Well this is pretty snazzy. United’s website now seems to display Qatar Airways award availability on the award search tool. The great thing is that since the integration between United and Continental, Qatar Airways awards are actually priced at the same cost as any other partner award, so there’s not a premium like there used to be.
Back when United had non-Star Alliance partners, not only did they have different costs for award tickets on them, but they also had added restrictions. For example, you couldn’t book partner award tickets as one-ways, you couldn’t mix multiple carriers on a single ticket, and you couldn’t include segments to the partner airline’s gateway city. So that’s a huge plus for the merger (one of the few), since you can now include travel on a partner airline as part of a Star Alliance award, book it as a one-way, etc.
I flew Qatar Airways in first class between London and Doha last year using British Midland miles, and on the whole had a pretty nice experience. You can read all about it here. While I can’t say I necessarily want to go back to Doha, I wouldn’t mind flying Qatar Airways again. And their business class does look very good, with fully flat seats on most of their routes.
Anyway, to start, here’s a map of Qatar Airways’ destinations which seems to be pretty up to date.
As you can see, in North America they serve Houston, Montreal, New York, and Washington, all on two cabin aircraft. They also serve just about everywhere in Asia and Europe, as well as some destinations in Africa and Australia.
At first look, business class award availability seems to be really good, even if you’re connecting to places outside of the Middle East.
For example, when searching for award availability United’s website automatically presented New York to Bangkok via Doha for 60,000 miles one-way in business class:
The same goes for New York to Johannesburg, which is also 60,000 miles one-way in business class.
The funny thing is that flying from the US to Middle East costs 60,000 miles one-way, so your connecting flight is essentially “free.” Even if you have to visit Doha, keep in mind that you’re allowed a stopover on a roundtrip award. So for 120,000 miles roundtrip you can take your trip to Doha, and then also tag on a flight to Africa, Asia, etc., at no additional cost
But here’s the part you guys are going to love. Everyone wants to go to the Maldives, and it was previously a pain to get there using United miles. Not anymore. Qatar Airways flies nonstop from Doha to Male in the Maldives, so a one-stop routing to the Maldives couldn’t be easier.
Here’s the award calendar for nonstop flights between Doha and Male:
As you can see, the dates in yellow have coach award space, and the dates in green have both business and coach award space. In other words, every single day has coach award space, while almost every second date has business class award space.
And even more promising? Look at the award calendar when just searching New York to the Maldives without any trickery even required:
And the flight times work out quite nicely too:
Less than 24 hours to the Maldives? That’s really good.
(Tip of the hat to Craig)