The challenge of booking Qatar Airways awards using United miles

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!


Qatar Airways 777 in Doha

Comments

  1. 1. I’ve had no problem putting an award on hold, getting web support to add segments, then ticketing online.

    2. The bigger challenge is when you can’t get the Qatar segment to be added to your itinerary on the website — it’s clearly available as a one-way but not using multi-city search. Then you have to get an agent to add it… and therein lies the challenge.

    The best thing is to get the Qatar segments added to your itinerary by the web and working with OTHER segments over the phone.

    But getting Qatar segments added by phone is a challenge. It *is* still possible, takes lots of hang up, call back, but I have now done it.

    And already having Qatar segments booked as part of an award kinda disproves the agents’ theory that Qatar is no longer a partner. šŸ™‚

  2. Newbie question here: I am booking a flight for my dad on Qatar in Jan or Feb ’13 using my United miles. Even though the “partnership” ends in September ’12, this shouldn’t be an issue and United will still honor the flight that I’ve booked for 2013 travel, right? I’m worried that United will not, and then my dad will end up on some random route/airline because of the termination of the partnership.

    Thanks!

  3. I still don’t get how UA seems to have two systems for award inventory. One for phone agents and another for the web. I had similar problems getting LH F space for an award I wanted to change up as travel approached. It took way too many calls as agents kept telling me the flight I wanted did not exist (and this is different from phantom inventory as I was even able to book/ticket it as a separate one way online).

    What’s the latest with UA when it comes to SQ inventory? My understanding is they have completely pulled everything as of now.

  4. I booked couple of QR trips recently and used exactly the same strategy – try to book as many QR segments online as possible, then once ticketed call reservation to book the rest. Even then it’s still a hit-or-miss with the reservation agents.

  5. Anyone seeing any FC availability on the Europe flights? I keep looking, but only ever BC that shows up…

  6. Always wanted to fly Qatar…this sucks, as I wont be able to anymore using United miles.

  7. Keep in mind that after 9/14, there will not be a baggage interline agreement. So if you’ll need to pick up and recheck any bags when going between UA/QR. Coming back to the US, it won’t matter as much since you’ll need to get your bags after immigration but going out could be a pain.

  8. @Lou
    Are u sure, Can you please share a source for the discontinuation of interline agreement..

  9. Just booked JNB-DOH-IAH-DEN in C for June 2013 via UA website. I’ll call UA to add the DUR-JNB leg later. I now have two award reservations for same date. Need to decide whether to keep my existing SA return (love their business class seats, especially for sleeping. That cone thingy overhead seems to make it more private) or try out Qatar. Since I’ve done South African in C a few times, and may not have another opportunity to try out Qatar, thinking of keeping the QR flights.

  10. Does Qatar offer a hotel stay or a sleeping quarter in their arrival lounge at Doha airport? I have a 9hr connection at DOH from 11pm to 8am. Both legs are in Business class.

  11. I, too, would like to know if QR gives United award tickets in Business class the same complimentary hotel booking as when you have QR-sold paid business class. I have a 7pm arrival, and have just been changed to an 815am departure on my connection…..

  12. I tried to do JFK-DOHA, DOH-SIN for any day in feb 2013 and its giving me error. anyone know how to get that book? thanks

  13. @ Carol — You’ll want to just search JFK to SIN, and if there’s availability it should show up “organically.”

  14. @Carol
    I have the same issue… JFK-DOH-MLE… always an error.
    I wonder if we should book 2 separate itineraries and then United would merge them and refund the miles?

  15. @ Lantean — They won’t be able to merge so I wouldn’t do that. Are you trying to have a stopover in Doha or continue on the next available flight?

  16. @Lucky

    well, there has to be an overnight in Doha because there is only 1 flight a day to MLE at 8 AM… but it’s giving me an error when i do multi-segment search… when I do one-way search Quatar doesn’t come up at all..
    šŸ™

  17. @Lucky

    never mind, I found it… it’s all the way below the 3 segment itineraries… most likely because the transfer in Doha is 14 hours.
    šŸ˜‰

  18. well, you know… in the way of their religion… no alcohol, no gay sex, no women in bikinis… etc… you know what i mean.

  19. @ Lantean — Honestly can’t say I noticed that. Most of the resorts are pretty isolated, so I never really left the resort. Didn’t find them to really be conservative in any way, so I wouldn’t be worried.

    Have a great time!

  20. can anyone confirm that you’ll need to re-check your bags with a UA-Qatar connection after Sept 14? I’m flying ORD-LHR-DOH and would hate to have to get my bags, clear customs, and re-check in london.

  21. @lucky: regarding your response to @SST, unfortunately you’re mistaken. QR does not offer free STPC (hotel, transport, etc.) on award bookings. They do give you the option to purchase the service for $150, though I think that this figure might be variable depending on your ticket/fare type. I just got off the phone with the third agent who confirmed the same thing (all three were in different offices/cities).

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