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

Oct. 16, 2022
13 min read
Qatar Qsuites on the A350-900
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Editor's Note

This article has been updated with the correct amount of taxes and fees.

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 is just 75,000 American Airlines miles. And, for a one-way from the U.S. to South Africa, taxes and fees come out to just under $42.

Today I’ll tell you more about this redemption and give step-by-step instructions for booking.

Why it’s special

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 its premier Qatar Qsuite business class product on flights between the U.S. and Doha (and on some other routes too). 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.

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 in itself, you can add a flight between Doha and several African cities served by Qatar for just 5,000 more miles.

This means you can fly one-way between the U.S. and Africa for just 75,000 AAdvantage miles and minimal taxes and fees. And if you don't live near a Qatar Airways gateway, you may be able to find an itinerary that allows you to connect domestically in the U.S. for the same cost.

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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 Qsuite business class seat map. EXPERTFLYER.COM

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

Qatar A350-900 business class seat map without Qsuite. EXPERTFLYER.COM

Of course, there are other ways to fly in business class to Africa using points and miles too. Check out our post on the best ways to get to South Africa on points for more info.

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

How to book this award

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Thankfully, 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.

That said, 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. Just note that award space is difficult to come by right now, so check back regularly if you can't find flights on your desired route.

Here’s how to find award availability and book this sweet spot.

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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.

AA.COM

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.

AA.COM

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 pull up a calendar search that only shows dates with business class awards operated by the airlines you selected in the previous step.

AA.COM

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).

I recommend searching from a U.S. airport served directly by Qatar, including:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (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.

AA.COM

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. Here, you will need to enter the passenger information and trip contact information. Then click continue.

AA.COM

After your ticket is issued, I recommend calling American Airlines to get the Qatar confirmation number. Then, you may be able to select your seats on Qatar’s website. 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. 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.

AA.COM

Then you’ll need to pay for the taxes and fees on your award. I recommend using a credit card that provides travel protection even when you only use your card to pay for 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 currencies that you can transfer to American Airlines are Marriott Bonvoy and Bilt Rewards.

Transferring Marriott Bonvoy points

You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AAdvantage. 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 this into perspective, you could book a week at many mid-tier property with this amount of 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 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:

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

Transferring Bilt Rewards points

If you pay your rent with Bilt Rewards or spend on the Bilt Mastercard, you can transfer your points 1:1 to AAdvantage. Points transfer from Bilt to AAdvantage instantly.

Related: Paying rent and mortgages with a credit card

Earning with American Airlines cards

JOHN GRIBBEN FOR THE POINTS GUY

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

Here’s a few American Airlines cobrand cards to consider:

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Premium Select Mastercard 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: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

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 you can often find award availability with persistence.

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. And as you've seen in this post, it doesn’t cost much more to go all the way to South Africa from the U.S.

For rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant, click here

For rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Bevy, click here

For rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Business, click here

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more