I love combining the words “discounted” and “airfares” in the same sentence. I’ve taken many unplanned trips because I found a killer airfare, whether Rome for $500 or Singapore for $450. With fares that low, you’re already getting a great value, and an upgrade is icing on the cake. But great airfare deals aren’t restricted to the economy cabin. Sometimes airlines will offer business class fares that are too good to pass up.
Lately one airline has been offering business class fares at less than half of what competitors are charging. That airline is Doha-based Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways (airline code “QR”) is part of the emerging faction of high-quality airlines based in the Middle East. Along with Emirates, Etihad and several others, Qatar Airways has been growing rapidly, and offers a great product at a reasonable price. For instance, I recently booked clients on QR from Rome to Johannesburg for $2,600 each, roundtrip. Competitors British Airways, Lufthansa and South African Airways were pricing in the $6,000-7,000 range.
The airline flies their Doha-Johannesburg route with a Boeing 777-300ER. According to Seat Guru, both of their versions of this plane have lie flat seating in business, in a 2-2-2 configuration. Not bad considering that Lufthansa still flies angle-flat seats on many routes, and charges higher price. Here’s a picture of what the Qatar Airways business class cabin looks like, courtesy of airliners.net.
“But Ryan,” – you say – “what about frequent flyer miles? Don’t you always advocate sticking to your main airline or alliance?”
I do advocate this strategy for most situations. Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club isn’t the most robust or global loyalty program. However, instead of accruing miles in their program, look to their partners. You can post your flight miles to airlines such as British Airways, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic and others. With the options of British and US, that gives you the power to earn miles in two of the three global airline alliances. So while flying Qatar or Emirates may not give you miles in your primary program, the deeply discounted fares, quality service and ability to earn valuable miles somewhere can make the deal more than worth it. Miles are valuable, but not worth paying thousands of dollars more in airfare.
The Middle East carriers have been fairly independent in terms of their frequent flyer affiliations, not having joined any of the large alliances yet. That may eventually change, but for now they have enough partners to ensure that the miles you earn from flying them don’t get stuck in a program that you rarely use.
Note: Qatar Airways did not request, sponsor or compensate me in any way for this post.