Regional first class starting at 12,500 points (Sweet Spot Spotlight)

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I wrote the majority of this post aboard an American Airlines flight from Detroit to Charlotte. I booked the flight for only 12,500 points per person for first class. Economy would have cost only 6,000 points per person.

The trick is to use Qatar Avios to book tickets like these. Qatar has a distance based award chart with extremely low award prices for nonstop flights up to 650 miles long. In fact, prices are really good for flights up to 2,000 miles. Plus, Qatar has reasonable change/cancellation fees ($25 USD per person) for changes made more than 24 hours from departure.

The above map shows select OneWorld flights (AA and Alaska Airlines) from Chicago. Flights within the innermost circle (such as Chicago to Toronto) cost 12,500 Avios one-way for first class. Flights within the next circle (such as to Denver, Austin, Palm Beach, Boston, or Quebec City) cost 16.5K for first class. And, flights within the widest circle (such as to Vancouver, Los Angeles, Cabo, Guatemala, Cancun, and Punta Cana) cost 22K for first class. Map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

How to Get Qatar Avios

Every major transferable points program offers 1 to 1 transfers to Qatar Avios either directly or indirectly (transfer first to another Avios program and then to Qatar). If you have Avios in other programs, you can move those Avios from one program to another. See: How to transfer Avios between British Airways, Qatar, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.

Here are the major points programs that offer 1 to 1 transfers to Qatar Avios either directly or indirectly:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Chase Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Citi Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Marriott Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Capital One Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Bilt Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Wells Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Qatar Privilege Club Avios1 to 1 (Unknown)1 to 1 via BA (Instant)1 to 1 (1 to 2 days)60K to 25K (3 to 4 days)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)1 to 1 via BA (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)

And, here are current transfer bonuses, if any:

Transfer FromTransfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date

Qatar Partner Award Chart

a screenshot of a graph

The chart above shows the award chart used when booking most partner airlines with Qatar Avios.

Eligible partner airlines include:

  • oneworld airlines:
    • American Airlines
    • Alaska Airlines
    • All other oneworld airlines (British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, SriLankan Airlines, Fiji Airways, Oman Air)
  • Other partners which most likely adhere to the same award chart:
    • Bangkok Airways
    • LATAM
    • MEA
    • Oman Air
    • RwandAir
    • S7
    • Virgin Australia
  • Partners in which the award chart varies from above:

Cheap Regional Awards

Since AA and Alaska domestic first class are treated as business class, the shortest AA and Alaska first class flights (<=650 miles) cost only 12,500 Qatar Avios. And economy costs less than half that at 6,000 Avios each way.

The next distance band is pretty cheap too. For flights between 651 and 1151 miles, you’ll pay only 9,000 Avios for economy and 16,500 for business class / domestic first class.

Actually, even though these aren’t shown in the map at the top of this post, flights all the way up to 3,000 miles are reasonably priced since they top out at 13,000 miles for economy and 38,750 for business class / domestic first class.

Here’s a quick summary of the number of Avios required for one-way nonstop partner awards up to 3,000 miles long:

Distance Band Economy Price Business or Regional First Class
0 – 650 miles 6,000 12,500
651 – 1151 miles 9,000 16,500
1152 – 2000 miles 11,000 22,000
2001 – 3000 miles 13,000 38,750

The prices shown above won’t always be better than prices found by booking through American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, but Avios are much easier to collect since they’re available from all major transferable points programs, and often with transfer bonuses.

Caution: Partner awards must be available

It’s important to understand that the only partner flights bookable with Qatar Avios are ones where the operating airline has made award seats available to partners. For example, American Airlines makes almost all of their own flights bookable with AA miles, but only a relatively small subset of those are bookable with partner miles. Further, partner award availability changes regularly. Often these awards open up as the flight gets closer to departure and is not yet sold out.

Caution 2: American Eagle & SkyWest flights don’t work

It seems that Qatar has access only to American Airlines flights that are operated by American Airlines itself. Qatar does not have access to Republic Airways (American Eagle) or SkyWest flights despite their American Airlines branding. This is especially surprising since other AA partners like British Airways do have access to these flights.

Tips for finding and booking Qatar partner awards

1) Search Qantas (not a typo!)

Qatar’s website is pretty good at finding award flights if you know the exact day you want to travel, but if you want to do a broad search, it’s useless (the award calendar doesn’t work). Instead, for finding oneworld flights (such as AA or Alaska flights) use just about any award search tool that supports Qantas (find search tool options here) to find award flights bookable with Qantas miles. You can also use Qantas’ own website as well. Most flights bookable with Qantas miles should also be bookable with Qatar Avios.

I think that it’s just a coincidence that Qatar and Qantas share oneworld affiliation, don’t know the “u” after “q” rule, and have so many letters in common… 

For example, I used an AwardTool Mega search to try to find Chicago to Punta Cana first class. I filtered to business class, selected QF (Qantas), filtered to Non-Stop Only, and selected a range of 24 dates. In this way I found four eligible flights:

As you can see above, Qantas would charge 41,500 miles for AA first class from Chicago to Punta Cana, but Qatar charges only 22,000 Avios:

Reminder: Booking with Qatar isn’t always much cheaper than booking with other miles such as AA or Alaska miles (but Avios are easier to accumulate). For example, for the above flight here is how much the same flight would cost to book with various other miles. As you can see, booking directly with AA miles is a decent alternative:

  • American Airlines miles: 25,000 miles + $49.65
  • Alaska Airlines miles: 27,500 miles + $63
  • British Airways Avios: 29,000 Avios + $49.65
  • Iberia Avios: 29,000 Avios + $72
    Caution: Most Iberia partner awards cannot be cancelled or changed
  • Cathay Pacific: 33,000 miles + ?
  • Etihad Guest: 40,000 + $76
  • Qantas: 41,500 miles + $72

For reference, there was also a nonstop United flight available for the same route and so I checked prices for booking that:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 25K miles + CAD $137 (~$101 USD)
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 30,000 miles + $66
  • United MileagePlus: 35,000 miles + $50

2) Two ways to search & book via Qatar Airways

You’ll need a Qatar Privilege Club account to find and book flights through Qatar Airways. Once you have that set up, you can search for flights either through their website or mobile app.

Website

Via the Qatar website, simply go to qatarairways.com, log in, and you should see the ability to search for award flights. Just make sure to check that box that says “Book an award flight.” You don’t need to change the booking class from economy because Qatar shows all available classes of service in the search results.

There are two problems with booking through the web:

  1. The “Book an award flight” check-box sometimes disappears. The solution is to refresh the page (and then wait a few seconds each time) until it re-appears.
  2. Sometimes the site doesn’t let you select and book a flight even when it shows as available and you have enough Avios. When this happens, the best option I know of is to switch to the mobile app.

Mobile App

Via Qatar’s mobile app, finding and booking awards is easy. Simply, click “book” and then on the next screen, make sure to select “Book an award flight.” I haven’t encountered any bugs with booking awards this way.

3) Get your airline booking code from “Your Electronic Receipt

Once you’ve booked your flight, you’ll want to manage it, select seats, and check-in from the website of the airline you’ll be flying such as AA or Alaska Airlines. To do this, you’ll need the specific booking code for carrier. You can find this by waiting for Qatar to send you an email titled “Your Electronic Receipt”. The PDF within that email should show you both Qatar’s own booking reference ID and the operating carrier’s booking ID. In this example, the ID (AKA “PNR”) you care about is the second one: AA/ GHIJKL

Google “AA manage booking” to get to AA’s page for managing bookings. You’ll be asked to enter your last name and confirmation code. In the example above, the confirmation code is GHIJKL.

4) Set up Global Entry / TSA PreCheck with operating carrier

I don’t know how common this is, but with my recent AA flight, I was very careful to enter my known traveler information when booking through Qatar, but that information was lost by the time I checked in with AA. My ticket didn’t have the PreCheck indicator on it. Luckily, I was easily able to go to AA’s manage booking screen and add my known traveler number there. I then retrieved my boarding pass again and this time it had the friendly PreCheck indicator.

Cheap Award Examples

Here are a few random award flights I found besides the ones already shown above…

Fly Alaska economy San Francisco to Salt Lake City for 6,000 Avios

Fly Alaska first class San Francisco to Salt Lake City for 12,500 Avios

Fly AA first class Detroit to Miami for 16,500 Avios

Fly Cathay Pacific business class Taipei to Hong Kong for 12,500 Avios

These deals aren’t limited to flights within North America!

Award Maps

If you like the Chicago-centered distance-band map shown at the top of this post, but you don’t live near Chicago, you can make your own map around your preferred airport pretty easily. I’ll use Phoenix airport as an example…

1) Start with this URL:

  • http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?R=2000mi%40ORD&R=1151mi%40ORD%0d%0a650mi%40ORD

2) In the URL above, replace all three occurrences of ORD (which is the three letter code for Chicago’s main airport) with your preferred airport’s three letter code. For Phoenix, the code is PHX:

  • http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?R=2000mi%40PHX&R=1151mi%40PHX%0d%0a650mi%40PHX

3) Browse to the edited URL and you should see a map like this with your airport in the center:

4) To find eligible oneworld flights, I recommend using FlightConnections. Enter your preferred airport in the “From” field and filter to Alliances=Oneworld.

5) In Great Circle Mapper, enter all of the nonstop flights of interest with commas between each. For example, if you want to show select flights to Mexico, you could enter: phx-sjd,phx-pvr,phx-gdl,phx-mex,phx-cun,phx-mty

6) Alternatively, you could enter all (or, in this case, many) of the nonstop flights to get a comprehensive map. For PHX, I entered the following: phx-pdx,phx-sea,phx-san,phx-lax,phx-sfo,phx-sjd,phx-pvr,phx-gdl,phx-mex,phx-cun,phx-mty,phx-mia,,phx-msy,phx-dfw,,phx-aus,phx-mia,phx-tpa,phx-jax,phx-atl,phx-bna,phx-clt,phx-stl,phx-den,phx-slc,phx-msp,phx-ord,phx-dtw,phx-dca,phx-phl (here’s a direct link).

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38 Comments
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CJH

When I have booked an AA flight using BA Avios miles, I contact AA. via twitter or X and give them the AA record locator and my advantage number. AA connects these together and I can view the flight on the AA website and make seat selections. I would think this would work with Qatar.

Thomas

Wow this is a really in depth and clear article. The work you put into it really shows, thanks for another great guide to booking next level award travel Greg!

Carlos

Great article. However, I recommend booking economy tickets for the 0-650-mile distance since on these flights, AA will usually fly either a regional jet, and there may not even be cabin service, maybe enough to get one drink if you are lucky.

JON

Hi – great article. Basic question- do you have to book each flight segment as a separate award transaction? It seems like the Qatar app will only allow direct flights even though AA shows the full route with a stopover. For example, MEM –> MEX with a layover at DFW. So do I necessarily end up with several separate reservations, one for each segment?

Ryan del mundo

I noticed the same thing for AA flights. PHL-MIA-MDE would not price on AA while the direct legs would. Interestingly, it was able to route me via LHR on BA.

I have booked flights in the past using BA-Avios as separate tickets as either the full flight wasn’t available or I wanted biz class on a leg. Those were never an issue although I didn’t try to combine them.

Burt

Thank you for this information. I just tried to book a flight on American for 9K miles and it did not work on either the website or the app. The flight appeared on Qatar website, but when I clicked on the economy selection that was available, it just kept loading and nothing happened. I also got an error at the top to please try again later. The app couldn’t even show the flight. I had the avois in my Qatar account and everything should have worked. Better luck next time I guess.

Saul

This is happening to me as well, both the website and mobile app throw similar errors. At least the flight loads on the website, but it’s unbookable due to the error. And the mobile app just doesn’t load the flight at all.

Bob

Great article. Embarrassed to say I did not know this. I’m an avid user of Avios via BA for domestic US flights but will be a Qatar guy until something changes!! Thank you!

Adam

For some reason my AA flight from BOS-LAX is available on BA and Iberia but not Qatar

Jacinto

Great post! What would be the best way to fly NYC – MIA (~1,100 miles) with those awards?

Wendy

I learn and benefit so much from FM articles! Thanks for all the research you do, the excellent write-ups, and for sharing.

Lars

Great article.

This is something like the ghost of the BA avios “golden era” award chart, so is great to see.

Of course the biggest differentiator is how these days AA limits partner award space. But it’s great when it’s there!

Hank

Sorry if this was mentioned, but this is per segment right?

Points Adventure

Great article Greg. I’ve missed being able to book HKG-SIN J for 20k BA Avios or 25k CX with increased availability. 22k QR is a good option in 2024.

Carlos

Played with a few city combinations (within the US) and found that it gives preference to British Airways flights over American Airlines. Take for example: BNA – LAX. The result is a BA flight from BNA to LHR and a connecting flight from LHR to LAX.

Is this because perhaps there are no partner award seats at American in that city combo for that date?

Brick

Word of warning unless something has changed in how Qatar processes partner redemptions since I tried in Fall 2022 – be certain that you have a CONFIRMED ticket issued after booking. I booked an AA flight that showed on Qatar, but not BA. Wouldn’t let me check in online and when I showed up to the airport, it turns out AA never accepted the booking. Took over 6 months to get my miles back and had to pay for a ticket at the airport for much more money.

Brick

Yes, I tried making selecting seats, but it never let me manage on the AA site despite having an AA PNR (iirc I had to chat to get this). At the time, I had to request the award ticket and then Qatar had to manually process the reservation and then send a link for payment. Again, not sure if this has changed since then and tickets are automatically processed or if they have updated their system to accurately reflect partner availability. I always was a bit skeptical that they would have AA award space when BA didn’t.

Bob

Does Qatar not have the same access to some AA award flights found on other partners? For example I was looking for direct LGA to CVG which was showing up on other OneWorld partners like Iberia, Qantas, and BA but Qatar wasn’t showing any flights?

pcw

May or may not be your problem, but a Qatar rep told me (and the T&Cs seem to agree) that only flights marketed and operated by AA are available to QR. I was trying to book PHL-YQB, operated by Republic Airways (as American Eagle), which showed as bookable via BA but not QR. (IB didn’t even have YQB in its airport list, so…).

Jesse

It seems like this is true based on a few quick searches I did. I could not get flights that Skywest or American Eagle operated to surface on QR but they were showing on BA and QF. Which is a bummer. I imagine it will rule out most segments to regional airports

Ben

This is helpful. I was really hopeful to book a PHX-LBB award via Qatar, which would have been 6,000 Avios (vs. 8,250 Avios via BA), but the one flight per day is an American Eagle (Envoy Air) flight, and while I can find it with BA and Qantas, nothing shows on the Qatar website or app. Disappointing.

Seems the benefit of cheaper regional flights on AA, when booking via Qatar, only applies to flights operated by AA. If true, the article should probably be updated to state this.

Last edited 14 days ago by Ben
Seth

Thanks for sharing this info. I was wondering why the ORD-BNA flights I was looking at last month weren’t showing up through QR. It makes sense now.