United.com now displaying Qatar Airways award availability!

Well this is pretty snazzy. United’s website now seems to display Qatar Airways award availability on the award search tool. The great thing is that since the integration between United and Continental, Qatar Airways awards are actually priced at the same cost as any other partner award, so there’s not a premium like there used to be.

Back when United had non-Star Alliance partners, not only did they have different costs for award tickets on them, but they also had added restrictions. For example, you couldn’t book partner award tickets as one-ways, you couldn’t mix multiple carriers on a single ticket, and you couldn’t include segments to the partner airline’s gateway city. So that’s a huge plus for the merger (one of the few), since you can now include travel on a partner airline as part of a Star Alliance award, book it as a one-way, etc.

I flew Qatar Airways in first class between London and Doha last year using British Midland miles, and on the whole had a pretty nice experience. You can read all about it here. While I can’t say I necessarily want to go back to Doha, I wouldn’t mind flying Qatar Airways again. And their business class does look very good, with fully flat seats on most of their routes.

Anyway, to start, here’s a map of Qatar Airways’ destinations which seems to be pretty up to date.

As you can see, in North America they serve Houston, Montreal, New York, and Washington, all on two cabin aircraft. They also serve just about everywhere in Asia and Europe, as well as some destinations in Africa and Australia.

At first look, business class award availability seems to be really good, even if you’re connecting to places outside of the Middle East.

For example, when searching for award availability United’s website automatically presented New York to Bangkok via Doha for 60,000 miles one-way in business class:

The same goes for New York to Johannesburg, which is also 60,000 miles one-way in business class.

The funny thing is that flying from the US to Middle East costs 60,000 miles one-way, so your connecting flight is essentially “free.” Even if you have to visit Doha, keep in mind that you’re allowed a stopover on a roundtrip award. So for 120,000 miles roundtrip you can take your trip to Doha, and then also tag on a flight to Africa, Asia, etc., at no additional cost

But here’s the part you guys are going to love. Everyone wants to go to the Maldives, and it was previously a pain to get there using United miles. Not anymore. Qatar Airways flies nonstop from Doha to Male in the Maldives, so a one-stop routing to the Maldives couldn’t be easier.

Here’s the award calendar for nonstop flights between Doha and Male:

As you can see, the dates in yellow have coach award space, and the dates in green have both business and coach award space. In other words, every single day has coach award space, while almost every second date has business class award space.

And even more promising? Look at the award calendar when just searching New York to the Maldives without any trickery even required:

And the flight times work out quite nicely too:

Less than 24 hours to the Maldives? That’s really good.

(Tip of the hat to Craig)


  1. This is great news. This will make it easier to taken advantage of United’s chart which allows us to go to Asia, with a stop in the Middle-East for cheaper than going only to the Middle-East. Yippee!

  2. AMAZING!! This is fantastic. I will have to do a stopover in Doha and then onward to the Maldives… my favorite place in the world! And will also look into South Africa at some point… 🙂 Thanks Lucky!

  3. Lucky- great news! From the west coast, is it possible to do SFO-JFK/IAH/IAD-DOH-MLE for 60k in Biz oneway?

  4. Great news. We will have to wait and see how long the business class inventory from US gateways lasts. Based on how quickly availability disappeared after Turkish award booking was made available on united,I am not very hopeful.

  5. @ sjs — I was wondering that as well. Back when I booked QR F with BD miles, availability in first class was excellent, so I’m not sure why there’s no more space. Admittedly it’s only on a few routes, but still.

  6. This is FANTASTIC. Ben i’ve given you a bit of a hard in the past on stuff like your laptop and some of the credit card pimping but this kind of find is really big value add. Kudos and thanks

  7. A great find lucky. Are most QR planes two class and what routes offer First class as well?

  8. @ chitownflyer — Only on select flights to Europe do they have first class (I believe London, Paris, Munich, and Frankfurt).

  9. They only offer first class on “select” flights, and they still advertise themselves as a 5-star airline? I hope they also offer it to routes in Europe, because otherwise they need to look up 5-star in the dictionary…

  10. @ jo — I’ve been trying to figure that out. Best I can tell, they unfortunately don’t. At least I’m not able to get it to price.

  11. @ Cdiddy — Looks very cool, and routing via London is allowed on a United award. Now, why they would run the 787 on a high-capacity route with multiple daily flights is completely beyond me. The 787 could be put to much better use, in my opinion.

  12. I know a lot of the connections in the Mideast can have wacky transit times, like a 10-hour evening layover in Doha on a return flight from the Maldives. Apparently QR offers accommodations for such instances, but their website is very vague about what will get you free access to the hotel.

    “Qatar Airways is pleased to offer a convenient transit hotel accommodation for customers who face extended transit times in Doha en route to their final destination.

    This service is available on a paid or complimentary basis depending on eligibility.”

    Which begs the question: What are the criteria for getting it comped?

    I’m wondering if award tickets are covered under this provision? Anyone have any experience or knowledge with this?

  13. I have a boatload of us air miles from the grand slam promos. If I see it available on united does it also mean its available for booking on us air? For the same 80k as well?

  14. @ Albert — Unfortunately not. US Airways doesn’t partner with Qatar Airways, so there would be no way to use Dividend Miles for such a booking.

  15. I just did a dummy booking for October. DEN-IAD-DOH-MLE return, for my wife and I. All in Business class it comes out to 240K miles and $89 in fees. (or I can pay $35K in cash, according to the United website…I think I’ll choose option A). We were planning on heading to the Maldives for our 10-year anniversary next year. This seems like a no-brainer for us. Thanks Lucky!

  16. Hi Ben,

    I love the QR add. However, for the MLE stuff, I don’t think it’s the slam dunk that we want to believe it is.

    I’m looking for two award seats in March 2013. The IAD-DOH flight lands at 1830. The most convenient connection, a 7 hour layover, has very little J award space available. On days that UA shows green for that route, the most frequently available J award space is on an 0815 departure the next day.

    On the return, the DOH-IAD flight leaves at 0805, and there is no MLE-DOH flight that arrives on the same day in time to make that connection, forcing an overnight.

  17. Something tells me the QR award availability is going to plummet rapidly. It used to be a *huge* PITA to book it through UA (hours on the phone; agent requests seats; wait for request to be approved; rinse & repeat ad nauseam until you get lucky and find available space).

    Now it’s so simple, award bookings on QR will go way up, exhausting what’s available now. I wish I had enough miles to book tickets now!

  18. Is it too early to look for award seats in March 2013 because I don’t see any. If not then what is the best time and is there any chance for 3 award seats in business from US to Doha?

  19. I agree with snic. Seeing QR award availability is one thing, being able to book it is a different story. I called today, the agent “created” a mixed UA & QR itinerary. The UA segment is fine, however, QR segment is still “unconfirmed” even though united.com shows availability. I spent almost 2 hours on hold while the agent went to check with the support desk. In the end, she told me nothing can be done to immediately confirm the seat. I’ll have to call back tomorrow to find out if QR releases seat request.

  20. @ caveman — At this point we don’t have enough historical perspective to really tell how their inventory management works. That being said, I do see plenty of dates next March already where they have three business class award seats on Dulles to Doha, so I think your chances are actually pretty good.

    @ Pegasus — Interesting data point, thanks. Back when Qatar was just a United partner, it took 12 hours to confirm seats, so it could very well be that this practice hasn’t change. I suspect your seats will be confirmed tomorrow. If you don’t mind, let us know how it goes!

  21. Very interesting post – thanks
    Particularly interested, as you know , in S Africa
    120K round trip via United miles in business on Etihad sounds great
    Let s hope availability remains good?

    Can one use Etihad / United miles from any other US gateway ?

  22. @ Graham — Keep in mind in this case it’s Qatar and not Etihad. Qatar flies to Washington, New York, Houston, and Montreal, so you can fly out of any of those gateways. But keep in mind that since it’s a United award ticket, you can also include the segment from your home airport to those gateways on the ticket at no extra cost.

  23. To report back on my UA ticketing issues yesterday. Today, QR confirmed United’s seat requests and I was able to get my itinerary ticketed. Though, UA requested 5 seats and only 4 came back confirmed and one is still showing “waitlisted”, but the UA agent extended my hold to 5 days to give QR more time. That’s still amazing to get 4, hopefully 5 people in Biz all the way to Singapore on the same flight, (XXX-IAH-DOH-SIN). Hopefully it will come back confirmed. I had to be transferred twice before getting to the united.com support agent who was able to get them ticketed. It’s not a smooth process, but it can be done if you are persistent. I’m excited to try QR to Asia for 60K miles one-way.

  24. Also, if your domestic segment is on United First, make sure it’s booked in “IN” booking class. Originally, my domestic segment was booked in “I” for domestic First (though Int’l Biz is also “I”) they want 70K miles one-way, which is First Class miles. Since, it was a 2 cabins domestic First, it should only be 60K mile one-way. I asked the agent to double check and it was resolved after she checked with her Service Director. I think this is a glitch in the new United systems.

  25. lucky,
    i typed in the dates in your example on the ual website and did not get this schedule for qatar airlines to show up. how do u get it to show up?
    thanks, daniel

  26. unfortunately this good news will not last…

    here is what United posted on their website on June 1, 2012…

    Notice regarding Qatar Airways​​

    Effective June 15, 2012, United will terminate its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways. Reservations booked through United for Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed. Customers booked through United on Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or after September 15, 2012, will be accommodated on their scheduled flights with new flight numbers. Customers will be able to accrue mileage on Qatar Airways codeshare and interline flights until September 14, 2012. Award travel ticketed on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed and valid for one year.

    Posted June 1, 2012

  27. availability was showing for me this morning. it even showed when I called the contact center at 2:00PM Eastern time. However my call got disconnected, and now agents nor the website can see it. How frustrating!

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