Why I Chose To Redeem AAdvantage Miles For Qatar Economy Flights

As I wrote about last week, I’ve just started the longest trip I’ve ever done. I’m taking plenty of flights on all sorts of carriers and naturally looked to use miles wherever I could.

For oneworld flights, I’ve been crediting to British Airways Executive Club the last few years as I hold status with British Airways, and it makes sense for me to build up one balance rather than spread the miles I earn across multiple programs.

But I still had tens of thousands of AAdvantage miles to use up. I’ve bought and redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles in this program over the years.

As part of the trip, in November I need to get from Jordan, to Oman in the Middle East.

Revenue fares were expensive, so I looked to see if I could use AAdvantage miles. While Royal Jordanian is a oneworld member, frustratingly they don’t fly from Amman (Jordan) to Muscat (Oman).

So I looked to Qatar Airways. There was availability on either Royal Jordanian or Qatar Airways from Amman to Doha, and then onwards on Qatar Airways from Doha to Muscat.

I’ve flown Qatar Airways business class several times, including their revolutionary QSuites which I agree is the world’s best business class. My partner is also keen to visit Qatar, as I had a great free stopover there last year.

British Airways Executive Club charge per flight for redemptions, and so because there are no direct oneworld flights, this would have been too expensive to redeem Avios for and I would have received less than 1p per Avios which is my baseline valuation.

So I looked at the AAdvantage award chart for travel within the Middle East.

Obviously I was looking to redeem miles for a premium class redemption – so for a one way redemption it would be 30,00 miles in business class, or 40,000 miles in ‘first class.’ There was business class availability on Royal Jordanian from Amman to Doha, and then availability on Qatar from Doha to Muscat.

Now, Qatar Airways markets their short haul business class around the Middle East as ‘first class,’ although there are now far less routes because of the Gulf blockade.

I know that Qatar has an excellent short haul premium product.

Marketing business class as first can be a positive or a negative. On the plus side, it would allow me access to the fabulous Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha, one of the world’s best airport lounges, though the food does not look that great, especially as I would be there in the morning and breakfasts are rarely as impressive as afternoon or evening meals.

The downside, is that when redeeming miles for these flights on partner airlines, many will charge you for a first class redemption, rather than a business class redemption.

And AAdvantage is one of the those programs.

As they use a zoned based award chart, I had the choice between paying 17,500 AAdvantage miles per person for economy, or 40,000 miles for ‘first class,’ more than double the amount.

I did call AAdvantage a few times to explain the problem — that I was being charged the first class miles for what is really a business class flight, and while they understood my frustration, they refused to charge me the business class miles rather than the first class miles.

As I value AAdvantage miles around 1.3 US cents, that would be like paying an extra $260 per person in additional miles for the lounge access and premium onboard product.

And while I’m sure the flights would have been much better than economy, they were both operated by narrow body, short haul aircraft, so not the full premium experience.

I just couldn’t justify the additional expense. I don’t have access to the endless credit card opportunities that many of you in the US do.

So, I made the decision to redeem 17,500 miles per person for economy. I’m an oneworld Sapphire, so will still have numerous elite benefits, although I’m aware the lounge situation for oneworld elites in Doha is dire if you are travelling economy, as they do not have access to the outstanding Al Mourjan business lounge.

If you’re interested I’ll review the ‘oneworld business lounge’ in Doha for the sole reason that I expect it will be awful (I’ve visited the Al Mourjan lounge a few times).

Bottom line

Normally I recommend redeeming miles for premium cabin travel. Economy redemptions are often a terrible deal.

But in this case I just couldn’t justify paying more the twice the amount of miles for two very short regional products, as well as the Al Safwa First Class lounge for breakfast. And 17,500 miles is a good deal for economy as I’m saving around $300 versus a revenue fare, so obtaining around 1.7 cents value per AAdvantage mile.

I’d rather save AAdvantage miles for QSuites!

I am looking forward to experiencing Oman’s brand new airport though.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

What would you do in my situation? When have you redeemed miles for economy?

Comments

  1. You’re getting less than 2 cents per mile in value on the award redemption. Under those circumstances, I’d buy the ticket.

  2. Are you kidding? Do you think you’re the first person ever who has had to redeem for first class on Qatar Airways for their flights in the middle east? Come on – you really thought a reservations agent at AA would admit that AA and QR were wrong about how they were classifying their product and just charge you the business class price because you called and pointed out you werent getting some extravagant lie flat / all aisle access seat, even though QR purposely calls it First, has been calling it first for years, and this mileage charge has been out there and many people have been redeeming as such for years? Give me a break.
    And no, I wouldnt have paid extra for it. These flights are short and I think you made the right choice.

  3. Qatar Airways serve great food in business!! One day I traveled to Muscat from Warsaw and had the leg doh-mct in First. Guess what: I booked my tickets with a 14 hours layover in Doha to enjoy Al Safwa First!!! I experience breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and more food and drinks in between!!

  4. Unrelated, but can one of you write about the recent negative change to google flights (hopefully to get this some attention so its switched back)?

    When you enter specific dates and search on the map, the settings default back to whatever the cheapest flight for ANY date in the six months (instead of the dates you picked).

  5. Did you check if Oman Air had availability using Etihad Guest miles? Only 18k Etihad miles in business class for the nonstop and availability looks wide open for most of October. That would be my choice!

  6. Hi! I completely understand your situation. Would’ve probably done the same in.
    You asked wether we’d like a review of the Lounge for status holders: you bet we do, or at least I do… I’ll try and get to Sapphire next year and Lounge access in DOH is a thing! So yes, a review would be greatly appreciated!

  7. This redemption has Qatars dirty filthy lying hands all over it. What a repulsive bunch of thugs Qatar have become.

    No one believes a word Qatar Airways says after the greatest act of corporate fraud against its frequent flyers when on May 27 it ripped the heart out of “Not-Very-Privileged-Club” without telling its members in advance, without warning.

    It stole from us by doubling the number of points we need to claim for an award ticket, it closed down its call centre so no one can call, it decreased the points earn on flights, it introduced a charge for its members having the audacity to make a booking with an award ticket for even for its most loyal members, the Platinums, at up to $50 USD a sector.

    It is nothing more than corporate thuggery, corporate theft and lies. Done overnight. Without warning. In a desperate and clandestine way.

    And the worst part of it all, it lied about “listening to its customers” and “enhancing the program”. Lies. Theft. The airline has completely devalued the “Not-So-Privileged Club” to make it utterly worthless and the surely the worst FF program in the world.

    The airline has lied about its financial status for years and now it expects us passengers, us customers who supported it during the on-going blockade by its gulf neighbors, to trust it now? What! Not even Saudia trusts it. Yemen, Egypt. Egypt for christ’s sake doesn’t trust it.

    It is the most despicable act of corporate crime an airline has enacted on its customers. Enhancement! Wrong! It’s called Sickness. And so is Qatar Airways.

    But what were we thinking being loyal to this airline. We should have listened to the US carriers and the GCC countries when we had a chance and got out while we still could.

  8. @Evan SO THATS THE PROBLEM. Agree– this needs to be written about and brought to somebody’s attention as it completely defeats the point.

  9. @ LAXJeff – I had but EY have been doing so much cost cutting lately that I think their short haul product is vastly inferior to QRs and I wanted to show my partner Doha rather than Abu Dhabi.
    Good suggestion though.

  10. Great idea James it sounds like a very fun trip I am glad you are reviewing Qatar Airways “business class lounge” as I am travelling on Qatar in economy to Europe from Australia at Christmas and I am Qantas Gold (oneworld sapphire)

  11. James, I think you got bad agents. I just redeemed for ORD – DOH – BEY and though QR markets the last leg as First on a 2-class A320, AA only charged me as a business class ticket.

  12. My partner and I are going to Muscat in November too! We’re visiting Wadi Shab and going hiking for the day. Any other recommendations?

    Also, with IHG’s latest PointBreaks do you think it’s worth switching reservations from ‘Crowne Plaza Muscat’ to ‘Crowne Plaza Muscat OCEC’ to save 15k points per night? I could save 30k points total :-/

    Thanks!

  13. @ Richard B — I haven’t stayed at either, but the “OCEC” is a big convention complex far outside the city, and away from anything you might want to do, whereas the other Crowne Plaza is a beach resort. I guess it depends what you’re in Muscat for, but I can’t imagine the OCEC location being good for anything other than attending a conference.

  14. I once met a British woman who lived in Muscat and worked for a construction company. What single western woman works in construction and lives in Muscat?
    I think she was a British spy. What do you think?

  15. @ Federick
    @ Morgan

    I second their request. Please do a review of the business class lounge, so that we know.
    For me – the points to cover:
    – shower availability
    – access to some form of bed / lounge chair (no need special rooms)
    – plug points

    When I flew QR business class, their lounge had hidden corners where the chairs were actually flat suitable for sleeping with plug points on the side table & a pad with flight information.

  16. @Richard B. I stayed at the CP OCEC last month. It is only about a year old. If you had just wanted a nice place to chill for an overnight before a flight, it is nice. The one by the beach is very old.

  17. Hi, James. I’m OneWorld Sapphire member too and every time I transfer in Doha, I’ve always gained access to Al Mourjan Business Lounge. The key is to transfer during rush hour, so that the staffs are forced to move you to Al Mourjan because the non-Qatar Airways Business Class lounge is overcrowded 😉

  18. James love your non US centric inputs into OMAAT! I am a Brit Expat who works in Qatar but lives in Muscat! If you need any tips for either place please let me know

  19. I’m struggling with your maths here… You say you value Avios at 1p and AA miles at 1.3c (also 1p).

    This route costs 17,000 AA miles or 14,500 Avios, so how is it “too cheap” for Avios but not for AA?

  20. You should have been charged only the business class award level per AA’s own terms:

    “For flights offering only two classes of service the Economy and Business / First Class awards apply. For flights offering three classes of service Economy, Business / First and First Class awards apply.”

    https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/redeem/award-travel/oneworld-and-other-airline-partner-award-chart.jsp

    Their system prices this automatically at the higher level IME, but I have successfully got them do charge me correctly in the past.

  21. @Jason

    Apparently, there are people who feel they are entitled to it and will use whatever trick they can to beat the system.

  22. Also, flying on Qatar could be a longer flight than flying on Royal Jordanian, due to not being able to fly over KSA.

  23. @ All – okay, now I am confused. Some of you are saying AA have been charging F miles for shorthaul QR J/F for years and I am naive to even think that I could ‘beat the system’ to only be charged the J miles, while some of you are saying AA will override their system and only charge me J miles.

    Does anyone have any recent experience with this? I checked with Ben and Tiffany back when I was trying to book it and they said AA USED to let you only pay J miles but have tightened up on this recently.

    @ 23H – regarding your link to the terms and conditions I read that as ‘where its a 2 class cabin the J or F miles will apply’. As its marketed as F I would think F miles would apply.

  24. @ Adriel – do they really do that? I would have thought they would just deny access to either one the oneworld lounge is full!

    I will by flying out around 11am which I don’t think is peak time unfortunately!

  25. James – Then that’s the reason you used them then, not because Avios are too expensive.

    That line doesn’t make any sense though because Avios are less expensive than AA miles for this redemption, even with that qualifier!

  26. @Callum

    My apologies for budding in but I think what James meant was that although the AA miles might have had a greater value than Avios based are our usual M+P math he was willing to forgo a loss in value due to URGENCY. You are one hundred percent right Avios are easier to acquire and use especially with the MR promo. But what has a greater value, Avios at any rate or expired miles ?

    @James I offer a third scenario. I often find when I price out short haul BA awards I’m always offered to pay a points and cash option and it’s usually an extraordinary value. For example I looked up a Cathay Dtagon flight from HKT to HKG in business. It priced at 20k Avios for a roughly $800 ticket. The cash and points option was like 11K Avios and $150pp. So to meet @Callum in the middle, you could have used the MR promo to get a 40% bonus, stacked it with a likely better value M+P option and then banked the AA miles toward the QSuite award you wanted to book, hopefully before miles expire. Idk just my two cents lol.

  27. @James,

    The Al Mourjan lounge is not “Outstanding” anymore… It’s just BIG. Crowded, Lines for showers, extremely mediocre food, QR on the ground has become BAD, with the exception of a few outpost lounges such as Paris or London.

    Re refusal to charge you Business instead of First redemption, I would have HUACA-ed a couple of times. No guarantee, of course…

  28. @William – I fully understand how AA miles were a better use (now he’s clarified in the comments). That doesn’t change the fact that, as it’s written, he effectively says “$10 is too expensive so I’ve decided to pay $15”. Worse in fact, as he hasn’t stated the Avios price – just said it’s too expensive, implying that it costs more than AA when it’s actually cheaper.

  29. @James

    Man these people are ruthless! Haha I don’t blame you at all for using a few extra AA miles on an economy ticket. I actually just redeemed 20,000 AA miles myself for a one way economy ticket from BUD – DOH. Paid rates were going for well over $600 USD so I figured it was worth toughing out a few hours in economy.

  30. @Adriel Damn this is smart.

    @James Have you thought about transfering Avios to Iberia since they price as total rather than segment?

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