Why Qatar Airways joining OneWorld will hugely increase the value of American’s distance based awards

I’ve written in the past about American’s distance based awards, which can be an incredible value. While American’s partner award chart is region based, the distance based award chart, is, well, distance based.

As a refresher, here’s the distance based award chart:

American_Distance_Based_Awards

I consider the “sweet spots” of the chart to be zones six and seven, especially for travel in business class. American charges just 130,000 miles to fly 14,001-20,000 miles in business class, and 150,000 miles to fly 20,001-25,000 miles in business class.

The great thing is that you can fly up to 16 segments and stop at each city along the way if you’d like to. The only “catch” is that you have to fly at least two OneWorld airlines and can’t transit any city more than twice on a single award.

The thing that would have made these awards even more valuable is if American’s partner airlines could be included on these awards, and not just OneWorld airlines. For example, it would be amazing to be able to fly Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska, Etihad, etc., on one of these awards.

While that’s probably not happening anytime soon, Qatar Airways is joining OneWorld as of October 30, 2013. And the implications of this — and the value it adds to distance based awards — is HUGE.

Why is this so exciting? Here’s American’s partner award chart for travel to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent:

American_Partner_Award_Chart

As you can see, 135,000 miles are required to fly roundtrip in business class between there and North America.

However, as I showed above, you can fly up to 20,000 miles in business class for 130,000 miles, which will get you from North America to most of India or the Middle East… and beyond! So not only do you save 5,000 miles, but you have the option of stopping over at each airport along the way for as long as you’d like (as long as your ticket is used within a year of the date of issue).

For example, here’s a really simple routing well within that 20,000 mile limit — you can fly New York to Doha to Delhi to Hong Kong to New York, and stop in each city along the way, and still be nearly 1,500 miles under the limit.

AAdvantage_Distance_Based_Award2

Similarly, if you wanted to go to the Maldives, you could fly from New York to Doha to Male to Hong Kong to New York and stop at each airport along the way for just 130,000 miles in business class.

AAdvantage_Distance_Based_Award3

Or I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal, so now you can do New York to Doha to Kathmandu to Hong Kong to New York with stops in each city for just 130,000 miles in business class.

AAdvantage_Distance_Based_Award5

And those are all really straightforward, direct routings. For the same 130,000 miles in business class you can fly New York to London to Dusseldorf to Munich to Doha to Delhi to Bangkok to Hong Kong to Tokyo to New York, with stopovers in each city.

AAdvantage_Distance_Based_Award7

October 30 can’t come soon enough!

Comments

  1. Awesome post Lucky! On your last example routing, would one still have to pay fuel surcharges for JFK-LHR on BA even on a distance-based award?

  2. @ Joey — You would still pay fuel surcharges for BA segments, though you could fly American from New York to London.

  3. @Lantean, I believe Qatar only has a few first class routes available at the moment (DOH-LHR; DOH-CDG; DOH-MUC) until the A380 arrives in late 2014!

  4. Very interesting. Maybe it’s time to start collecting AA miles again.

    I loved QR’s business class. Good service, good food. 2-2-2 seating but I was in the middle pair so no problems. Nice AVOD system. Free hotel stay in Doha on my return trip due to a long layover.

  5. was-doh-maa-hkg-nrt-ord-was comes in at 19995 miles.
    So if you are doing India and North Asia in 1 ticket this is as low as you can go.

    I can’t find a 19999, but it will be fun to see if it exists
    was-doh-blr-hkg-nrt-ord-was makes it 20008 miles

    Pulling it further south to Colombo
    was-doh-cmb-hkg-nrt-ord-was comes in at 20380 miles

  6. Thanks Lucky.

    Any good options from LAX? I always thought distance based awards were more compelling from the east coast (Although I did four stop trip to Europe once, which was very worthwhile on the distance based award.)

  7. I wonder if this will result in a change to their Explorer Award chart? I wouldn’t be surprised if they devalued their chart just slightly (5-10k adjustment to a few levels) within the next year.

  8. @ Tyson — I think that’s coming regardless, and it has nothing to do with Qatar. The chart is ripe for devaluation, though I don’t think it’ll be too extreme.

  9. @ Beachfan — It’s not as useful on Qatar, though I do think the distance based award chart is extremely lucrative for those based on the west coast, since you can do Asia and Australia on a single award at under 20,000 miles.

  10. Lucky, in all your route examples they started and ended at the same city. Is it possible to start at JFK and end in LAX or end in NRT?

  11. I just booked something similar in the same sweet spot but using RJ, since I needed to pull the trigger before October. Connecting in AMM vs. DOH, but I’m very excited to be able to use them as Doha is on my “must visit” list. Don’t forget their fifth freedom options, either: Buenos Aires – Sao Paulo, Kuala Lumpur – Phuket, Bangkok – Hanoi, Bangkok – Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore – Denpasar, etc.

  12. @Lucky, thanks for the tip, I’ll have to look at it. Very intriguing!

    Any thoughts on Qantas F availability HKG or SIN to Australia? Maybe I can throw in a short hop on MH to get the 3 carriers.

  13. @Lucky;

    What routing were you thinking of from LAX? I’m thinking it works from SEA but not LAX.

    I get 23.7k miles lax-hkg-syd-hkg-lax and a little over 20 via NRT.

  14. With the addition of QR, do you think AAdvantage will change its rules to allow users to transit the middle east region en route to Africa, Asia and other destinations?

  15. Ben,

    Can you think of any “sweet spot” first class itineraries that would be worth considering, taking into account potential award availability? Thanks!!!

  16. Why are you putting red highlights around parts of the chart? You’re basically telling AA to change those numbers. There’s no reason to be so explicit in naming “sweet spots.”

  17. @ Joey — You could absolutely end at LAX. The major restriction is that you have to terminate travel in the same country you originated.

  18. @ Brian — There really aren’t any great ways. But why would you want to accumulate Qatar Airways miles? American miles would be much more valuable.

  19. @ beachfan — Qantas doesn’t release much first class award space, though if planning in advance it’s not impossible to find. Certainly takes some effort and flexibility, though.

  20. @ CTravlr — They didn’t change the rules when they started partnering with Etihad, so I doubt it. American’s routing rules are just archaic in many ways, and this is one of them. Same way you can’t travel to Southern South America via Lima.

  21. @ Craig — The sweet spots on the chart are really business class. I guess first class could be a decent value if you’re traveling under 20,000 miles. Something like Los Angeles to Sydney to Hong Kong to Los Angeles could be a good deal, though it’s still not amazing in my opinion.

  22. @ Nun — No, I’m not trying to help American, I’m trying to help my readers. I guess by that logic I shouldn’t share any suggestions/advice, because I’m ultimately just helping the travel companies shut down those “sweet spots?”

    How long have I been talking about US Airways 90K miles awards to North Asia? They’re still there.

  23. have been following your blog for a very long time lucky, and it’s got amazing info. how do we get from del-bkk on oneworld? is it a tag route?

  24. I guess 150k for lax-hkg-Syd-hkg-lax is ok for J. In F it’s 250k. It’s just under 24k miles, adding in even a short stop in SIN might push it over 24k

  25. @ Traveller — A fifth freedom route is one not operated out of the airline’s traditional hub, so it operates between two separate markets outside of their home country. For example, Cathay Pacific flies New York to Vancouver, Lufthansa flies Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, etc.

  26. Whoops, typo, it’s 230k in F.
    I still think it was a great post, even if it isn’t that good in F out of LAX.

  27. @Craig & others (interested in F itins) – I booked LAX-HKG//KUL-LHR-LAX recently; total 19,309, for 180k miles in F.

    Due to time constraints, it was difficult to tag on other legs to maximize the 20k miles (min connecting time in LAX did not enable me to tag on LAX-SFO-LAX – not sure if that was allowed – conflicting responses from different AA agents). That would have got me to 19,984.

    But I do get to sample CX F (77W), MH F (388), and BA F (388), neither product I’ve tried before.

  28. Ben, Nepal is just “bleh” using your term. Poor and dirty.

    For a true Himalayan experience, you may want to visit Bhutan. Unspoiled beauty, amazing landscape in the last Shangri-La.
    Just the landing in Paro is out of this world.

    And I think they have an Aman property over there.

  29. @Simon, kudos to you for being able to find F space on MH recently! There was a lot earlier this year but I thought they all dried up by now.

    @Lucky, I reread this post and was wondering how adding Qatar makes a huge impact when Royal Jordanian is already a Oneworld member. Can’t one do similar routings but via AMM rather than DOH?

  30. @ Joey — Yes and no. Royal Jordanian has a MUCH worse product than Qatar, and doesn’t have nearly as extensive of a route network as Qatar.

  31. @ FAN — Yes, you’re allowed one open jaw on the trip. If business class isn’t available you can book economy, though American doesn’t let you book into premium economy on any airlines since it’s not on their award chart.

  32. Thanks Lucky, If I am booked on one or two legs of the OW award ticket in Y but later on an C option opens up, can I switch for a fee? And besides BA, does QF, QR and RJ all charges YQ on this AA OW redemption? TIA.

  33. @ FAN — Yes, that should be possible. There shouldn’t be fuel surcharges on any of those carriers when booking with AAdvantage miles.

  34. Thanks Lucky, Do you know if BA will allow me to pay for upgrade at airport with ticket booked by AA on miles?

  35. @ FAN — They do sometimes offer buy ups, though it’s pretty unpredictable so I wouldn’t count on it.

  36. Hi Lucky, i just booked 3 Qatar Business Class tickets to travel to India for Nov 2014 using BA miles. All my sectors are business except JFK to DOHA. I have been checking every day if that sector opens up so i can change it to business. what do you think my chances are to be able to change it to business. Will they upgrade at the airport if there is avalability using BA miles? Is BA also distance based awards and can i do what you have suggested with BA miles? – sorry for all the questions.

  37. @ Vikas — British Airways charges for flights on a per segment basis, so if business class opened up and you made the switch it would cost you double as many miles. There’s no way you’d otherwise be upgraded, unfortunately. JFK can be really tough for business class awards on Qatar, but if you look for space out of Philadelphia or one of the other gateways you might have better luck.

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