Dan L. emails to ask why, in my recent discussions of the Maldives, I didn’t mention flying Qatar?
The context was that I had taken very much ‘the long way’ to get to the Maldives, I actually wanted to go to Singapore first, but I probably shouldn’t have returned back through Singapore given that I wasn’t looking for a stopover on the return.
And I decided given my preferences for in-flight product and the miles at my disposal that when I go back I’ll probably fly Etihad — they’re a new partner with American, award availability is generally excellent, especially for first class (suites with doors) on the New York JFK – Abu Dhabi route. They’re also adding DC-Abu Dhabi service a year from now which may work out great for me.
The connections aren’t the best, but that’ll work for me because I’ll use the opportunity to stop over in the U.A.E., ever since Lucky’s report I’ve just had to have tea at the Burj al Arab. It’s a hotel that I’ve known about for years, have had no interest in whatsoever, but now I must have tea there…
But certainly Qatar is worth mentioning, they’re a partner with several airlines including American Express transfer partners All Nippon
and Virgin Atlantic (in the latter case, what a great use for all those 1000 mile deposits from my one day Avis rentals!). (Update: as pointed out in the comments, Virgin Atlantic is a partner in the Qater frequent flyer program, but Qatar redemption is not offered in the Virgin Atlantic program.)
And they’re a partner with United, which many folks forget, especially since United and Continental both dropped their relationship with Emirates.
This thread on Milepoint reports that Qatar awards are even now searchable on the United website. And in general availability is pretty good (which isn’t surprising, there aren’t that many partners whose members are putting pressure on the seats).
It used to be really tough to use United miles on Qatar, since you would have to call and request specific dates and flights, then you’d have to wait 12 hours to see whether or not they came back confirmed. It made it not worthwhile, most of the time, to do a Qatar booking with United miles. You could increase your chances of getting awards by signing up for a Qatar frequent flyer account and using their website to search for space, and requesting those seats found on the Qatar site. But the site was cumbersome, the process cumbersome, and it used to be that Qatar availability was really really restrictive. It does seem availability has gone better over the past couple of years.
United used to have a separate, more expensive award chart for Qatar — but post-merger and integration with Continental they just charge the regular award chart price, and allow both one-way and roundtrip awards. And you can combine partners — including Star Alliance partners — with Qatar (a non-Star partner) on an award with United miles.
For all of the complaints about the merger, award booking rules and online booking functionality have certainly improved for United Mileage Plus members as a result.
Qatar isn’t going to be how I get to the Maldives next time, I really want to fly a Middle East carrier in first class (I’m looking forward to Alaska Airlines redemptions on Emirates),, and doesn’t offer first class on U.S. departures. There’s a first class cabin between Doha and London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Munich, however.