It’s a truth universally acknowledged that I love to travel but loathe having to pay top dollar for it. As a result, I am not one of those people who hoards their frequent flyer points – use them or lose them I say.
I used to be promiscuous with my flying habits, spreading my love between many airlines. But around four years ago I decided to be exclusive and pool all my points/credits/hopes and dreams with one airline – Qatar Airways.
This made sense for me – I liked direct the flights, loved the product and importantly, they joined the One World alliance, giving me more options for earning points.
While people like to complain about Qatar Airways and their high fares (especially out of Doha – valid in most cases), it has a surprisingly generous frequent flyer program – IF you know how to use it to your advantage.
Just this week I managed to book business class flights to Bali, in June (a peak month for flying for many) for just QR125 (US$34) and 98,000 points (and on the gorgeous Qatar Airways a350).
So, it is possible to make one of the more mercurial frequent flyer programs work to your advantage. Here are my basic travel and points hacks for making that flight a reality:
- Choose unpopular dates or timings: This may sound obvious but it’s a fact. Many people don’t like night flights or those leaving super early. People also prefer to arrive at their destinations during the day. Also, avoid weekends and keep an eye on general holiday timings (Eid, Christmas, school holidays). Recently I managed to score a great redemption flight to Bali by picking off-beat timings.
2. Be flexible: Again in the Captain Obvious realm, but also worth remembering. Leaving a day earlier and coming back a day later can work for you.
3. Redeem online: Qatar Airways offers discounts of five percent on online ticket redemptions. That’s more points to spend on more travel.
4. Fly partner airlines: I don’t mean redeem your miles on partner airlines, as this is actually more expensive. Rather, flying Cathay Pacific, Sri Lankan or other One World airlines can actually be more lucrative in the points/miles department.
5. Double up: Qatar Airways has a frustrating system whereby you can book a miles redemption, but pay double miles. I’m not saying blow them all at once, rather, sometimes it’s worth paying double one way.
6. Consider using another, adjacent or nearby, city as a gateway: I scored a business class redemption flight to the US last year by choosing to fly into Philadelphia. Not a prime transit city (great airport by the way), but handy, accessible AND available.
7. Don’t go direct: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hop-on and hop-off kinda gal, but if it means I can use my points by spending a couple of hours in transit, I volunteer as tribute. A good example of this is flying to somewhere like Zanzibar – you can go direct or via Da Es Salaam. One is easier to get on miles.
8. Try a newly opened destination: Qatar Airways will always offer points bonuses for flying to their new destinations. A great way to fly to a new and interesting place BUT also score some points for a rainy day.
9. Use points+cash: Don’t have enough points? The Privilege Club website gives you the option to make up the difference. This is most cost effective if you are short a couple of thousand points.
10. Consider going for the upgrade: Use your points for a more comfortable journey, or a flight of a lifetime. you can apply via the website for an upgrade using your Q Credits or points. If at first you don’t succeed (they send you a nice email), ask to be put on a waiting list if any come up. For my experience flying Qatar Airways world leading First Class, click here.
11. Be persistent: As I said above about the upgrades, keep trying. Sometimes awards tickets become available later. If you are in Doha, visit their offices for help in person – my experience is they will try to find a way.
12. Use technology: Award Nexus is a search engine that can help you find premium class or complex route flight mileage awards. You can search across multiple airline sites, dozen of destinations, or weeks of travel dates. This is also a great help if you have points on other carriers like American Airlines.
I’m no travel hack expert. I’m just a frequent traveler who loves a bargain/free flight. I hope this guide helps you have a great summer/winter holiday.