Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly Qatar business from the U.S. to South Africa for 75,000 miles and $16
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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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Why it’s special
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.
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:
Meanwhile, a non-Qsuite A350-900 flight from Doha to Cape Town would look like this:
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.
How to book this award
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.
The next page will hopefully show some results. If not, consider searching for fewer passengers or alter your origin, destination or dates.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Click on the award you want to book and check the trip summary. Then click Log-in and continue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
Earning with American Airlines cards
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:
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening ($99 annual fee that’s waived the first 12 months)
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard: Earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days plus earn 10,000 miles when you add an employee card in the first 30 days and a purchase is made on an employee card in the first 90 days ($95 annual fee)
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days ($99 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening ($99 annual fee that’s waived the first year)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening ($450 annual fee)
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.
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.
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.
Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
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