Qatar and Etihad are both offering massive discounts on their fares in both economy and business class from a huge amount of global departure points. Both sales finish on the 5th of September (or the 6th depending on which market you’re in). This is quite a similar situation to the one we had in January this year, with both carriers running sales at the same time, with similar pricing and an identical sale period. What a coincidence!
I’ve seen a couple of things in the news lately regarding fare prices decreasing in the past twelve months and the decrease in profits and turnover this has meant not only for airlines but also travel agents. The big winner from all this increased competition is obviously the consumer.
The sale fares being offered departing Australia are absolutely awesome and anyone with firm travel plans for Europe next year should definitely jump on this sale. Qatar have the cheapest economy fares at under AU$1000 from Sydney to Pisa return and even cheaper departing Adelaide, whereas Etihad are offering the cheapest business class fares coming in just over AU$5000 to a bunch of cities in Europe and the UK.
Depending on where you’re looking at going, what your dates are, which cabin and your preferred loyalty program, either one could be the better option. So here are a few key things to keep an eye on in the current sales to help you decide which carrier to use for your flights to Europe.
Privilege Club Bonus Miles
Qatar are concurrently running some huge points bonuses when crediting flown miles to Privilege Club. The best of which is triple miles for anything booked during the sale for travel between 15 September 2016 and 30 June 2017.
Privilege Club is an odd program but they run some great promos giving out bonus redeemable miles and the redemption rates are pretty generous for flights on Qatar metal. They have really unattractive rates for award tickets on partner airlines though, which is a bit annoying. For example, it’s 70k miles for a one way Qatar flight from Sydney to Doha in business class, whereas for a Qantas flight from Sydney to Singapore, which is a much shorter distance, it’s 100k miles.
Ex Asia Fares
As I’ve written about a few times before, during these sales the best deals are often not the straight point to point return tickets but rather an end-on-end fare that starts in Asia. What I mean by that is a ticket that goes from Asia to Europe and then back to Australia rather than just Australia to Europe return. The first flight, to position in Asia for the ticket, just needs to be sorted out separately and isn’t usually too tricky to figure out as a one way revenue or award ticket.
The cheapest example I’ve found during the current sale (in business class) is with Etihad from Bangkok to Istanbul and then back to Sydney for a shade over AU$2k.
This is even more attractive seeing as Etihad now operate their 787 aircraft on the Abu Dhabi to Istanbul route, which feature their newer business suites.
If Istanbul isn’t your ideal destination for this sale, there are also some really attractive business class fares into Manchester from Bangkok. Even better, if it works for your travel plans is to go into Manchester and then come out of Dublin back to Australia. That way you’re getting a lower fare and avoiding the UK departure taxes. It does of course mean getting your own way from Manchester to Dublin. It’s worth noting that all of the cheaper business class sale fares with Etihad book into Z class which is pretty restrictive and does not include chauffeur service.
Etihad are once again allowing these sorts of double open jaws and once again Qatar are not. This means if you’re putting together an itinerary like this with Qatar you need to fly into and out of the same city. I haven’t been able to find anything quite as cheap as the Etihad Istanbul fare with Qatar but there are still some stand out bargains such as Bangkok to Amsterdam to Sydney for AU$2360.
Even though that’s a bit more expensive than the Etihad fares, I’m finding myself more interested in it due to the bonus miles on offer. If I pull the trigger on the Qatar one, I’ll earn just over 80k miles made up of 17000 flown miles x 1.25 for R class x 3.75 for the triple miles bonus and 75% bonus for my gold status. That’s just about enough for a one way business class ticket from Sydney to Istanbul when you take into account the 5% discount I get on award tickets thanks to my gold status. When I roll that into the value I’m getting for from the ticket I’m pretty much sold.
Tips For Booking These Sale Fares
One thing worth noting with the Qatar business class sale fares is that the booking class that’s required, which is R class, seems to have very limited availability on the Doha to Sydney flights which will be operated by their A380 product from the 15th of September. There is much better availability going via Adelaide on the A350 and then connecting on to a Qantas or Virgin Australia flight and the connection works well most days once daylight saving time kicks in on the 2nd of October.
It’s also worth noting that the Qatar fares have some really strange accompanied travel requirements in the rules. For example, the cheapest Bangkok to Amsterdam business class fares need between 7 and 9 passengers in the booking. Then it gets a bit more expensive for bookings with at least two people and then jumps a fair bit for bookings with only one passenger.
If you’re looking at booking a Qatar ticket, make sure to register for all the Privilege Club promos and read all the terms and conditions carefully. Some of them only apply to bookings made on the Qatar Airways website and it would be a shame to miss out just because you booked on a third party website to save a couple of bucks.