The Best “Legitimate” Business Class Fare I’ve Ever Seen?

Qatar Airways offers global fare sales as often as JoS. A. Bank offers “the spectacular semi-weekly buy one get seven suits free” sale.”

Qatar Airways’ latest global fare sale is valid for bookings made through March 13, 2015, and for travel through July 10, 2015.

QR-Global-Promotion

I’ve written in the past about how airlines publish some great premium cabin fares out of Colombo, Sri Lanka and Cairo, Egypt, though I think this Qatar Airways fare sale may just have the best value premium cabin tickets I’ve ever seen.

In particular, Qatar Airways has some amazing fares published out of Cairo, Egypt. Ordinarily Qatar Airways charges ~$2,000 for roundtrip business class between Cairo and the US, though now it’s even cheaper.

Qatar-Airways-777-2
Qatar Airways 777 business class

Take a look at this Cairo to Miami roundtrip business class ticket for 9,874EGP (~$1295):

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Roundtrip that’s ~18,000 “butt in seat” miles.

CAIDOHMIA

Since it’s paid business class you’d earn 50% bonus elite qualifying points (EQPs) if crediting to American AAdvantage, meaning you’d earn 27,000 EQPs for the roundtrip. That’s under five cents per elite qualifying point in paid business class.

That means four of these roundtrips would earn you more than enough miles for Executive Platinum status. That’s right, ~$5,000 for Executive Platinum in paid business class the whole way.

Qatar-AAdvantage

Everyone earns 27,000 elite qualifying points, but if you’re a Platinum or Executive Platinum member you’d earn a total of ~41,000 redeemable miles for this roundtrip ticket, thanks to the 100% class of service mileage bonus.

Also keep in mind that for the flight between Cairo and Doha you’d be seated in first class, which is how Qatar Airways markets their business class within the Middle East.

Qatar-Airways-777-1
Qatar Airways 777 business class

That means you’d be served Krug, and have access to their new Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha, which is scheduled to open in late April.

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-A330-12

For what it’s worth, a similar fare is available to most other Qatar Airways US gateway cities as well. While flying to Philadelphia isn’t quite as many miles, it’s a lot more practical in terms of connecting, given that the longhaul flight is a redeye westbound, which means the connections to/from Cairo are a lot quicker.

QR-Fare-3

Now, there are a few things I should point out:

  • This fare isn’t valid if originating in the US — in other words, it’s a lot more expensive to fly from the US to Cairo than it is to fly from Cairo to the US
  • Assuming you don’t live in Cairo, there’s a big cost to positioning — what I usually do is nest a few of these tickets; in other words, it probably makes the most sense to take advantage of this if you’re going to book a few, and then you can space them out a bit and only need one positioning flight in each direction
  • There are other great business class fares published from markets like Colombo, Marrakesh, etc., so in general I think it makes sense to keep in mind which markets have cheap business class fares.

These kind of fares also get very close to the limit of where you have to wonder whether it’s a mistake fare or not. In this case I don’t think it is, but where do you draw the line? If it were $1,000 would we assume it’s a mistake fare? $750? $500?

Bottom line

If nothing else, hopefully it’s at least interesting for you guys to see just how cheap business class fares can be from outside the US. Crazy, eh?

Comments

  1. they really do have great fares
    I got a fare of usd 2400 in business class
    LCA-DOH-SIN-SYD-HKG-DOH-LCA
    Using 3 different airlines (QR/BA/CX).
    I haven’t seen any airline offer such fares or even close to one so low
    This is a huge amount of miles to get to my BA account

  2. @Lucky — As @David Viessmann mentioned above, CAI has always been a cheap origin, due to the weak currency and the low cost of living (relative to elsewhere, that is). This is not a one-off or a “deal”; you can always get good deals out of there. Of course with the positioning, etc., they’re not fantastic deals anymore, which is obvious since they’re meant for CAI residents who can only afford this price-point. In fact, CAI is the most popular starting point for round-the-world tickets. I’m sure you know this.

  3. @ A. S. — Right, and I’ve written about it before (and mentioned it in this post), but this is even lower than anything I’ve ever seen out of Cairo (and I monitor Cairo fares VERY closely). The lowest I’ve otherwise seen to the US is $1,600-1,800 roundtrip, and this is even less, by a long shot.

  4. Lucky

    Do you know if I’d have access to the F lounge in DOH if I were flying

    AUH-DOH in F
    DOH-FRA in J

    Cheers

    Mario

  5. Interesting fare on the heels of all the talk about QR and the other mideast carriers being subsidized. Maybe they’re actually making money on this, but on the surface, it doesn’t seem to help their case.

  6. Thanksgiving fares from NYC to Europe in 2012, specifically to DUB were ~$900 in J on US Airways, not a mistake fare. Also fares from NYC to Brazil ~5 years ago on AA and JJ were $1000 around Christmas time in J, also not mistake fares. These are two examples that I can think of where I’ve actually purchased tickets.

  7. @ Andrew — I mean, the argument could be made that this is below the marginal cost of carrying an additional passenger if the seat would otherwise go empty. But that’s about the only argument that could be made.

  8. @ Mario — The lounge isn’t even open yet so there’s no way to know for sure, but I believe you would if connecting same day.

  9. Ben, how do Round-The-World prices out of Cairo compare? With your flexibility and some nested tickets, you could get enormous value if the price was right.

  10. I’ve gotten really close to this. I got LAX-CDG-MAD-AMS-LAX in business on AF and KL for $1400. It really pays to watch Skyteam closely in the last quarter of the year (Delta/Air France/KLM especially). For the past 2 or 3 years straight I’ve gotten deals within this range. In the same period, it’s also not uncommon to find AF La Premiere (to a european city other than Paris–think Berlin…) for the $5,000 range. While it’s not for everyone, it’s a great deal. Each time I see a rate like that I’m more tempted than the last to do it. If it appears again this year I fear I’ll pull the trigger. No positioning flights plus long-haul A380 first class service…even if it’s not the most innovative product, it’s still one hell of a deal.

  11. Lucky, going to see friend in LA, I live in London. Considering CMN to DFW. Do you think this best city in US to get to LAX?

  12. hey Ben – wouldn’t the marginal cost of that passenger be the extra fuel consumption required by his weight (and the weight of any incremental amenities to service him), plus the cost of additional catering? It seems it would be much lower than the revenue of $1200.

  13. @ Eric — That’s correct. But the opportunity cost is potentially huge, if that seat could have otherwise gone out with a (much) higher fare passenger.

  14. Hi Ben, just curious how you know where to look for these deals? The low prices you found don’t show up on ITA matrix — well it does but the prices are modestly higher than whats available directly on the Qatar website. Do you have some other way of monitoring for these business class sales?

  15. Lucky,

    I assume, as someone mentioned above, that with their economy in tatters there really is no market for regular biz class fares. Presumably, they make enough from coach passenger revenue to make the flight worth while but the market just can’t support business.

  16. @ Tom — I usually just check CAI and CMB fares on Qatar’s website whenever they publish a global fare, since they’re consistently excellent.

  17. Ben (and those that have been there), whats the experience like in CAI? any hassle w/ immigration? Airport safety issues? Or all a non-issue?

  18. I was able to start from Bangkok, use 10000 Avios to get to CMB in economy, purchase CMB-CAI-BKK in J for $586 and the Cairo to Miami roundtrip business class ticket for 9,874EGP (~$1295). Thanks Benny!

  19. Lucky, I’m Malaysian studying in Egypt for like 6 years now. Qatar Airways usually have great fares both in economy and business USD900 for return in business from CAI-KUL. CAI-DOH is counted as first class plus this route is always full of pax and chance to get free upgrade is high like every two flight you take, one of them you will get free upgrade -at least for me who travelled once in two month on Qatar Airways. Before they join OneWorld those who get free upgrade also their miles are counted as first class- not discounted first class but as the highest paid first class fare even you just bought the cheapest, and it just took me few months to become their gold member. And after joining OneWorld it become even greater, reached platinum and just retain it until now. I have suspected before that Qatar flying out from Cairo is the cheapest and now I’m convinced. Planning to bring mum and dad to Canada on business from KUL but with USD6400 for one pax I just cant make it, but soon going to use miles to bring them to Cairo and fly out with Qatar for only USD1400 in business. When I finish my year here in Cairo, i wont buy one way business on Qatar to KUL but it always will be return.

    Paid F class tix and business pax flying to destination where no business class product (market as First Class) is allowed in first class lounge. Arrived in F class and depart in J class cant get access to first class lounge.

  20. @ alex — Airport is a total mess/$shitshow, but nothing unsafe. Just plan a bit of time because things can take a while at the airport.

  21. As of last week, no more krug of F catering on these QR shortahuls. Reverted to J food & bev options.

  22. I recently booked a set of nested tickets from Dublin to the US west coast on BA for 3 trips planned this year. Business class round-trip ranged from $1300-2000. I booked the first segment (USA-LHR) using points, so I ended up with 2.5 round trips (still need to book a flight back to the US in November) for about $3900 in business class (which includes about $450 in fuel surcharges for the first segment).

  23. @lucky

    Nothing unsafe at CAI? The bombs discovered last month in the arrival hall suggest otherwise.

    That being said, I flew through there recently and had no issues other than there being no toilet paper in the lounge near my gate.

  24. We’ve had threads on FT about the safety at CAI and environs. Actually wish I’d gone this winter, as it was cheap as hell and no foreigners were harmed. But since they’re scared you can stay in top hotels for next to nothing.

  25. Can someone elaborate on safety in Cairo? I wouldn’t want to inadvertently end up in some kind of mob/protest. Another issue I would fear is problems from immigration authorities. I am Jewish, and have Israeli stamps in my passport. Given that it seems this CURRENT Egyptian government is friendly with Israel, I would think I would be okay, but as an American Jew I still wonder about safety issues within Egypt.

  26. @ Abe — Can’t comment about the second part, but in terms of safety I’ve always felt exceedingly safe there.

  27. Ben,

    I take this is a “saver fare”? I booked eqv to NRT in Oct but can’t work out what rate of Avios I will get? Do you have expertise re. QR codes as my 6 character booking code starts with a 6 and doesn’t have J anywhere to be seen.

    Will

  28. @ Will — What’s the first number after the “6?” Yes, generally I’d assume it’s the lowest revenue fare class, so probably “I.”

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