• Graham

You Can Now Use Alaska Miles To Book Qatar Flights. I'm Not Thrilled.

Award-travel enthusiasts have eagerly awaited Alaska Airlines' addition of Qatar Airways as an award partner, and the good news is, it's arrived slightly ahead of schedule. The bad news is, it comes in "saver" and "peak" tiers, and it's set up in a way that will force many of long-haul routes I was most excited about, into multi-award routings costing nearly half a million miles even at off-peak rates.


Still, since Qatar's "QSuites" product is consistently rated as one of the best business-class products in the sky, this one's definitely worth watching, so let's dig in!

Qatar QSuite. Photo: Qatar Airways.

The Award Chart

The following regions can be booked as single awards; if you want to go further (say, from Boston to Brisbane), you'll have to combine two one-zone awards and pay the cost for each.


It's also worth noting that on routings that connect through Doha, you can add a multi-day stopover without additional mileage cost.


All costs listed here are one-way:

- Middle East to Asia - "starting at" 30K economy / 70K business / 100K first

- Middle East to Europe - 25 economy / 65K business / 90K first

- Middle East to Indian Subcontinent - 17.5K economy / 40K business / 60K first

- Middle East to North America - "starting at" 42.5K economy / 85K business / 150K first

- Middle East to South Pacific - 45K economy / 100K business / 150K first

- North America to Africa - "starting at" 50K economy / 120K business / 200K first

- North America to Indian Subcontinent - "starting at" 42.5K / 85K / 100K


You're probably wondering what "starting at" means, and so far it looks like this ranges anywhere from "slightly higher" to "well over double the base rate".


For example, this sample search from Doha to Tokyo shows Economy and Business coming in at 35K and 80K, respectively, just a bit over the 30K and 70K base rates. Can't get too upset about that.


However, on this next sample search from New York to Johannesburg, for which a North America-to-Africa ticket is listed as "starting at" 50K economy and 120K business, the short layover is unavailable and the long layover is a whopping 280,000 points plus $29 USD in taxes and fees.


This gets harder to swallow when we look a few lines further down and notice that the same routing costs 120K + $29 in Emirates Business; while Qatar provides a newer and more comfortable Business product, it's absolutely not worth more than twice the price of Emirates. It's also worth noting that while Emirates ran most of its network on Boeing 777s during the pandemic, with a less comfortable 2-3-2 layout, it intends to return most of its main long-haul routes (like JFK-DXB-JNB) to better-equipped Airbus 380s by the new year.


Reaction

I'm not terribly happy with this, but I'm also not terribly surprised. It was never realistic to think that when Alaska added Qatar awards, that we'd be able to book business-class flights to Australia for the incredibly-low rates we currently see when using Alaska miles on Cathay or Alaska, but I was hoping that at least we'd be able to book single-ticket awards across Qatar's whole network, as we can with Cathay and Korean.


Alaska's award chart on those airlines is now nearly too good to be true, which in the award-travel space may as well be shorthand for "we should expect these prices to go up sometime soon". I'm personally sitting on about 150,000 Alaska miles, and I'm most likely to use them for a Toronto-Sydney trip later in 2022, as soon as Australia reopens.


I had really been looking forward to booking at least one half of that trip in QSuites using my Alaska miles, but when a one-way trip from North America to Australia would cost at least 185,000 Alaska miles, while the same trip would cost 125,000 for round-trip business on Korean, it's hard to find this offer compelling.


Not great, not terrible, as the saying goes.