My Bad Luck Redeeming Miles For Qatar Airways Economy

Hello from Muscat!

The new airport here is incredible and is possibly my new favourite airport (and so far I’ve only experienced it as an arriving passenger).

A few days ago I flew in from Amman, Jordan via Doha, on Qatar Airways. A few months ago I wrote about my decision to redeem AAdvantage miles for economy flights for this part of the trip.

The flight from Amman to Muscat was not so important, but at the time I wrote about how I arrived at the decision for the Doha to Muscat flight:

  • AAdvantage was not willing to ticket the flight at the ‘business class’ miles price, even though it was a business class flight marketed as a first class flight
  • It was scheduled to be operated by an Airbus A320 with recliner seats, which are Qatar’s absolute worst business class hard product, so it was a bit of a ‘waste’ of miles
  • The flight was only around 90 minutes in length, so economy was perfectly bearable
  • While booking this flight in business/first class would have given me access to the Al Safwa First Class Lounge, as it was leaving in the morning, there would have only been breakfast on offer which is for me, usually the least impressive meal of the day

So I booked economy with miles a few months ago and didn’t really give the flights much thought after that.

I wasn’t able to assign seats for either flight in advance as I was only provided with an AA PNR. I could have called each airline in advance but again, for such short flights in economy I didn’t see the point.

The first flight from Amman to Doha on a Royal Jordanian A320 was fine.

The next day we checked in for the Doha to Muscat flight at the Qatar Airways check in desk at Doha airport. We were given seats in row 35. I immediately thought ‘I didn’t think a Qatar A320 had 35 rows.’

We tried to find more information about the flight and looking at Flightradar24 could see that on some days over the past week, the flight had been operated by an Airbus A321 or even an A350-900 instead of the scheduled A320, both of which did feature a row 35.

I also checked ExpertFlyer, but by this point the seat map was not available as the flight was under airport control.

When boarding was announced we headed to the gate, and I boarded to walk through the business class cabin of…

A Qatar Airways A350-900 fitted with QSuites.

I didn’t even realise Qatar had A350-900s with QSuites yet — I thought that along with the 777s, the only A350s with QSuites were the -1000 variant.

After checking FlyerTalk, I can now see that around 15% of the A350-900s have now been fitted with QSuites.

I was kicking myself for not going the extra ‘mile’ in securing a business/first class award for this flight rather than an economy award.

It was my first time in Qatar economy, and their economy product would be perfectly acceptable for, say, a six hour day time flight to Europe. The IFE screens are enormous.

I knew Qatar occasionally subbed QSuites aircraft onto longer routes (like some US routes), I didn’t realise they rostered them on short flights within the Middle East, especially changing from their worst premium product to their best!

Bottom line

In hindsight I should have been monitoring seat maps, setting ExpertFlyer alerts, etc., but I had anticipated it would be such an unremarkable flight that I hadn’t bothered.

If I had known Qatar would swap their worst product with their best I would have been a lot more proactive at securing a seat in that cabin. I imagine there would have been loads of last minute award seats available given how big the business class cabin ended up being.

Oh well, you win some and you lose some!

Have you ever experienced a fortunate or unfortunate last minute equipment substitution?

Comments

  1. I have been swapped 3 times from A320, A330 and A321 to q-suites between Doha and Muscat this year. All 3 times I was in business class, and all 3 times I was sad because there is not enough time to even understand you are there. It seems they often teach crews on these short routes.

  2. I had the opposite experience recently. I booked a 40000 aa miles business class Qatar flight from Bangkok to Doha, on a 777. My wife and I had seats 2A and 2B. About 3 days before my seats where changed to 3A and 4 something…I was furious thinking someone ” more important” had gotten my seats. I called the airline and they changed my seats back to “together seats” but the window was not available anymore. I did not give much thought to it. When I arrived to the airport and to my surprise, they told me that this was a q suites flight…cha ching!!…we had seats on the 3rd row (backwards), in the suite for a 7 hour flight.

  3. Yesterday I booked the Doha -Muscat round trip in economy on Qatar. Debated about using more miles for first, but it just didn’t seem worth it, particularly because we, too, were going to be in Doha right after breakfast. Would be very interested to hear what you do in Oman! Particularly if you get very far out of Muscat.
    Also interested if you are traveling with any medication and how you handled that? I’m not going to the UAE on this trip, but their current regulations seem dreadful.

  4. Qatar QSuites are nice on a long flight. On such a short flight you don’t even get to enjoy it. So you have not missed much.

  5. Welcome to the Qatar Airways equipment lottery. You never know what you’ll get before you stand at the gate.

  6. James (Ben)- did you enquire on the possibility of paying cash for an upgrade at check in? Perhaps Qatar would have made a silly offer but with the likelihood of all those seats going out empty you’d think they would be interested in extra cash.

  7. I just flew Qatar for the first time in business from JFK to Doha and then to Singapore. Loved the Q suites. The lounge was ok but the breakfast was not very impressive. They have a lot of hot sandwiches on order but not much of fresh food. And as a vegan I had only a couple of options. My vegan menu on the plane was much better.

  8. @James. Any review on your Oman stay forthcoming? At the top of my bucket list. My impression is that as far as accommodation is concerned there are 2 options; large luxury beachside hotels way out of town, or more downmarket digs convenient to the ‘old’ town. Which did you go for?

  9. Haha I had the same experience! We flew our outbound to Doha in business (redeemed Avios for it) but the Doha – Muscat connection we had to ticket in economy as there were 3 of us and QR only release 2 ‘first’ seats for intra gulf flights. I was tempted to just book 2 of us in ‘first’ and go for an airport upgrade for the 3rd, but decided I couldn’t be bothered at the end.

    It was scheduled to be an A350-900 (with old business) but got subbed last minute to a 77W with QSuites… damnit!! I was salty about that for days!

  10. James, I believe the reason for this is that they need short flights for cabin crew and flight deck crew check flights. Its much more practical and economic to do those checks on short sectors than on long ones where first, there is no need for a such long sector, spend more money on hotels, meal allowance and crew flying hours (extra crew is needed ; instructor ).

  11. I had sort of the opposite experience — I was on a business fare from HND to KWI via DOH. Due to a late departure at HND, I misconnected and was automatically put on the following flight. It was operated by the A350 with QSuites. It was only a 60 minute flight but was an unexpected treat!

  12. Speaking of the opposite experience… @Alex

    Back in early 2015 when there was only one airliner (QR) operating A350, I booked their FRA-DOH-PEK hoping I can try that aircraft. But they changed that into an A330 last minute…

  13. @ Glenn T – I’ve got a few more days here and then I’ll be writing an ‘Impressions of Oman’ post.

    I’m at the Radisson Blu Sohar this weekend ; )

  14. @ Richard – I didn’t because I didn’t realise it was an a350 until I boarded.

    I could have asked at check in but didn’t think of it. If they had said ‘you are on a special QSuites plane’ I would have certainly asked about upgrading!

  15. Nearest I’ve gotten to that is my upcoming flight on Cathay Pacific from HKG to SIN. No business award space so I settled for Premium economy, which at the time was on the A330.

    Except that last month I got an aircraft change alert from Expertflyer that my flight had been upgraded to the A350 😀

    Still no biz space but at least I get a newer cabin to enjoy for the 7 hour flight (mine’s the one with the 5th freedom stop in BKK)

  16. James any tips required in Oman let me know !! Food places check out Kargeen and Turkish House. Hotels Chedi, Al Bustan (newly renovated) and Muscat Hills Resort are my favs in Muscat…if you can head to desert camp at Deserts Nights and try to go to Jabal Akhdar and check out thr Alila anc Anantara up there.

    Let me know if u need any other tips!

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