How To Save Miles On Qatar Airways Awards To The Middle East

One of the unique things Qatar Airways does on flights within the Middle East is that they classify their forward-most cabin as first class.

In other words, if you have an hour flight between Doha and Dubai that’s operated by an A320, the premium cabin is marketed as first class and not as business class.

Qatar-Airways-A320
Qatar Airways A320

It’s important to clarify that this is exclusively the case on flights within the Middle East.

Qatar-Airways-First

If you fly that same A320 from Doha to Colombo, Sri Lanka instead, that cabin would be marketed as business class.

Qatar-Airways-Business

Why Qatar Airways markets business class as first class

This is interesting, since Qatar Airways is one of those airlines which is almost entirely eliminating first class. The only longhaul routes on which they operate a first class cabin are Bangkok, London, and Paris, while all other longhaul routes have business class as the highest cabin.

Qatar-Airways-A320-First-Class
Qatar Airways A320 business class (first class on regional flights)

So why does Qatar Airways make an exception on shorthaul flights within the Middle East, and market the forward cabin as first class? The way it was explained to me is that many of the premium passengers traveling on those routes are Qataris, and they want to make the best services available to them, so that they get first class lounge access, etc. I guess that’s the benefit of having a state owned airline.

Al-Mourjan-Lounge-Doha-33
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge Doha

As a point of comparison, all the other Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, etc.) market their forward-most cabin on two cabin planes as business class and not first class. And for what it’s worth, Qatar Airways’ first class fares within the Middle East are comparable to the business class fares of other airline.

So what happens on a business class award ticket?

This gets tricky when you’re booking a business class award ticket to the Middle East on Qatar Airways. Say you book London to Doha in business class, and then want to connect within the Middle East in the forward-most cabin, which is first class. Technically that would price as a first class award, since awards are charged based on the highest class of service you’re flying during the journey.

But this is an area where American AAdvantage will actually make an exception. If you price out such an award and are quoted the first class price, explain to the agent that it’s really a two class plane, and they should be able to call the rates desk and get it manually priced. I’ve had luck with this several times. If you’re rejected, just hang up and call again.

Note, however, that I haven’t had luck with this when booking awards through US Airways Dividend Miles and British Airways Executive Club.

Given that Qatar Airways serves Krug on some flights within the Middle East that are marketed as first class, it’s a great way to drink first class champagne at business class prices. šŸ˜‰

Krug

Bottom line

Before I knew this trick I’d often add an extra connection on flights within the Middle East so I could stay in the forward cabin all the way. For example, if I wanted to fly business class from London Doha to Muscat, I’d book Doha to Abu Dhabi to Muscat in business class on Etihad Airways, rather than pay the first class price on the Doha to Muscat nonstop.

This trick adds considerable value to redeeming AAdvantage miles for travel on Qatar Airways to/from the Middle East, in my opinion.

Have you ever used this “trick” to lower the cost of a Qatar Airways AAdvantage award to/from the Middle East?

Comments

  1. I booked an oneway award with Qatar’s Privilege Club AUH-DOH-FRA in First/Business for 87K miles. The same in Economy/First would have been 97K miles…so that was an easy decision šŸ™‚
    (The first option can only be booked as a member with (gold ?-) status, I think)

  2. Lucky,

    Thanks for this tip! Another question about Qatar (or even Etihad). Is there any way to redeem AA miles on QR or EY to Europe without having to break it out into two separate awards? This is where that pesky requirement of not being able to transit in a third region comes into play? Been trying to figure out the best way to Istanbul using AA miles in biz without paying the heavy fuel surcharges on BA. At this stage, the best I’ve come up with is Iberia.

  3. Who ever heard of marketing the forward cabin in a 2-class plane as first class? Oh, wait, every airline in the history of the USA šŸ˜›

  4. FWIW, I flew DOH-DXB and back in F last week, and only got the regular business class champagne. Krug in the lounge at DOH, though.

  5. @ Joe Jones — They only serve Krug on the longer services within the Middle East, backwards as that may seem (since you’d think Doha to Dubai is more lucrative than Doha to Cairo, for example).

  6. As someone who flies out of CMB about three/four times a year (RT, so 8x segments) on their A320s I WISH EY would also do the same. Fat chance šŸ™

  7. It’s a little late, got directed here from your new review, but Bangkok, London and Paris are three destinations, not two.

  8. “The only two longhaul routes on which they operate a first class cabin are Bangkok, London, and Paris”
    hmmmmmmmmmm……………..

  9. Anyone have any recent experience with this? Just tried to book a BIZ award from Europe to Dubai via Doha and getting the first class pricing . . . and haven’t had any luck to override this.

  10. @Adam W. – I just booked JFK-DOH (business class) DOH-Muscat (first class) 70k AAdvantage miles.

    My question is, will I be able to use the first class lounge in Doha??

  11. After calling a few agents I was able to get the price reduced to the Business class award (BUD-DOH-DXB). From other reports here it seems we would have access to the lounge, but I’ll have to confirm later this month.

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