel dates and U.S. gateway. But, even if you want to travel with four or more travelers, it’s not impossible to find award availability.

Redeeming 70,000 American Airlines miles for a one-way Qatar Qsuite flight between the U.S. and the Middle East is a great deal, especially considering you’ll need to pay minimal taxes and fees on this award. But, as this post showed, it doesn’t cost much more to go all the way to South Africa from the U.S. I’m planning to use this sweet spot myself in early 2022 when I finally return to South Africa for a dream trip using points and miles.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex card, click here.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.