Qatar Airways VPs Sales & Loyalty On US Network Expansion And 1st US Branded Credit Card


  • Qatar Airways is breaking records this summer with increased flights to major US cities – from Miami to Boston.
  • The airline focuses on expanding its network, especially to Africa and Southeast Asia, providing new travel opportunities.
  • North American passengers can take advantage of Qatar Airways’ loyalty program and new credit cards offering Avios and elite status perks.

As Qatar Airways operates its largest-ever North American program this summer, Simple Flying sits down with Craig Thomas and Thomas Vadakedath to discuss the carrier’s growth in the US, loyalty program, stopovers, and the perks of the airline’s new credit cards.

Breaking records this summer

This year, in particular, marks several milestones for the oneworld alliance carrier. Qatar Airways recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of its service to Houston, and last month celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Miami service, which is getting a frequency boost this summer to 10 flights a week, year-round.


Up To 17 Daily Flights: A Look At Qatar Airways’ Record US Operation

Coincidentally, the airline’s first US passenger flight was 17 years ago.

According to Craig Thomas, Vice President of Sales – Americas at Qatar Airways, the airline introduced those three additional services as a seasonal rotation. However, based on the initial success of those additional frequencies, they have been upgraded to a permanent scheduled service. Like many of Qatar’s North American routes, the flights are operated by the carrier’s fleet of Airbus A350-1000, featuring 46 seats in Q suites.

Boston Logan International Airport is also getting a boost this summer. The carrier has added three morning departures per week, marking the first time it has operated Boston more than daily. The additional rotation offers Bostonians access to a new range of Qatar Airways’ network points that connect off that morning departure bank from Boston. Speaking on the expansion, Thomas noted how significant the carrier’s presence in Boston is:

Boston has performed very, very well over the last few years. What we saw was there were some untapped traffic flows that we could really capitalize on by putting the morning rotation in.

“So it really opens up a new set of destinations, particularly to the likes of East Africa, South Africa, Southeast Asia.

Qatar Airways Airbus AA350-1000 shutterstock_2407676457

Photo: Coby Wayne | Shutterstock

Elsewhere this summer, the carrier is serving Los Angeles (LAX), Washington Dulles (IAD), and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) on a double daily basis, complemented by a triple daily service from New York JFK. Daily flights are offered from Doha to Atlanta (ATL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Houston (IAH), San Francisco (SFO), and Seattle-Tacoma (SEA).

Where are they going?

The airline’s traditional traffic flows are focused on Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and the Caucasus region. The Indian subcontinent is a significant traffic driver, and Qatar has positioned itself as one of the prime carriers to India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.


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The flag carrier of Qatar will have more than 200 operations in June on its most frequently served route.

Traffic patterns are shifting, however, as the carrier expands its network from Doha. Speaking to Simple Flying, Thomas highlighted several recent developments for North American passengers:

“Over the past few years, as we’ve increased the depth and breadth of our network from North America, we’ve been able to develop a lot of new markets for us. The likes of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Africa. You know, we have a significant footprint in the African markets, and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of solid and sustained growth. It’s like South Africa, Zanzibar Kenya, Seychelles, you know, very, very strong and robust markets for us.”

A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 leaving LAX

Photo: Philip Pilosian | Shutterstock

The airline just launched its service into Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo on June 1st. The addition of Kinshasa marks Qatar’s 29th destination on the continent, which it serves with over 170 weekly flights.

A day in Doha

In addition to providing connections to far-flung destinations, Qatar Airways also provides the option to include a side quest in Qatar itself. For the American traveler, it allows an opportunity to experience two vacations for the price of one. It can be an excellent way to break the trip, particularly for passengers with two long legs of the journey, such as those traveling to Thailand or Africa.


A Day In Doha: Inside Qatar Airways’ Dynamic Stopover Program

Twenty-four hours will be enough to soak in the vibe of the Qatari capital.

Given Qatar’s warm climate, the stopover can be the perfect opportunity to visit potentially very different destinations on a single vacation or trip abroad. The carrier’s dedicated stopover page outlines options for hotels and activities, along with a link to apply for the e-visa. According to Thomas, the offering has been steadily improving over the past several years:

“We’re now able to sell packages for customers connecting, whether it’s for 24, 48, or 72 hours, to take advantage of some really, really sharp hotel rates, and take in a couple of sights and tours in Doha. For those that maybe don’t want to do a stopover, Doha is a compelling destination in its own right; it’s got great beaches, great hotels, excellent restaurants, and incredible scenery.”

Qatar Airways Airbus A380

Photo: Qatar Airways

In addition to shopping and beach clubs, visitors to Qatar can experience everything from dune racing in the desert to wildlife watching at the country’s inland sea.

Leveraging Loyalty in the US

The US and North America are also significant markets for members of Qatar Airways’s loyalty program, Privilege Club. According to Thomas Vadakedath, Senior Vice President of Loyalty at Qatar Airways, the US has the highest number of members outside of the carrier’s home country, deciding to launch a cobranded credit card in the US a “natural progression.”

The two new cards launched last month on the Visa network follow existing products in the local market, India and Kuwait. Notably, the cards offer the ability to earn Avios, the currency of the Privilege Club (Alongside Finnair and IAG carriers like British Airways and Iberia), and elite status with the oneworld Alliance.


Qatar Airways Unveils US Credit Cards That Come With Oneworld Elite Status

The two new cards offer a simple way to earn elite airline status and collect Avios, which can be used for redemptions across airlines worldwide.

The cards come in Visa Signature and Visa Infinite variants, with the latter offering a range of premium perks. Qatar Airways is the first international carrier to provide the Infinite product in the US, joining only the United Airlines’ United Club Card in the upper echelon of Visa products. Speaking exclusively to Simple Flying, Michael Spelfogel, President of Cardless, the company behind the new launches, confirmed that the Qatar Airways lineup is its fastest-growing product yet.

The cards also allow North American passengers to earn Avios, which they can then use for redemptions on partner carriers Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue. There is even the option to ‘triple dip’ on points, Vadakedath explains:

“If you were to book your vacation through Qatar Airways Holidays, you’re going to earn Avios on the flights that you take, you’re going to earn Avios for the package that you book, and you’re gonna earn Avios for the spend that you put on your cobranded card. That’s a triple dip. Now, in terms of status points for that exact same spend, you get a double dip. You earn Qpoints for the flights that you take, and for every $100 you spend with Qatar Airways Holidays, you earn status points as well. So for one vacation that you’re gonna take, you’re gonna triple dip on currency and a double dip on status points. I’m not familiar with too many cards out there that can get that with.”

The two new Visa Qatar Airways cards

Photo: Qatar Airways

Infrequent travelers looking to gain frequent flyer status can also use the cards to gain fast-track elite status in the oneworld Alliance. The Visa Signature card has access to the Privilege Club Silver tier (oneworld Ruby, while the Infinite card provides access to the Gold tier (oneworld Sapphire).

Passengers can also transfer Avios to other frequent flyer programs for increased redemption opportunities. Currently, passengers can link their Privilege Club and British Airways Executive Club accounts to transfer Avios between the two programs. According to Vadakedath, “tens of billions” of Avios have already been ported with new transfer partners to come online in the coming months.

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A Boeing 777-300ER aircraft of Qatar Airways displaying the One World livery landing at the Miami International Airport.

Photo: Carlos Yudica | Shutterstock

Iberia is rumored to be next, with transfers to Finnair “a bit premature” as the airline only adopted the currency several months ago and brought transfers to British Airways online last month.

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