Deals on business class travel are rare, but there are plenty of details to keep in mind

My ears perk up any time an airline announces there’s a fare sale.

But when the prices started at $3,415, I did a double-take.

This particular email was from Qatar Airways. Qatar is a pretty fancy airline, from everything I’ve heard. I haven’t flown them, but several friends have. Plus, Qatar Air is an Alaska Airlines mileage partner, with a daily nonstop flight from Seattle to its hub in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Just for fun, I checked a couple of popular destinations in Africa using Qatar to see what the “sale” price was.

First, though, I logged in to my Alaska Airlines account to see how many miles I’d need to cash in for the lie-flat seats to the other side of the world. Flying between April 15 and April 24 is right in the middle of Qatar’s business-class sale to Cape Town, South Africa. On those particular dates, it would cost 560,000 Alaska Air miles to secure a seat, plus $158 in fees.

Well, I don’t have that many miles, so I opened a new window to check the cash price. Between March 25 and May 13, prices for business class range from $4,803 to $5,809 round-trip. Compare that to British Air at $11,680 round-trip or United’s price at $6,550 in conjunction with Ethiopian Airlines.

In the air, Qatar’s business class space includes a lie-flat seat. On some planes, including the one that flies from Seattle to Doha (more than 14 hours), travelers get what’s called a “Q Suite” with a privacy door, a big screen for watching movies, and other goodies.


On the ground, there’s access to the high-end lounge at the airport. But if your layover is more than eight hours (it’s more than nine hours between flights to get to Cape Town), Qatar Air will provide hotel accommodations, a visa to get out of the airport and transportation to and from the hotel.

Between Anchorage or Fairbanks and Seattle, the connecting flights on Alaska Airlines are booked first class.

Then there’s the miles you’ll earn with Alaska Airlines when you buy a seat “up front.” Depending on how much you pay, you’ll earn between 20,000 and 33,000 elite qualifying miles toward your elite status with Alaska Airlines. The formula for mileage accrual is based on the class of service, which in turn is based on how much the ticket costs.

Between Anchorage and Johannesburg, Qatar Air’s business class tickets range from $4,916 to $5,716 round-trip, traveling between March 11 and May 8, 2024.

Other destinations for the sale include Dar es Salaam and Mt. Kilimanjaro airport. Flights to Nairobi are a little less, from $4,887 round-trip.

Qatar’s route system is unique since almost all of the airline’s flights are wide-body aircraft which affords the big seats on each segment.

Not all business class or first class tickets are the same.

For example, business class tickets from Anchorage to Frankfurt are priced low right now: from $2,976 round-trip on either Delta or American. On Delta’s routing, the business class fare is really “domestic first class” on the first two flights. That means you’re sitting in a regular sit-up seat. But once you fly over the Atlantic, you get the lie-flat bed. The same is true for American: You’re sitting up between Anchorage and Seattle and between Seattle and Dallas. But the Dallas-Frankfurt leg of the journey offers a lie-flat bed for a nice nap.

Be careful, though, if your flight to Europe stops first at a hub like London, Paris or Frankfurt before continuing to your final destination. Sometimes the smaller planes they use for the last leg can be pretty cramped. For example, Delta has a business class fare from Anchorage to Istanbul for $3,270. Travelers can lie down flat across the Atlantic, but there’s a 3.5-hour flight from Paris to Istanbul. Business class travelers still only get 30 inches of “seat pitch” between rows. Air France blocks the middle seat — but it’s still a little tight.

Flying from Anchorage to South America, business class travelers may miss out on the lie-flat experience altogether. United Air has a nice business class fare from Anchorage to Bogota, Colombia: $1,109-$1,250 round-trip, between May 14 and July 4. Actually, on some of United’s flights there are lie-flat seats, but only between Houston and Denver.

Travelers often ask about deals on business class travel. The deals don’t come around that often. Even when they do, most travelers freak out at the cost of the tickets and go back to searching for economy seats.

If you grabbed the cheap seats but still aspire to stretch out for the long flight, watch your email or the airline app as you get close to departure. One friend got a last-minute upgrade offer for Qatar Air and was able to lie down and take a nap on the way to Qatar.

On our last trip to Spain, I scored a “premium economy” seat on American Air at the last minute for $175 one-way. First, the seat was nicer than a standard-issue first-class domestic seat on United, Alaska or Delta. But by upgrading, we also got an extra 6,000 elite qualifying miles on Alaska Airlines.

Whether you need to fly first class, or just want to, the airlines are anxious to sell you a ticket.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at Subscribe to his e-newsletter at For more information, visit