Qatar launching Canberra to Doha flights: is it worth it? Good news for Sydney flyers

How to redeem points for travel on Qatar Airways from Australia

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 6 minutes
POSTED: July 24, 2017
UPDATED: July 24, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, American Airlines AAdvantage

With the Gulf carrier planning flights from our nation’s capital to Doha via Sydney from mid-February next year, we analyse the Business Class product and whether it is worth using your points for an award flight.

Later in this guide, we outline the offerings on all aircraft flying between Australia and Doha, as well as compare using Qantas Points, Asia Miles and AAdvantage miles for redemptions.

New Canberra to Doha via Sydney service starts in February

From 12 February 2018, Qatar will fly from Canberra to Doha, but it will make a one-hour stop in both directions in Sydney.

Unfortunately, this route will carry the old a Boeing 777 Business Class product in a 2-2-2 configuration, which is the same aircraft that serves Perth:

It is a step down from the excellent direct-aisle access seat on the A350 from Adelaide and A380s from Sydney and Melbourne:

Whilst the flights are on sale now, there is no award availability showing yet, but will it be worth the 104,000 Qantas Points/85,000 Asia Miles/80,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way Business Class redemption anyway? Probably not.

Canberra-based flyers may be best searching for a seat on one of the flights out of Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney and separately booking an award or cash flight to connect with that.

The good news for Sydney-based travellers is that this means a second direct flight to Doha is on the cards from February, which may open up some more award space, albeit on the older 777 instead of the more modern A380.

Do be very aware that Qatar is renowned for announcing routes and then delaying their launch, so make sure you have some flexibility or back-up plans if you move forward with a reservation on this new flight.

Also noteworthy is that Qatar does not have rights to transport passengers solely between Canberra and Sydney on this flight.

In this guide

Part I of this guide explores the different Business Class offerings between the A380, A350 and 777.

In Part II, we’ll go into detail on redeeming Qantas Points, Asia Miles and AAdvantage miles for travel from Australia to Doha and beyond.

What to expect from Qatar Airways Business Class

A380 services from Sydney and Melbourne

On the A380 (as well as onward flights from their Doha hub to destinations served by the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner), Qatar has a herringbone 1-2-1 configuration in Business Class:

Qatar Airways 787 Business Class 1

Qatar Airways 787 Business Class 2

There is also a full-service onboard bar on the A380:

QR A380 Bar

First Class is available on A380 flights but not on other aircraft. Qatar First Class award redemptions are usually readily available from Sydney to Doha – a great use of Qantas Points.

Qatar First Class Suite

Qatar First Class Suite Lie Flat

In addition to Sydney and Melbourne, Qatar also operates A380 services to Atlanta, Bangkok, Guangzhou, London and Paris.

Review: Qatar Airways A380 First Class

A350 service from Adelaide

The A350 is the world’s newest commercial aircraft and Qatar was the first airline to fly it, launching its Doha-Adelaide service in May 2016.

The A350 has 36 fully-flat beds stretching to 203cm when flat with a 17-inch personal entertainment screen, as well as a seemingly airier cabin with large windows.

As opposed to the A380’s full-service bar, the A350 has a self-service snacks and drinks bar:

Review: Qatar Airways A350 Business Class

777 service from Perth and Canberra (via Sydney)

From Perth and Canberra via Sydney (from February 2018), Qatar operates 777-300ERs with a 2-2-2 full lie-flat beds Business Class configuration.

It is probably a slight improvement in seat offering than Qantas’ similar layout on their A380s and refurbished 747 aircraft, but inferior to the two other Qatar offerings above.

Review: Qatar Airways 777 Business Class

‘Qsuite’ Business Class product

Qatar Airways unveiled a long-awaited upgrade to its Business Class product at the travel trade show ITB Berlin back in March.

With the intelligent slogan ‘First in Business’ – referring to a product which really combines elements of both a First and Business Class seat – the Qsuite will feature sliding privacy doors, much like you can currently experience in Singapore Airlines and Emirates First Class Suites as well as on Korean Air’s Boeing 747-8i aircraft.

The two middle seats will convert into a double bed, again just like in Singapore Airlines First Class Suites.

And there will be removable row dividers in the middle row to convert four adjacent middle seats into a family room.

As we see it, the pros are:

  • a high level of privacy for solo travellers
  • a more intimate flying experience for couples, groups and families
  • beautiful finishing touches

The cons could be:

  • slightly more cramped seat due to an increase in overall space with addition of door
  • family room is great for families but could be a noise concern for solo travellers
  • no inflight wifi

Which routes are the first to feature the Qsuite?

  1. Doha to London was the launch route from June 2017 on a new Boeing 777-300ER
  2. Moving forward, you can expect routes to be serviced by the new A350-1000 (of which Qatar is the launch customer) next, as well as a retrofit of Qatar’s Boeing 777 (servicing Perth and Canberra via Sydney) and Airbus A350-900 (servicing Adelaide) aircraft – that’s good news for travellers from WA, SA and the ACT
  3. Finally, routes serviced by the Airbus A380 (Sydney and Melbourne) and Boeing 787 Dreamliner are down the priority list as both need tweaks to the design to adapt to these aircraft – the A380 has curved walls and the 787 a narrower body

While the 777 is in dire need of an upgrade, it is actually quite surprising that Qatar is planning on retrofitting any of its A350, A380 or 787 aircraft as they already feature a fantastic Business Class product but if I were a passenger travelling on one of these aircraft with the new product I wouldn’t be complaining!

Researching award availability for Qatar Airways redemptions

Qatar Airways flights show up in the British Airways booking engine, and then, of course, also in Award Nexus. They can also be booked using Qantas Points and online using Asia Miles.

Qatar’s route options from Australia to Europe

Qatar Airways Australia - Europe 2 201509

Qatar Airways fly direct from Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth to Doha, connecting to a multitude of European cities – Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Larnaca, London, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Sofia, Stockholm, Venice, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zurich.

Using points/miles to book from Australia on Qatar Airways using points

Here’s a summary of the main oneworld program costs for the Australia flights Qatar operates to Doha:

FromQantas PointsAsia MilesAAdvantage miles
Canberra (via Sydney)104,00085,00080,000

Using Qantas Points

Qantas charges 104,000 Qantas Points for one-way Business Class on the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra routes, which is more expensive than the comparable Dubai flights flown by Qantas or Emirates at 96,000 points.

The same case applies to Perth, with Qantas charging 92,000 points from Perth, which is 8,000 points more than it costs to fly to Dubai on Emirates. Qantas passes on full taxes and surcharges too.

If you are flying all the way on to Europe with no stopover, you’ll get more out of your Qantas Points by aiming for a redemption on Qantas/Emirates flights as this will come in at 128,000 points in total.

By comparison, partner award costs are pieced together flight by flight, costing you Australia to Doha, plus the cost of the flight from Doha to your final destination.

Using Asia Miles

Asia Miles award charts are distance-based, with Sydney to Doha falling into the more expensive Zone E and the other three destinations into the cheaper Zone D.

For Asia Miles redemptions in Business Class from Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne to Doha, flights cost 70,000 Asia Miles one-way, or 120,000 miles return.

Flying from Sydney or Canberra costs 85,000 Asia Miles in Business Class one-way, or 145,000 miles return.

If you are not flying from Sydney or Canberra as your starting point (e.g. from Brisbane, Cairns, Hobart), it may be worth booking your Qatar Airways redemption from Adelaide, Melbourne or Perth, instead of Sydney or Canberra, when redeeming Asia Miles, and tagging on a paid, connecting domestic flight to one of the three.

Asia Miles also pass on all taxes and surcharges on partner redemptions, so out-of-pocket costs in cash will be similar to using Qantas Points.

Using AAdvantage Miles

Qatar Airways is probably one of the better uses of AAdvantage miles for Australian travellers, given the better-than-average redemption availability.

While AAdvantage only lets you redeem miles for travel between Australia and Europe on Etihad with two separate awards, Qatar will let you redeem with one award.

This means that you can take advantage of the reduced cost of 85,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in Business Class to Europe, or 80,000 AAdvantage miles to Doha. Granted, these amounts were increased substantially from 60,000 and 45,000 miles respectively in AAdvantage’s March 2016 points devaluation.

By comparison, AAdvantage redemptions on Etihad will be much higher as you will need to redeem two awards, one to Abu Dhabi (80,000) and another to Europe (42,500) = 122,500 in total.

AAdvantage miles are typically best picked up in a miles purchase promotion. The guide to AAdvantage miles purchases is here, along with a detailed overview of redemption options to Europe.

Summing up

It’s great to have Qatar flying from five Australian cities (hopefully Brisbane will get service in the near future too) and adding some competition on the Middle East routes, especially with Australian travellers being able to experience their newer A380 and A350 aircraft.

Asia Miles and AAdvantage award redemptions on Qatar seem to represent the best value for flights to Doha and beyond to Europe, with Qantas Points making more sense for connections through its Dubai co-hub with Emirates.

Supplementary images courtesy Qatar Airways.

Qatar launching Canberra to Doha flights: is it worth it? Good news for Sydney flyers was last modified: July 24th, 2017 by Matt Moffitt