The End of United’s Qatar Partnership Announced, and the Effect on Ultimate Rewards Transfer Options

United is ending its partnership with Qatar.

Here’s the key line about mileage earning and redemption:

Customers will be able to accrue mileage on Qatar Airways codeshare and interline flights until September 14, 2012. Award travel ticketed on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed and valid for one year.

It’s a terrible shame, United just added the functionality to book awards on Qatar to its website, and they allow combining Qatar and Star Alliance partners on the same award.

Qatar has fabulous award space to many destinations, and transiting the Middle East is a really efficient way to get to many destinations in Central Asia and Northern Africa.

While awards will be bookable through September 14, it presumably won’t be possible to make changes to those awards (except in ways that eliminate Qatar segments) after that date.

Reader Bob asks whether this news means United miles are substantially less valuable, and he should consider moving his Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partners other than United.

Hi Gary

I was thinking since UAL’s partner seem to be geting worse as time goes on, do you think it would be posible to do a double transfer of Ultimate reward points? For example transfer them to Starwood SPG and then to Singapore Air, and it the process pick up the SPG transfer bonuse?

Thanks for your time.

Thanks for the question, Bob.

Unfortunately, Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t transfer to Starwood. Perhaps you’re thinking of American Express Membership Rewards points? It’s rarely a good idea to transfer Amex points to Starwood, since the transfer ratio is usually 3 Amex points to 1 Starwood point. (Even the 20% discount on transfers through June 30 doesn’t change the value propostion enough to matter.)

Still, United miles are still exceptionally valuable. Sure, they’re losing Qatar (and they’ve lost Emirates and pre-merger Continental partner Virgin).

But they have for most purposes the most attractive award chart in Star Alliance. No fuel surcharges. There’s no more intentional blocking of partner award seats. And routing rules are especially generous. (These last two are effectively gifts from the Continental merger, and the troubles with the reservation system cutover and problems actually flying United have distracted from the increased value of their miles that stems from the merger.)

Star Alliance generally has much less first class award availability to/from North than in the past. But it’s still an amazing option/value for business.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways, Korean Airlines, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton, and Amtrak as well. So lots of options, including several hotel chains and participants in the major airline alliances. But no Starwood options.

My favorites for getting the most value, by far, are United followed by Hyatt.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is there any way to search for Qatar award space in Y without any paid subscriptions?

  2. @Gary Thanks. I wanted to know apart from United website. On 14th Sep or maybe even earlier, that functionality will disappear from United’s website. However, I am hoping that Qatar awards can still be booked via US Airways.

  3. @Asen I do not believe that US AIrways is able to book awards on Qatar, even though they are nominally partners

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