Why I’m More Tempted Than Ever By Qatar Airways’ Business Class Fares

Lately we’ve seen more first & business class fare sales than ever before, as the airlines largely narrow the gap between discounted premium fares and economy fares. The idea is that the airlines would rather get some incremental revenue for premium seats, rather than simply upgrading passengers into those seats.

I’ve found myself paying for business class more often than before, given how minimal the fare differences often are. For example, last Thanksgiving I booked paid business class tickets to London for ~$1,270 roundtrip, which is tough to argue with.

British Airways A380 business class

In addition to sporadic fare sales, there are some markets out of which airlines consistently publish discounted premium fares. This includes cities like Cairo, Egypt, and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

While I’ve always found these to be tempting, starting in the second half of this year I’ll find them even more tempting than ever before.

Sometime in the second half of the year American AAdvantage will go revenue based, meaning American redeemable miles will be accrued based on how much your ticket costs rather than how many miles you fly. That’s bad news if you’re someone who likes a good deal, regardless of whether you usually pay for economy or business class (I’m generalizing here — of course there are exceptions).

The one exception to keep in mind is that if you fly an airline’s partners, you’ll still accrue miles based on the distance flown rather than the revenue. Now, we’ll likely see some airlines’ AAdvantage earnings charts adjusted once the program goes revenue based, especially for economy fares. In other words, you’ll likely earn fewer miles with Alaska and British Airways for travel on American.

But this will likely still leave some fantastic opportunities to book cheap business class tickets on other airlines and credit to American AAdvantage, since those earnings rates are unlikely to be cut.

For example, Qatar Airways consistently has excellent business class fares in select markets, which are great flights to credit to American AAdvantage. This is especially true of flights to the US from elsewhere (sadly not the other way around).

To give a few totally random examples, a roundtrip ticket from Cape Town to New York on Qatar Airways costs ~$2,350:


A roundtrip ticket from Colombo to Chicago on Qatar Airways costs ~$2,000:


A roundtrip ticket from Casablanca to New York costs ~$1,800:


There are all just random examples I pulled up right now, as I’ve seen significantly cheaper fares in the past (like a ~$1,300 roundtrip Cairo to Miami ticket).

These paid business class fares accrue 150% elite qualifying miles and 125% redeemable miles.


To crunch the numbers on that, an Executive Platinum member flying a roundtrip ticket between Casablanca and New York would accrue:

  • ~30,750 elite qualifying miles
  • 46,126 redeemable miles

As a point of comparison, the base fare on the ticket is ~$1,700, meaning if this ticket were for travel on American, you’d earn ~18,000 redeemable miles as an Executive Platinum member (11x miles per dollar). That shows you just how much you come out ahead by booking cheap premium fares on partner airlines.

On top of that keep in mind that Qatar is now flying Airbus A350s on select routes to the US, which feature Qatar’s fantastic reverse herringbone business class product. This is a huge improvement over the 777s they otherwise fly to the US. So another reason to book these fares now is that you can actually fly an exceptional business class product to the US, rather than just their mediocre 777s.

Qatar Airways A350 business class cabin

Bottom line

Nowadays there are some fantastic paid business class fares out there. On a limited time basis we sometimes see these for travel originating in the US, while we consistently see them for travel originating in other markets. Many of them are also available as one-way fares, for roughly half the cost of a roundtrip), if you want to use them as return tickets from somewhere else to the US.

As American AAdvantage goes revenue based, these fares can be used to earn even more redeemable miles than you’d earn if you were flying American directly.

So I plan on using some of these fares in the future, as I really want to visit South Africa and Morocco. At a minimum I’ll be booking a one-way business class fare when returning out of those cities, as it represents a better value than redeeming miles.


  1. Some of Qatar’s fare sales are r fares, which credit to nobody except Qatar’s program. Expect more of those in the future

  2. @ beachfan — The good fares are generally *to* LAX, and not *from* LAX. Very few good QR fares departing the US.

  3. @ Andy — I spent half an hour looking for fares and couldn’t find a single “R” fare. Also keep in mind those fares credit to BA as well starting in May.

  4. Just wondering how you calculated the number of miles you would be able to accrue to AA? I’m QF Platinum but will be flying SYD to LAX later this week and want to credit my miles to AA. I have no status with AA. Have searched their website extensively and cannot find a calculator / distance table….

  5. You make an excellent point Ben. Assuming AA doesn’t adjust the earning table, crediting AAdvantage for paid premium class travel on partner airlines would be far more advantageous than flying AA metal (and probably more comfortable too unless you’re in F on a 77W). Thanks and keep up the good work!

  6. I switched to QR a year ago. Already I have achieved Platinum status. I credit all my One World flights to my QR Privilege Club account. I get to fly on QR with their great service and their great aircraft. I don’t have to put-up with or tolerate the AA non-loyalty, the craggy, cranky unionised stewardesses and stewards prancing down the aisles and their bad attitudes. I don’t have to tolerate the loudness of an average American flight. I am greeted off the aircraft and expedited through customs because of my status irrespective of my class of travel. I get points based on miles flown as opposed to being ripped of by American, Delta and United. Overall, in every aspect, I am a winner. Bye Bye sad legacy airlines in America LOL. Or is it good riddance!

  7. I read somewhere that the foreign carrier AA customers use must also have an AA “code share flight number” to get this deal. Is that true or is it just a rumor, unfounded? Thanks

  8. These fares are great, but they are of very limited use to us when the travel must begin and end in Colombo, Cairo, etc.

  9. Quote aa.com website:

    Earning award miles for travel on most flights marketed by partner airlines will be based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class purchased. Exact calculations will be available in the future.

    That doesn’t sound like there will great RDM earnings one partners…

  10. Living regionally (DXB), this is the second time we’ve been able to scoop 2 for 1 biz fares – really looking forward to our travel this year, courtesy of Qatar. We almost opted for the inuagrual Atlanta flight in June…

  11. Ben, can you give us a heads up in your column when QR fare sales start or let us know easiest way to find this information? I am interested in CAI-DOH-PHL. Thanks.

  12. You sometimes find great deals on QR flying in / out of a few European airports. I bought business class tickets from Oslo to Bangkok later this year for just under 1000 euro, I flew business class from Frankfurt to India last year for 1500 euros and I bought tickets for my Mom to fly business class from Bangalore to Amsterdam last year for 95000 rupees (about 1250 euros). All round trip tickets, of course.

  13. That NYC-CMN routing seems a bit extreme and out of the way, even for you Lucky. NYC-CMN is actually a shorter flight than CMN-DOH. Not to mention you could do a Royal Air Maroc trip report…

  14. I picked up BOM-JFK round trip on QR business for USD 2150. Travel commences end of April. It’s a steal for the kind of service they provide!

  15. I’m booked to Singapore from Copenhagen via Doha, and there was indeed an extremely cheap business class fare. It was the R fare mentioned above. So, I booked a cheap economy ticket and used AA miles to book business on the return flying the new A350 (right before the devaluation, phew!). From the tread above, the other person posting about the R fare was also in Scandinavia.

  16. Lots of R fares from Oslo, Lucky – hence very relevant for those in the UK who would often think of travelling from there.

  17. it would be great if you could use a different picture of the BA business class snapshot – YES – i am in that photo, thank you for your understanding !!

  18. Ben, I am not convinced that there will not be significant changes to partner earning for premium tickets once AAdvantage goes revenue based. As far as I know, AA has never said that there would be no major changes and, as noted by Csp above, they seem to be saying that changes will be coming. Otherwise, they would be incentivizing partner travel over travel on their own metal.

  19. Nightmare called Qatar Airways.
    For thanksgiving break we took our son out of High School and our Daughter out of college to go visit the grandparent in India. {We all are US citizens}. We only had 10 days for this vacation and thanks to Qatar Airways it took us 2 days to get there and 2 days to get back. Plus ½ a day to resolve an issue created by them. So our vacation of 10 days was reduced to 5 ½ days thanks to Qatar Airways. They had numerous chances to fix the issue and Qatar Airways failed miserably on every step to do the right thing. This is a BIG beware recommendation before anyone thinks of flying Qatar.

    Booking the tickets: In April we got an email advertising cheap fares from Miami to New Delhi and we booked our tickets online for travel in November. First time on Qatar Airways.
    Before booking out tickets we called the customer service 800 number and asked them if we would get free accommodations as the layover was 9 hours in Doha while going and 23 hours when returning. The agent told us that they will give us a hotel as the layover was over 8 hours. Based on that info we booked our flights. {AMADEUS: 5J9L72}
    In October we called the customer service number to get our hotel stay booked and was informed that we are not eligible for hotel stay and we can change our flights for 450 dollars each. We talked to the agent and basically her attitude was too bad we gave you the wrong information (1st Instance for them to fix / do the right thing)
    We decided to book our own hotel and called them again as I read on a blog that Qatar gives transit visas and was informed again that Qatar Airways will not get us transit visa and we will have to get them ourselves @80 US dollars per person. We did our own research and found out that yes we were eligible for transit visa and applied and got them without any charge. https://transitvisa.qatarairways.com/transitvisa/online/qrvisa/applyVisa/search. (2nd instance for them to fix / do the right thing or even give us the right information)
    Travel to India: We left Miami on flight number QR 778 on November 18th, 2016. Check in was simple and effective and the plane was clean, professionally staffed and comfortable. Everything went well until this flight started to experience some trouble and had to make an emergency landing into Zurich about 8 hours in. http://dohanews.co/qatar-airways-flight-from-miami-to-doha-makes-emergency-landing/. This experience was scary as midflight all the lights came on and we were informed we were making an emergency landing and within 20 minutes we were on the ground with fire trucks and ambulances on either side of the runway. We sat on the tarmac inside the aircraft which intermittently lost power for two hours with no updates from the cockpit or the crew. (3rd instance for them to do the right thing)
    We were then made to disembark in -5 degree off the plane into waiting busses and we all were travelling from Miami to Doha and hence had no warm clothes. The wait for the busses had all of us freezing off. {4th chance to improve customer service}. We were placed inside a holding area for close to 12 hours in Zurich. We were told no one could help us with our connecting flights but that an aircraft from Doha was on its way to get us. There were other flights leaving from Zurich to other destinations but Qatar was not willing to book us on those flights. I checked and there were seats available. {5th Chance to provide some level of customer service] Upon checking online, we learned that there was smoke in the cockpit and that was the reason for the emergency landing. What we found horrifying was that upon landing, we were made to sit inside the aircraft for 2 hours after that! Qatar had a flight go up in smoke three months ago but passenger safety was not a concern as we were sitting in a plane which could have gone up in smoke and there were emergency vehicles all around and we had no updates. This one is a BIG mess up in my eyes as we could be in a burning/ smoking plane. [6th mess up of Qatar}
    We were given some meal vouchers for all our troubles to be used inside the holding area in Zurich. We obviously missed our connecting flight to New Delhi but were assured that we would be taken care of on arrival into Doha. On arrival into Doha, we were informed that our flight to Delhi would be 11 hours later and were offered hotel accommodation. Our trip to India was only for 10 days – because of this delay, we were looking at having lost one whole day. After almost 2 hours of talking to ground personnel, we were put on an Etihad flight which took close to 8 hours to get to Delhi via Abu Dhabi. We were 11 people who were going to Delhi and all the ground crew wanted to do us was get us out of the area. The supervisor Masuma was professional but was not willing to help. So now we are all lying on the floor in the customer service area after 8 hours of flying, 2 hours on the tarmac, 12 hours in Zurich and then the 8 hour flight to Doha and all the waiting for boarding etc while they take a few hours to book us. In all, it took us 48 hours to get to Delhi from Miami. Qatar had a flight out and so did other airlines into our final destination but Qatar would rather nickel and dime us and make us stay in Doha for 11 extra hours {7th chance to do the right thing- See a theme here. If all goes well then Qatar is great but if anything goes out of the ordinary they have no clue about customer concern / safety or comfort}
    Finally we reached our final destination and the bags and disembarking was smooth and efficient.

    Travel back to Miami: The day before our departure from Delhi back to Miami, on the 29th of November, tried to check in for our CONFIRMED flight to Miami. We were unable to check in and no further information was given online. We called and were told that we were not booked for the flight and that our entire booking had been cancelled due to a “glitch in the system’. (8th chance – please inform us if you are going to cancel our flights) Our information was taken and the representative (Floyd and then Akash) on the line assured us that he would get back to us within an hour. When we did not hear back for 2 hours, (9th mess up of Customer Service) we made our way to the local office on Barakhamba Road in New Delhi where we were given the same information and were told to wait. After another 2 hours, we were told that our flights had been reinstated and that we had confirmed bookings for our return. So Qatar Airways “System Glitch cost us another ½ day to get our confirmed booking reinstated.
    While at the Barakhamba Office in New Delhi, I requested an upgrade for the Doha – Miami sector in return for the extreme inconvenience caused to us. We were told by the agent Ekta that we should request this at check-in. We did that and were told that the flight was full but that Doha should be able to accommodate us. Upon our arrival in Doha, we went to the ground staff and obtained our boarding passes. We were looking at a 19 hour layover in Doha and had reserved a hotel room on our own. We requested an upgrade at that time for our flight after explaining all that had happened to us. We spoke to the agent as well as the supervisor on duty who explained that they were putting in a note for us to be upgraded and that we should arrive at the boarding gate at least an hour before departure to confirm this. We did so and were then told by the check-in agent that we were not going to be upgraded.( 10th chance to do the right thing) We requested to speak with a supervisor who told us there was nothing he could do. There were seats available in Business Class but he could not upgrade us. (11th frustrating experience] He was rude and absolutely unwilling to help. (12th chance and by this time we had had more than enough of the shabby treatment by Qatar)
    Reaching Miami: Upon arrival into Miami, we discovered that 2 of our suitcases were damaged beyond repair. We waited for the ground clerk to help us. After waiting for close to an hour after a 15 hour flight, we learned that Qatar would only reimburse half of the price of our luggage! They wanted us to provide receipts showing how much we paid for the bags and then they would reimburse ½ of that value. Seriously we have to carry receipts for our suitcase purchases. We were so exhausted at that point, that we just left. (13th customer service mess up)
    Our experience has been so bad that we all to become aware of how Qatar Airways treats its passengers. Not only was little attention paid to our safety post the emergency landing, there was also no concern or arrangements to get us to our destination as soon as possible. On top of that, our return journey was made into a nightmare as well. Like I said in the beginning – Nightmare called Qatar Airways.

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