Back in early June United announced that they would be terminating their relationship with Qatar Airways as of September 14, 2012. While their codeshare agreement ended on June 15, award tickets for travel on Qatar Airways are still bookable through September 14, 2012, and you can travel well beyond those dates.
The end of this agreement is pretty sad since Qatar Airways was great about releasing business class award space and has a fantastic fully flat business class product. Furthermore they made several destinations, like the Maldives, more easily accessible.
The issue many are running into, however, is that United reservations agents don’t seem to have access to Qatar Airways award space anymore, and are also convinced that no bookings are allowed on Qatar Airways for travel after September 14, which isn’t the case.
Meanwhile United’s website continues to display plenty of award space, though as many of you probably know, it’s not always practical to book an award ticket online, especially if it includes a stopover or is in any way complex.
So how do you book a Qatar Airways award when United’s website won’t line up all the flights you want and reservations agents don’t see the Qatar Airways award space?
Simple — take advantage of United’s 24 hour free change policy. United lets you cancel or make changes to award tickets within 24 hours of booking, so my strategy is to just book as much of my desired itinerary as I can online, and then call to modify/add segments that I couldn’t price out online.
One of the benefits of United’s new system for pricing awards is that you can constantly “reprice” award tickets without any major complications. With the old United (and with US Airways, for example), you had to completely redeposit an award and start from scratch if you changed the regions, class of service, etc.
So for example, if you want to fly from Hong Kong to Washington on United, Washington to Doha on Qatar Airways (with a stopover in Doha), and Doha to Hong Kong on Qatar Airways in business class, first try to piece together the entire itinerary online using the multi-city feature.
If it gives you an error (which is fairly likely), just book the segments from Washington to Doha and Doha to Hong Kong online, since those are the Qatar Airways segments that the agents won’t be able to see. Then once it’s ticketed, call within 24 hours to add on the outbound from Hong Kong to Washington on United. The system will automatically recognize the “stopover” in Doha and price accordingly.
Some have suggested placing a ticket on hold online for the Qatar Airways segments and then calling in to have the United segments added, though I’ve occasionally run into issues with this strategy. Since the ticket is only on hold, some agents will claim they’ve received a memo saying not to book Qatar Airways segments for after September 14, so they’ll refuse to ticket. Once the ticket is issued they won’t try to deny you the Qatar Airways segment, so that’s why I prefer the strategy of booking and then making a change within 24 hours.
So to those of you looking to use your United miles for travel on Qatar Airways, it’s not too late!