Category Archives: onewolrd

SriLankan Airlines Joins oneworld, Searchable on BA.com

SriLankan Airlines has joined oneworld, which means its flights are now bookable with US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways miles.

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SriLankan award space is now searchable and bookable at ba.com. To book award space found on ba.com with American Airlines or US Airways miles, you’ll have to call those airlines’ award booking phone numbers.

SriLankan’s hub is Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city on the west coast of the island.

Sri Lanka in Southeast Asia

Sri Lanka in Southeast Asia

  • Where does SriLanakan fly?
  • How is SriLankan’s business class product?
  • How is SriLankan award space?
  • How can you book SriLankan award space?
  • In what region on the US Airways and American Airlines chart is Sri Lanka?
  • Is British Airways collecting fuel surcharges on SriLankan flights?

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US Airways Joining Oneworld Means Phoenix to Maui for 4,000 Avios + $97

US Airways joined oneworld today, March 31, 2014. US Airways flights are already bookable on ba.com.

This is excellent news because the way Avios prices awards is so different than the way US Airways and American Airlines prices awards.

The differences in prices naturally mean that there are now some super cheap US Airways flights with Avios.

One amazing deal is an award from Phoenix to Maui for only 4,000 Avios + $97.50 each way.

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US Airways Background

US Airways legally merged with American Airlines last year, and the integration will be complete and the US Airways name will disappear some time in 2015.

US Airways has hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. It flies throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Europe.

What US Airways flights are a great deal with Avios? What awards are not yet bookable on ba.com? Are there fuel surcharges on US Airways flights booked with Avios?

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TAM Joining Oneworld Means Flights to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97

TAM, the largest airline in Brazil, joined oneworld today March 31, 2014.

 

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The oneworld roster with the addition of TAM.

You can now book a one way flight from the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50!

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TAM flights are bookable with American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios and searchable on ba.com. American Airlines and British Airways do not collect fuel surcharges on TAM flights.

TAM has flights between Brazil and New York-JFK, Miami, and Orlando. All three American cities have flights to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos. Miami also has flights to:

I am very excited about TAM joining oneworld for three reasons:

  1. On short TAM flights, awards will cost very few Avios. For instance, Miami to Manaus is only 12,500 Avios each way or even fewer Avios with the Cash & Avios option.
  2. TAM First Class looks awesome. TAM First Class space is wide open between the US and Brazil, and American Airlines has the cheapest remaining award chart for partner first class redemptions. Between the US and Brazil, American Airlines awards are only 62,500 miles each way in TAM First Class.
  3. TAM segments are now bookable as part of an American Airlines Explorer Award, which is by far the best value around the world award.

Why am I so excited about TAM joining oneworld? What do you need to know about TAM awards?

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US Airways to Have Oneworld and Star Alliance Partners Starting March 31, How to Take Advantage

US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase to book these Star Alliance and oneworld partners

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee*
  • First checked bag FREE on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Redeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Application Link: US Airways Premier World MasterCard

American Airlines and US Airways have merged, and US Airways is joining the oneworld alliance on March 31, 2014 as part of the integration of the carriers into the new American Airlines.

Yesterday the Australian Business Traveler reported that when US Airways joins oneworld, it will not be ending all of its relationships with its former Star Alliance partners. US Airways miles will still be redeemable for award seats on the following Star Alliance carriers:

  • Aegean
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • Avianca
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAM
  • TAP
  • Turkish Airways

This is fantastic news and will give people with US Airways Dividend Miles the best combination of partners of any frequent flyer program. But questions remain.

Will the current US Airways award chart still be in effect on 3/31/14? Will the current US Airways routing rules still be in effect on 3/31/14? Will you be able to book one award with US Airways miles that combines oneworld and Star Alliance partner?

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The Best Value Destination for Lie Flat Seats? Peru

The best value destination for people who want to use their miles to travel in flying beds is Peru.

My favorite South American country is the perfect sweet spot of being far enough away for two airlines–LAN and United–to fly fully flat business class seats from six American cities, and being close enough that the flights are a steal with American and United miles.

Usually with miles, there is a “but.” In this case, I don’t see one. The award space is great, the products are fantastic, the miles can be earned easily, and Peru is my favorite country to visit in the world.

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Free First Class Next Month: Using qantas.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles

This is the twenty-second post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Searching BA.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles.

Using qantas.com for award searches can help you get maximum value from your American Airlines miles. American partners with the oneworld alliance and several non-oneworld partners. Unfortunately oneworld award space searching is fragmented, and I use aa.com, ba.com, and qantas.com.

I’ve described how to use aa.com and ba.com for award searches:

Now I’ll explain how to use qantas.com.

Qantas shows award availability for airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, and LAN. It also shows Qantas availability, but not the same availability that AA has access to, so I use aa.com to search Qantas availability.

To search Qantas, sign up for an account or sign into yours on qantas.com.au.

Once signed in, an award search box is on the next screen. Make sure to select the award search tab.

Leave the default option “Qantas and Partner Classic Award” selected. Type in your cities and choose Return or Oneway. I like to select “Flexible with dates.” The calendar it brings up is quite handy:

Red seats mean there is economy space. Purple means business class space. If you want to change what classes of service are displayed, manipulate the check boxes above the calendar.

If you’re planning on using American miles, you shouldn’t check Premium Economy because that option is not available with American miles.

If you hold your cursor over a specific date, a yellow box will pop up telling the shortest award available that day, listing its duration and number of stops. That’s a handy way to sort by nonstop or other specific routings.

If you want to see the exact options on a specific date, select that date and click the Select Flight button. For instance, here are the flights available from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on December 24.

Ignore the part at the bottom that say it would cost 104k points for this flight. If you are using American miles, you should use qantas.com.au for searches, but you should determine the price from the AA partner award chart, which prices LAX-HKG in business at 55k miles each way.

Occasionally an itinerary has an exclamation point above where you select the cabin.

Holding your cursor over the exclamation point tells you which flights are serviced by a cabin worse than the one listed. In the example above, Buenos Aires to New York is first class, but New York to Los Angeles is only business class.

What I like about searching at qantas.com is that it has great coverage of oneworld, has an easy-to-navigate calendar, and shows logical connections. But there are some drawbacks.

1. Qantas.com doesn’t show all oneworld members. Amman isn’t a city on the dropdown menu of “From” cities, so good luck finding Royal Jordanian space.

ba.com does show Royal Jordanian flights.

Qantas also doesn’t list S7′s hub of Moscow-DME–qantas.com shows Moscow-SVO–so you should search S7 space on ba.com too.

I also couldn’t find JAL space on qantas.com.au, but JAL space does display on ba.com.

Qantas hasn’t yet added Malaysia Airlines to its search engine either as ba.com has.

2. The dropdown menu for the “From” city doesn’t list all options. For instance, Tampa is not listed on the dropdown menu.

So if you want to search from an unlisted city, like Tampa to Hong Kong roundtrip, you would have two options.

The first option would be to search Miami, Chicago, Dallas, and New York to Hong Kong since AA has flights from Tampa to those cities according to wikipedia.

Then you could go to aa.com and look for domestic space.

The second option is probably a little quicker. You can search Hong Kong to Tampa oneway to find the return. And you can search Hong Kong to Tampa roundtrip to find the outbound by narrowing in on the “return” results for your backward search.

Although you can’t search TPA-HKG, you can search HKG-TPA roundtrip, which obviously includes TPA-HKG as one direction.

3. Qantas releases more Qantas award space to its own program. That means Qantas results you see are unreliable. Luckily this problem is moot now since aa.com displays Qantas space in award searches. Search Qantas space on aa.com if you are using AA miles.

4. Qantas.com times out so quickly between searches.

What to do when you find the space

Note the dates, times, flight numbers, and cabins, and call AA at 800-882-8880 if the space is for airlines not bookable at aa.com.

When to Search aa.com, ba.com, and qantas.com.

I search for awards on aa.com if I can. aa.com displays: American, Alaska, Hawaiian, British, Qantas, Finnair, and airberlin.

If I can’t, I search on qantas.com for Iberia, Cathay Pacific, and LAN.

If I want to search JAL, Malaysia, Royal Jordanian, or S7, I use ba.com.

Continue to Using Delta.com to Redeem Delta Miles.

Free First Class Next Month: Airline Hubs and Alliances

This is the eighteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything.

For a beginner, one important thing to help understand which routings are possible on awards or which alliance is the best for certain trips is to know a little bit about the alliances and the airlines that make them up.

One important fact is that you can always book awards using one airline’s miles on its own flights and on that airline’s alliance partners. (And usually airlines also have a few other partners not in their alliance like British Airways’, American Airline’s, and Delta’s partnerships with Alaska Airlines.)

Below is a list of each alliances’ members and those members’ hubs and codes. Knowing these lists or at least where to find them will make you a much savvier flyer.

Carriers are in alphabetical order except US-based carriers are listed first. Each entry starts with the two letter airline code, then the airline, then its hubs.

Star Alliance

(UA) United Airlines (Newark, Houston-Intercontinental, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Cleveland, Tokyo-Narita, Guam)
(US) US Airways (Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix) has announced a merger with American Airlines. When the merger is complete, the new American will be part of oneworld.

(JP) Adria Airways (Ljubljana)
(A3) Aegean Airlines (Athens)
(AC) Air Canada (Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver)
(CA) Air China (Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai)
(NZ) Air New Zealand (Auckland)
(NH) ANA (Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka, Osaka-Kansai)
(OZ) Asiana Airlines (Seoul-Incheon, Seoul-Gimpo)
(OS) Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
(AV) Avianca (Bogota, Sao Paulo, Quito)
(SN) Brussels Airlines (Brussels)
(CM) Copa (Panama City)
(OU) Croatia Airlines (Zagreb)
(MS) EgyptAir (Cairo)
(ET) Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa)
(LO) LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
(LH) Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Berlin-Brandenburg)
(SK) Scandinavian Airlines (Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm)
(ZH) Shenzhen Airlines (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing)
(SQ) Singapore Airlines (Singapore)
(SA) South African Airways (Johannesburg)
(LX) Swiss International Air Lines (Zurich)
(JJ) TAM Airlines (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia)
(TP) TAP Portugal (Lisbon)
(TA) TACA (San Salvador, San Jose (CR), Lima)
(TG) Thai Airways International (Bangkok)
(TK) Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Ataturk)

EVA Airlines to join in 2013.

SkyTeam

(DL) Delta Airlines (Atlanta, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Detroit, Amsterdam, Tokyo-Narita, Paris-Charles de Gaulle)

(SU) Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
(AR) Aerolineas Argentinas (Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Buenos Aires-Aeroparque)
(AM) Aeroméxico (Mexico City)
(UX) Air Europa (Madrid)
(AF) Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Lyon, Toulouse-Blagnac, Marseille, Nice)
(AZ) Alitalia (Rome-Fiumicino)
(CI) China Airlines (Taipei-Kaohsiung, Taipei-Taoyuan)
(MU) China Eastern Airlines (Kunming, Shanghai-Pudong, Shanghai-Hongqiao, Xi’an)
(CZ) China Southern Airlines (Beijing-Capital, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Urumqi)
(OK) Czech Airlines (Prague)
(KQ) Kenya Airways (Nairobi)
(KL) KLM (Amsterdam)
(KE) Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon, Seoul-Gimpo)
(ME) Middle East Airlines (Beirut)
(SV) Saudia (Dammam, Jeddah, Medinah, Ryiadh)
(RO) TAROM (Bucharest)
(VN) Vietnam Airlines (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City)
(MF) Xiamen Airlines (Xiamen, Fuzhou, Hangzhou)

Garuda Indonesia to join in 2014.

oneworld

(AA) American Airlines (Dallas-Fort Worth, New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Chicago-O’Hare, Miami)

(AB) Air Berlin (Berlin-Brandenburg, Dusseldorf)
(BA) British Airways (London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick)
(CX) Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
(AY) Finnair (Helsinki)
(IB) Iberia (Madrid, Barcelona)
(JL) Japan Airlines (Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita, Osaka, Osaka-Kansai)
(LA) LAN (Santiago, Lima)
(MH) Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur)
(QF) Qantas (Sydney, Melbourne)
(RJ) Royal Jordanian (Amman)
(S7) S7 Airlines (Moscow-Domodedovo, Novosibirsk)

Members elect expected to join in the next 12 months: SriLankan Airlines and Qatar Airways.

The Star Alliance is the largest alliance. It is dominant in Europe and strong everywhere.

SkyTeam is the second largest alliance. It is dominant in Asia. Its North American partner Delta has the worst frequent flyer program of the legacy carriers.

oneworld is the runt of the three alliances. It will be getting bigger with the merger of American and US Airways. It has the only Australian airline in any alliance plus several airlines with incredible premium products like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Qatar.

Tons of airlines are not part of any alliances. They usually make one off codesharing deals or several partners across many alliances. Major unaffiliated airlines include virtually all budget airlines and several premium airlines:

Southwest
JetBlue
Frontier
Hawaiian
Allegiant
Virgin America
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia
Emirates
Etihad
every other airline not mentioned in this article

Continue to Searching United.com to Redeem United and US Airways Miles.

Using Qantas.com for American Airlines Award Searches

Using qantas.com for award searches can help you get maximum value from your American Airlines miles. American partners with the oneworld alliance and several non-oneworld partners. Unfortunately oneworld award space searching is fragmented, and I use aa.com, ba.com, and qantas.com.

I’ve described how to use aa.com and ba.com for award searches:

Now I’ll explain how to use qantas.com.

Qantas shows award availability for airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, and LAN. It also shows Qantas availability, but not the same availability that AA has access to, so I use aa.com to search Qantas availability.

To search Qantas, sign up for an account or sign into yours on qantas.com.au.

Once signed in, an award search box is on the next screen. Make sure to select the award search tab.

Leave the default option “Qantas and Partner Classic Award” selected. Type in your cities and choose Return or Oneway. I like to select “Flexible with dates.” The calendar it brings up is quite handy:

Red seats mean there is economy space. Purple means business class space. If you want to change what classes of service are displayed, manipulate the check boxes above the calendar.

If you’re planning on using American miles, you shouldn’t check Premium Economy because that option is not available with American miles.

If you hold your cursor over a specific date, a yellow box will pop up telling the shortest award available that day, listing its duration and number of stops. That’s a handy way to sort by nonstop or other specific routings.

If you want to see the exact options on a specific date, select that date and click the Select Flight button. For instance, here are the flights available from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on December 24.

Ignore the part at the bottom that say it would cost 104k points for this flight. If you are using American miles, you should use qantas.com.au for searches, but you should determine the price from the AA partner award chart, which prices LAX-HKG in business at 55k miles each way.

Occasionally an itinerary has an exclamation point above where you select the cabin.

Holding your cursor over the exclamation point tells you which flights are serviced by a cabin worse than the one listed. In the example above, Buenos Aires to New York is first class, but New York to Los Angeles is only business class.

What I like about searching at qantas.com is that it has great coverage of oneworld, has an easy-to-navigate calendar, and shows logical connections. But there are some drawbacks.

1. Qantas.com doesn’t show all oneworld members. Amman isn’t a city on the dropdown menu of “From” cities, so good luck finding Royal Jordanian space.

Ba.com does show Royal Jordanian flights.

Qantas also doesn’t list S7′s hub of Moscow-DME–qantas.com shows Moscow-SVO–so you should search S7 space on ba.com too.

I also couldn’t find JAL space on qantas.com.au, but JAL space does display on ba.com.

2. The dropdown menu for the “From” city doesn’t list all options. For instance, Tampa is not listed on the dropdown menu.

So if you want to search from an unlisted city, like Tampa to Hong Kong roundtrip, you would have two options.

The first option would be to search Miami, Chicago, Dallas, and New York to Hong Kong since AA has flights from Tampa to those cities according to wikipedia.

Then you could go to aa.com and look for domestic space.

The second option is probably a little quicker. You can search Hong Kong to Tampa oneway to find the return. And you can search Hong Kong to Tampa roundtrip to find the outbound by narrowing in on the “return” results for your backward search.

Although you can’t search TPA-HKG, you can search HKG-TPA roundtrip, which obviously includes TPA-HKG as one direction.

3. Qantas releases more Qantas award space to its own program. That means Qantas results you see are unreliable. Luckily this problem is moot now since aa.com displays Qantas space in award searches.

4. Qantas.com times out so quickly between searches. What is this a bank account login that needs to be protected? Ba.com does this too.

What to do when you find the space?

Note the dates, times, flight numbers, and cabins, and call AA at 800-882-8880 if the space is for airlines not bookable at aa.com.

When to use qantas.com, ba.com, and aa.com

I mentioned that you need all three to search oneworld availability easily and well. I have a system for deciding which award search engine to use that I’ll write about tomorrow.

Recap

Qantas.com.au is a valuable search engine for award searches when you want to use your American Airlines miles.

It has some drawbacks, but the ability to search Cathay Pacific and LAN on month-long calendars makes the search engine a part of my arsenal.

Qatar Airways Joins the oneworld Alliance

This post was mostly written before today’s story that Qatar is joining oneworld, but it has been edited to reflect the good news.

Would they or wouldn’t they? The rumors have been swirling for several weeks about Qatar Airways joining the oneworld alliance. Today Qatar announced that it was joining oneworld, becoming the first major Middle Eastern carrier to join a global airline alliance. (No hate mail from Royal Jordanian please.) No time table was announced, but don’t expect the tie up to be complete before 2013/2014.

In the past 24 hours Qatar Airways has posted changes to the award and upgrade redemption charts of its frequent flyer program, Privilege Club. These changes will take effect November 1st.

What does Qatar bring to oneworld?

The Centre for Aviation has a concise chart that shows the new destinations in Africa, India, and the Middle East that Qatar brings to oneworld:

That’s very nice for oneworld. Why should I care?

I think that it is worthwhile to analyze the frequent flyer program of a potential new member of a major airline alliance for opportunities to travel less expensively or gain elite status and benefits more easily. While we currently only have a partial picture of how Qatar’s frequent flyer program will interface with those of other oneworld carriers, there is certainly enough information available to start analysis.

What is Qatar’s frequent flyer program?

Qatar’s frequent flyer program is called Privilege Club. Enrollment is limited to those 18 or older–so no individual accounts for the kids! Family members under the age of 18 can be added to your account and will earn 50%, 75%, or 100% of miles flown, depending on your elite status. Qmiles are the mileage currency of the program.

Earning Qmiles on Qatar Airways

Qmiles can be earned by flying on Qatar or its partner airlines and are valid 5 years from the time they are earned. According to the airline’s website, the number of Qmiles awarded is “calculated based upon the actual miles flown multiplied by a factor according to the booking class.” Here is the earning chart for flights on Qatar:

As you can see from the chart, the earning rates for several classes of travel–everything except first class and full-fare business class–will decrease as of November 1st.

Earning Qmiles on partner airlines

The inclusion of a section on earning mileage on partner airlines may seem illogical, as the presumption of this post is that Qatar is likely to join the oneworld alliance, and their current partner airlines will soon be irrelevant.  But I think it is helpful to highlight the trend of somewhat more generous mileage accrual for first and business class travel on partner airlines.

Just take a look at this–it is the current Qmiles earning chart of US Airways and the old, now defunct earning chart for United:

               

US Airways only allows Dividend miles accrual of 150% for paid first and business class fares, and United allows MileagePlus miles accrual of 250% for paid first class fares. But as you can see from the charts above, Qatar allowed members to accrue 300% of flown miles–Qmiles–on their partner airlines for premium fare classes.

If this trend of more generous mileage accrual for premium fares continues, those most likely to benefit from crediting their flights to Qatar’s Privilege Club are those who fly paid first and business class regularly.

This analysis doesn’t factor in the value to you of earning status through crediting paid fares. Your status goals may make your crediting decision for you. If you don’t know what the difference between redeemable miles and status miles are, see Choosing Where to Credit Miles Earned from Flying.

Transferring SPG Points

SPG Starpoints transfer to Qatar at a 1:1 ratio with a 5,000 miles bonus on 20,000 point increments, meaning that 20k Starpoints = 25k Qmiles.

Redeeming Qmiles on Qatar Airways

If award tickets are booked online more than 48 hours of travel, there is no award ticketing fee, no matter what your status with the airline. Under any other conditions, there is an impressively long list of ways that you can be charged for redeeming miles for an award ticket that can be found here.

Though the length is long, the fees are very reasonable. Date changes, destination changes, and even cancellations made more than 24 hour out cost only $25. And the close-in ticketing fees start at 7 days out instead of the American-standard 21 days out.

The Qmile redemption chart for Qatar flights is region-based–in an earlier post, I described the different types of frequent flyer miles. This chart shows the number of Qmiles needed for roundtrip travel between the airline’s hub, Doha, and 13 defined regions:

For multi-leg itineraries, each segment is priced separately then combined. For example, a roundtrip economy class award ticket from London to Male, Maldives is 60,000 Qmiles–35,000 Qmiles for the London-Doha segment and 25,000 Qmiles for the Doha-Male segment–and $443.35 in taxes, fees, and surcharges, so surcharges are a major drawback of Qatar’s program.

In comparison, a direct flight from London to Male on British Airways costs 50,000 Avios in economy–or 40,000 AAdvantage miles–and $553.68 in taxes and fees. So, you pay more miles but would save $110.00 in taxes and fees by booking the award on Qatar.

Are there any sweet spots for redemptions on Qatar?

Some of the awards for travel to countries that can be hard to get to on an award tickets are attractive. From Doha, you can get to Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Goa, and Kathmandu for 25,000 Qmiles roundtrip in economy class.

Redeeming Qmiles on fifth-freedom flights

The Points to Point B blog has an excellent explanation of fifth-freedom flights–with a trip report of a Qatar Airways Bangkok-Hanoi flight–and describes the fifth freedom as “the ability for a carrier of Country A to carry passengers on an international route solely between Country B and Country C when on a multi-leg flight that involves Country A.” Here is an award redemption chart of roundtrip prices for Qatar’s fifth-freedom flights:

For 12,500 Qmiles oneway between Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires you can experience Qatar’s international business class cabin, or just use 7,500 Qmiles for a oneway economy ticket. Alternatively, you can do some short haul country-hopping in southeast Asia for 5,000 Qmiles per oneway trip in economy.

Qmiles and cash awards

For award redemptions on Qatar airlines only–not partner airlines–tickets can be booked with 50% of the usual Qmiles required and cash. Here is an example of such a redemption, and the terrible value is fairly representative for travel for all other regions.

Shelling out almost $2,000 PLUS miles is never my idea of a good redemption.

Redeeming Qmiles on partner airlines

The Qmile redemption chart for partner awards is distance-based, similar to British Airways Avios:

There are some positive attributes of the Qmiles partner redemption program:

(1) Oneway redemptions are allowed.

(2) You can book a ticket with connections with multiple carriers without increasing the number of miles needed.

(3) You are allowed free add-on destinations in Gulf countries on an award ticket that originates and ends outside of the Gulf. According to Qatar’s website, the number of Qmiles needed for a London-Doha-Bahrain itinerary will be the same as for the shorter London-Doha trip. This benefit may interest the traveler who needs or wants to country hop around the gulf states–Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait–for business or leisure.

Here are some negatives:

(1) The award chart is expensive.  An easy comparison is British Airway’s Avios distance-based award chart. For example, a short, roughly 1,000 mile oneway trip like New York-Miami would cost 7,500 Avios but 15,000 QMiles. A long-haul flight like Los Angeles-Hong Kong, about 7,000 miles oneway, would cost 35,000 Avios but 50,000 QMiles.

(2) You can’t book partner awards on the website. To book a partner award, you have to complete a “partner award request form”:

This form is then electronically submitted to the member services center, and you receive this message:

(3) Surcharges can be hundreds of dollars or more per passenger. I would like to figure out which partners incur surcharges, but I don’t have that information.

Qatar’s “Easy Deals”

Every month, Qatar Airways publishes “easy deals” on its website. It offers reduced-mileage award redemptions on selected routes for travel during the 6 weeks after the fares are published. This month’s deals can be found here and include: business class oneway flights from Beijing or Seoul to Doha for 27,000 Qmiles and Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo for 6,500 Qmiles.

Elite status and Qpoints in Qatar’s Privilege Club

There are 4 tiers of membership in Privilege Club: Privilege Club, Burgundy, Silver, and Gold. Members of all levels can use their Qmiles to book award tickets for anyone else and use their miles to pay for excess baggage. This table summarizes some of the relevant differences between each tier. A more complete table can be found here.

Somewhat confusingly, Elite status is obtained and maintained by accruing Qpoints. Not Qmiles–Qpoints:

Qpoints are awarded after each flight and the number awarded depends on the class of service and the regions traveled. At this time Qpoints can only be earned on paid Qatar Airways operated flights. Here are some selected examples of Qpoints earnings per oneway segment by region and route:

It would take six round trip flights between Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires on discount economy tickets to get you to Silver status. Of course, unless that status is linked to elite oneworld status, the tiers and Qpoints are of little value to the non-Qatar flyer.

Recap

Qatar’s entry into the oneworld alliance happened today, though there is no firm joining date. The addition of the Skytrax “airline of the year” for 2011 and 2012 brings new destinations in Africa, India, and the Middle East to the oneworld alliance.

If you fly paid business and first class flights, Qatar has historically offered mileage accrual in its program that is more generous than most US carriers–300% for first and 250% for business class.  This could potentially allow you to generate more Qmiles for later award redemption.

Qatar’s award chart has very few good value award redemptions and comes up short when compared with other oneworld members like American Airlines and British Airways, with a few exceptions. Short, fifth-freedom flights in Southeast Asia and South America are a good value at 5,000-7,500 Qmiles oneway in economy class. The monthly “easy deals” promotion offers some opportunities for discounted award flights on selected routes. Additionally, access to cities that are difficult to reach on award tickets is greatly improved in oneworld, with direct flights from Doha to Kathmandu and Kilimanjaro from 12,500 Qmiles oneway.

For me, the absolute bottom line is that the surcharges make it unlikely I will look to earn and redeem Qmiles. But I will look to use my AAdvantage miles and Avios on Qatar, especially if American Airlines doesn’t add fuel surcharges to the award cost.