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Qatar Airways Launches Seattle–Doha Route & Partnership with Alaska Airlines Josh January 5, 2021

Qatar Airways Launches Seattle–Doha Route & Partnership with Alaska Airlines

Qatar Airways recently announced a new route between Doha and Seattle. Initially slated to start on March 15, the airline has moved up the route’s launch date, now January 29.

In a corresponding move, they have also announced a new partnership with Alaska Airlines. With Alaska joining Oneworld on March 31, it’s exciting to see their new alliance partners increasing service to their hub in Seattle.

This is certainly a welcome development for Canadians based in the western provinces, whose direct options to the Middle East are limited. Until now, the only direct flights linking the Pacific Northwest to the Middle East were Vancouver to Istanbul via Turkish Airlines, or Seattle to Dubai via Emirates, neither of which are currently in operation.

Qatar Airways’s New Seattle-Doha Route

Qatar Airways will operate the route four times per week, flying in both directions every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday:

  • QR720 Seattle to Doha, departing 4:05pm and arriving 5:15pm the next day
  • QR719 Doha to Seattle, departing 8:00am and arriving 11:20am

Both flights clock in at over 14 hours of time in the air, similar to Qatar’s other Canadian route to Montreal, and among the airline’s longest in the world.

The route will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER at first, with service on an Airbus 350-900 taking over on March 1. Both aircrafts feature the highly-esteemed Qsuites business class product, widely regarded as one of the best in the sky.

Also, both planes offer four award seats in business class. If you’re travelling with a group, you can take advantage of Qatar Airways’s innovative “quad” concept: Qsuites seats in the middle section of the cabin have retractable partitions, allowing you and your party to combine your private pods for a shared in-flight experience.

Overall, this route is a huge boon for anyone with easy access to Seattle, who wants to maximize their time enjoying Qsuites while minimizing their connection time to other gateway airports.

How to Redeem Miles on the Seattle–Doha Route

Booking an award ticket on Qatar Airways is a double-edged sword: while there are many convenient ways to book via Canadian credit cards’ plentiful Oneworld partnerships, the airline is known for high fuel surcharges.


1. British Airways Avios

Avios can be earned rather easily from a multitude of sources. They can be transferred 1:1 from both American Express Membership Rewards and RBC Avion, 2.5:1 from HSBC Rewards, 3:1 from Marriott Bonvoy, or earned directly with the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite card.

However, Avios can be challenging to redeem for good value, even on direct flights, because of their distance-based partner award chart. At approximately 7,400 miles, Doha-Seattle lands in Zone 9, the highest tier for flights over 7,000 miles:

It would cost you 51,500 Avios in economy or 154,500 Avios in business for a one-way ticket (plus the price of a connection to Seattle). This represents a 42% increase from the previous tier, by far the biggest jump on the chart for any long-haul flight.

Flights between Doha and Montreal are shorter, landing in Zone 7 for 92,750 Avios in business class. Suffice to say that flying via Seattle with Avios is the opposite of a sweet spot!

Furthermore, the Avios program is notorious for high fuel surcharges. Coupled with Qatar Airways’s penchant for the same, the cash price creeps up just as fast as the points price:

You can reduce this somewhat by departing from Qatar:

However, you won’t get the same advantage by booking a round-trip ticket – in fact you’d pay less cash by booking two separate one-ways:


2. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Asia Miles offers similar ways to book an itinerary to Doha, but at lower points prices.

While the Seattle route hasn’t been loaded into their search engine yet, we can estimate prices based on the Doha–Chicago route, which falls into the same distance band of 5,001–7,500 miles.

In fact, the Seattle route is a bit of a sweet spot, as it falls just below the upper limit of its award zone. I expect it to be priced at 40,000 Asia Miles in economy or 75,000 Asia Miles in business, the same as Chicago:

Unfortunately, the Asia Miles program suffers from the same high fuel surcharges as Avios:

Asia Miles can be earned from many of the same sources as Avios. However, the RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum‘s welcome bonus, and the Asia Miles transfer ratios from American Express Membership Rewards or HSBC Rewards, are lower than their Avios counterparts, roughly offsetting the difference in redemption rates.

If you’re earning your points with RBC, or you’re looking to fly business class, Asia Miles is the way to go. If you’re collecting at Amex or HSBC and intend to fly economy, Avios will cost fewer points.


3. American Airlines AAdvantage

Rounding out RBC’s trifecta of Oneworld partners, Avion can be transferred to AAdvantage at a ratio of 1:0.7. They can also be transferred from Marriott Bonvoy at 3:1.

Despite limited ways to collect AAdvantage miles in Canada, it’s still a strong contender for booking Qatar Airways for one simple reason: no fuel surcharges!

The points cost for a one-way in business class is 70,000 AAdvantage miles, or 100,000 RBC Avion points.

Although the points cost is higher than Avios or Asia Miles at their respective transfer ratios, AAdvantage charges a measly fraction of the cash costs. If you’d prefer to spend more points and less cash, AAdvantage is without a doubt my recommended way to book Qsuites from Seattle to Doha.

Future Redemption Possibilities

While the following options won’t be a reality until later on, I think it’s useful to consider some potential future options for booking Qatar Airways’s new Seattle–Doha route (and indeed all Qatar Airways routes) amidst the fast-changing landscape. 


1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

As I mentioned above, Alaska Airlines and Qatar Airways have joined forces in advance of Alaska’s entry into Oneworld.

Presently, the partnership only allows for reciprocal mileage earning on paid fares – that is, today we can earn Alaska miles on Qatar flights. The most interesting opportunities will come on March 31, when we’ll be able to redeem Alaska miles on Qatar flights.

In its current form, Alaska Mileage Plan has individual arrangements with each partner, each with unique sweet spots. Generally speaking, you can book one-way tickets on a region-based award chart, with a stopover allowed in the partner airline’s hub city. Multi-carrier awards are not possible, with the exception of Alaska Airlines flights.

If their redemption options on Qatar follow the same format, we might be able to book ambitious journeys like Seattle–Doha–Auckland at a reasonable price, for a whopping 30 hours in Qsuites!

Plus, Alaska redemptions are known for low fuel surcharges, a trend I expect to continue even if the redemption rules undergo dramatic changes.

This new Seattle–Doha route should especially be of interest to residents of Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Calgary, and Edmonton. Alaska flies between these five cities and Seattle, providing an easy gateway to a premium route without having to book a separate positioning flight.


2. Oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards

Come March 31, not only will Alaska miles be redeemable on partner routes, their new Oneworld partners will also be able to book on Alaska’s routes. Therefore, those programs will become much easier to redeem for Canadians flying out of the five airports serviced by Alaska.

Both Avios and Asia Miles offer a multi-carrier award chart for booking tickets that use two or more partner airlines. These awards often work out to be cheaper than simple direct flights.

For the quickest way to and from the Persian Gulf, you could fly from Vancouver to Seattle on Alaska Airlines, then to Doha on Qatar Airways, then return home the same way. The two airlines together satisfy the “multi” requirement in the Oneworld multi-carrier award.

At 15,077 miles, this effective round-trip itinerary would cost 200,000 Avios in business class. While you’d still have to contend with fuel surcharges, the points cost is much lower than booking a regular partner award, plus you get a built-in connection to Seattle.

With mileage to spare before hitting the next award tier at 20,000 miles, our friends as far north as Edmonton should have no trouble getting to Seattle on a single award ticket, at no extra cost.

With Asia Miles, the same routing would cost 155,000 miles. This is 5,000 miles more than booking two direct flights. Still, it’s a small price to pay to have your positioning flight included on the same ticket as your long-haul, or for the flexibility to continue your journey onwards to additional destinations.


3. Aeroplan?

Finally, it’s worth briefly mentioning Qatar Airways’s emerging integration with Air Canada.

Last year, we saw Qatar briefly announce a new Toronto–Doha route, with Air Canada taking over this service moving forward. More recently, they entered into a strategic cooperation agreement, whereby they are working together to align schedules for connections.

In the future, I’m hopeful that it may be possible to redeem Aeroplan points on Qatar flights. It’s not unprecedented for Air Canada to have reciprocal redemption agreements with members of other alliances, as they do with Cathay Pacific.

Alas, Air Canada’s arrangement with Cathay only allows for Aeroplan redemptions on intra-Asia flights, not on Cathay’s desirable long-haul products. In my view, it’s likely that a potential redemption agreement with Qatar would be similar: no long-hauls, only regional flights – perhaps between Doha and Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Africa destinations.

If this option ever becomes possible, it would cost 85,000 Aeroplan points in business one-way, with no fuel surcharges (although other fees may apply).

Until then, I’d aim for a short-haul Air Canada ticket dynamically priced under 10,000 points for easy access to Seattle, and begin your journey on a separate Oneworld ticket from there.

Conclusion

I’m very excited to see Qatar Airways expanding their service to the Pacific Northwest as their partnership with Alaska Airlines grows. The Oneworld alliance has a strong reputation for high-quality onboard products, but our corner of the continent has typically seen more service from Asia-based carriers.

I’m always glad to have another option to fly transatlantic, as the new Aeroplan program has made it much more expensive points-wise to travel from the west coast to the Atlantic zone (formerly Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India).

I’ve got March 31 circled on my calendar, to see how Alaska’s program may change when they join Oneworld. In particular, I’m curious if multi-carrier redemptions will become possible, or if individual agreements will remain. I’m eager to explore the powerful routing opportunities of redeeming partner points on Alaska flights, as Canadian connectivity with Oneworld continues to strengthen.

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