Qatar Airways UK Sale vs British Airways UK Sale

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Yesterday, British Airways announced a UK sale for World Traveller (Economy) and World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) tickets. As I said at the time, there aren’t any amazing deals to be seen but there are a few interesting options if you look hard enough and if you’re flexible with your travel dates.

Today, Qatar Airways has launched its own sale for departures from the UK and I thought it would be interesting to see how the two sales compare.

Qatar Airways Sale

For the Qatar Airways Sale, the booking period is 26 June – 1 July 2015 and the travel dates are 26 June 2015 – 31 March 2016 (with blackout dates).

Full terms and conditions here.

The first thing to point out is that, strictly speaking, I’m not comparing like-for-like. Most of the Qatar flights will require a connection while the British Airways flights are mostly all direct if you’re departing from London (If you’re flying from the UK regions this difference affects you less as you’ll probably have a stop-over in London).

The second thing to point out is that this Qatar sale isn’t as good as the 6-day sale they held at the end of last month. If you snapped up a decent fare back then you did well.

Lastly, if you’re looking for fares heading West then Qatar Airways isn’t exactly going to be for you. The British Airways Low Fare Finder tool is your friend so that’s where you should be starting your search.

So with those things out of the way how do the current sale fares compare?

Method: Without looking at what cities appear in the sales I wrote down a list of destinations that I thought people may be interested in visiting and then I looked through both airline’s sales to see what it would cost to fly there.


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Results highlighted in green are the cheapest option where both airlines had posted a sale price. Where an airlines hasn’t posted a sale price it’s generally because they don’t fly their own metal on one or more legs of the route they book you on.

The results are pretty interesting and your thoughts will almost certainly depend on your budget and on how many of you are travelling.

Here’s my take:

  • On the Dubai route, British Airways is clearly the way to go despite being marginally more expensive – for £14 you get to fly direct rather than routing via Doha.
  • On the Singapore route the same logic applies as for the Dubai route.

Cape Town South Africa

Cape Town – Image courtesy of David Stanley via Flickr

  • For Cape Town, the cheapest BA prices appear to route you through Johannesburg so both airlines require you to stop-over to get the best fares. So what do you get for spending considerably more on BA? A shorter journey. BA’s journey time (round-trip) would be around 30 hours while the best Qatar can offer is around 37.5 hours.
  • Despite the increased journey time to/from Cape Town the price difference is just too large to justify. £306 would almost pay for a return flight to New York in the British Airways sale (fares from £381) and that’s why I think the Qatar option is almost a “no brainer”.
  • On the Bangkok route the £79 saving could make a big difference for a family. Once again the difference in flights is that BA flies direct and has a total flying time of around 24 hours (round-trip) while the journey time on Qatar, via Doha, would be closer to 29 hours.
  • The Bangkok route is harder to call than the Cape Town one because it would probably depend on how many people are travelling. If I was travelling by myself I’d be tempted to swallow the £79 and take the direct flight. But, if I was travelling as a family of 4 (where the saving would be over £300), I’d remind myself of just how much £300 would get me at my destination and take the Qatar option.

Kuala Lumpur

Downtown Kuala Lumpur – Image courtesy of Jakub Michankow via Flickr

  • The situation with the Kuala Lumpur route is similar to the situation, above, with the Bangkok route. British Airways fly direct so the total flying time of around 26 hours compares favourably to the Qatar option which takes 31.5 hours. In addition, The Qatar flight back from Kuala Lumpur leaves at a slightly more anti-social time of day (2:40am) compared to BA (12:05am).
  • The difference of £98 on the Kuala Lumpur route is hardly insignificant, especially if it’s a family that’s travelling but there are times when money isn’t everything. If I was travelling by myself I’d probably save the cash and fly via Doha but it may not be that straightforward for a family with small children – flying out at nearly 3am and then transiting in Doha on top of that may be a bit much and nit may be worth and extra £400 to avoid all that hassle.

Whenever you’re searching for airfares it’s not going to be just the price that you need to consider. Yes, there will be times when the price will trump all other considerations because it’s just that good but that’s a rare occurrence. The things you should think about are:

  • Price
  • Journey Time
  • Number of Connections
  • Ease of connections – do you have a tricky terminal change or a tight connection?
  • Who’s flying – Will you have kids or older people with you? They may not appreciate some of the more hectic connections some airlines put us through.
  • Aircraft type – not all aircraft are the same and some economy cabins are more comfortable than others. Do your research.

One other thing that I noticed while doing the comparison is that Qatar has some pretty decent prices to places that aren’t in this BA sale – like Melbourne, Perth and Phuket. It’s worth keeping Qatar in mind if you’re planning a trip to Australia as they seem to have some pretty competitive prices (apart from for flights to Sydney).

Don’t forget that Qatar is part of OneWorld so, if you’re a British Airways loyalist, you can still earn miles and tier points on your flights – although you’re not going to set the world on fire with how much you earn on the cheapest flights. Here’s the earning chart from (click to enlarge):

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