Tier Points or Free Flights – a Qatar Airways Dilemma

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Regular readers will know that we write frequently about a loyalty programme that seems a bit obscure for most UK-based readers – Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. We do it because the value to be found in Alaska miles is excellent.

We also write every once in awhile about Qatar Airways, in particular their sometimes unbeatable Business Class fares. Because of the change of planes in Doha, this also leads to the happy coincidence of British Airways Executive Club members being able to essentially earn double the number of Tier Points.

But now that Alaska Airlines has joined Oneworld, you can earn Alaska miles from Qatar Airways flights. And Alaska miles are worth FAR more than Avios (in our opinion). Which leads to a very difficult dilemma. Tier Points or free flights?  Here’s an example.

Example – London to Singapore via Doha

I am well aware that you might need to “position” to Stockholm or Oslo for the best Qatar Airways fares, but I wanted to keep it simple. Especially for those who might deliberately choose Qatar for the extra tier points…

British Airways Executive Club


If you book a return ticket in Business Class with Qatar Airways – London to Doha to Singapore – you will earn 560 precious Tier Points. But in terms of Avios you will earn a quite disappointing 125% of miles flown, or roughly 17,800 Avios.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska has published an earnings chart for all Oneworld alliance partners, including Qatar Airways.

If you choose to credit those same Qatar flights to Mileage Plan, you would earn 225% of miles flown. i.e. you would pick up over 32,000 Alaska miles from a single return trip in Business Class.

Where Does 17,800 Avios get you VS 32,000 Alaska Miles?

Thanks to the recent devaluation of short-haul awards on British Airways, 17,800 Avios is roughly enough for a return trip to the European continent – Spain, Italy, etc.  If you like to burn money, you could also spend them on a one-way flight in World Traveller to North America, paying BA’s surcharges for the privilege.

32,000 Alaska miles will get you much further, although you’d have to collect or buy more. But once you reach 42,500 miles you can fly one-way to Hong Kong in Business Class on Cathay Pacific.

Of course… this is based on the assumption that Alaska Mileage Plan isn’t about to crush its award chart sweetspots…

The Bottom Line

If you book ONE annual long-haul return in Business Class on Qatar Airways in order to achieve/retain Silver status (with the help of a few short-haul flights on British Airways or Iberia), I don’t suppose I can blame you for wanting lounge access, seat selection, etc. on short-haul flights in Economy (even though that may or may not be “value” you would otherwise pay for).

But if you are regularly booking long-haul Business Class flights on Qatar Airways, and are crediting those to British Airways Executive Club as a default, perhaps you might want to consider Alaska’s Mileage Plan instead, before you “waste” thousands of miles that could be spent far better…


  1. Ed says

    The big problem with MileagePlan for Europeans is the requirement to do a few flights on AS metal to get status. If you have status, your miles from QR J flights etc are multiplied.

    I am UK based and credit to MileagePlan and it is annoying not being able to gain status. I have lounge access globally via credit/charge cards so only want AS status to multiply miles.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Yes, the 4/6 Alaska flight requirement is a killer for Europeans who can’t get over to North America regularly. But an additional 100-125% of miles flown would be ridiculously lucrative, even if they end up devaluing their award charts somewhat.

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