Have you heard about the rise of the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers? They are setting records for growth, aircraft orders and product quality – and with good reason. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are three of the best airlines in the world, and have created one of the world’s most important transit hubs from scratch in a little more than a decade.
Of these three just one has found its way into a major global airline alliance, and that’s Qatar Airways as a member of Oneworld, which makes it a partner of American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and others. I recently had the opportunity to use some American AAdvantage miles for a business class ticket from Qatar’s hub in Doha to Copenhagen. The entire experience was excellent, and this example is exactly how you should be using your frequent flyer miles.
Qatar Airways: Ground experience
The new Doha Hamad International Airport is gorgeous, and has every service you’d expect from a modern airport. Aspects reminded me of Hong Kong and LAX’s lovely renovated Bradley International Terminal. After breezing through the priority security and immigration queue I was on my way to my favorite part of the airport experience: the airline’s premium lounge.
If I had one complaint about Qatar Airways it’s how they structure their lounge access in Doha. Under Oneworld alliance rules, elite members holding the top two status levels are entitled to access business and first class lounges, respectively. For obvious reasons of cost, most airlines comply with this by admitting members from partner programs to the appropriate lounge. At its Doha hub, Qatar has chosen to operate separate lounges for partner elite members, meaning that you have to have a business or first class ticket on a Qatar Airways flight in order to access the airline’s best lounges. A little silly, but my golden ticket to the business class lounge revealed an awesome (and eerily empty) space.
Don’t miss the buffet upstairs – it’s amazing.
Qatar Airways: In-flight
The in-flight experience was just as lovely. Qatar’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners have a 1-2-1 configuration in business class, which means that any seat on the left or right side of the aircraft has both window and aisle access. Thankfully, this is the trend even among U.S.-based carriers, with American flying it already on their 777-300ERs, Delta across many aircraft types and United installing it as part of their new Polaris business class.
Like American’s pod concept, Qatar Airways has angled these seats in a way to create maximum privacy for each traveler. While the placement of the monitor reduces overall space somewhat, it’s still more than enough to relax, dine, lounge and shift the seat into a flat bed for sleeping.
Let’s be honest: most of us can and have done worse for a 6.5 hour flight.
Frequent Flyer Strategy
This one is easy: Qatar Airways is part of the Oneworld alliance, meaning that you can redeem miles from the account of other Oneworld member airlines to book award seats on Qatar. Just as I used American AAdvantage miles for this trip (at a return of 11 cents per mile!) you could use British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas or miles from any other Oneworld alliance member.
And don’t forget: If you fly a paid ticket on Qatar Airways, you can earn miles with its partners, too. Just make sure you’re purchasing an eligible fare class.