British Airways vs. Qatar Airways: What’s the Difference?

British Airways offers more U.S. routes and rewards. Qatar Airways has a superior onboard experience.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Published

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British Airways and Qatar Airways both offer travelers an expansive route network and top-notch luxury cabins. However, there can only be one winner in the battle of British Airways versus Qatar Airways. Let's compare four key metrics for the two airlines to see which one comes out on top.

Where they’re based and where they fly

Winner: British Airways

British Airways serves more destinations in the U.S. than Qatar. Also, London is a much more convenient connecting point than Doha for many destinations for U.S.-based travelers.

British Airways

British Airways serves more than 200 destinations across 74 countries, including more than two dozen U.S. destinations from the airline's home at London-Heathrow. Although the airport itself can be a pain, its location makes it convenient to get to the airline's numerous other destinations.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways currently serves more than 170 destinations spanning 83 countries — almost exclusively from its hub in Doha, Qatar. Although its hub is more than 6,000 miles away from the U.S., Qatar Airways still serves a dozen U.S. airports.

  • Atlanta.

  • Boston.

  • Chicago-O’Hare.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Houston-George Bush.

  • Los Angeles. Miami.

  • New York-JFK.

  • Philadelphia.

  • San Francisco.

  • Seattle-Tacoma.

  • Washington-Dulles.

Qatar's Hamad International Airport is a spectacular airport, providing some of the best features of any airport in the world. The downside is Doha's relative location to the United States. Qatar is only a logical connecting point for certain routes to the Indian subcontinent and parts of Africa.

Travel credit card availability

Winner: British Airways

Although U.S.-based travelers have other ways to earn Qatar Avios, British Airways offers a credit card for Americans while Qatar Airways does not. Plus, British Airways partners with more major transferable point programs.

British Airways

Chase British Airways Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

British Airways partners with Chase to offer the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. In addition to earning Avios on purchases, cardholders can book through a special website to get a 10% discount on British Airways flights departing the U.S.

Plus, cardholders can charge the taxes and fees on British Airways redemption to their card to get up to $600 in statement credits. Traveling as a couple? Charge $30,000 to your card in a calendar year to earn a Travel Together companion pass.

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card isn't the only way to earn British Airways Avios. You can also transfer points from the following major transferable point programs to British Airways Executive Club:

  • American Express Membership Rewards — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Capital One Miles — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards® — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Bilt Rewards — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Marriott Bonvoy — 3:1 transfer ratio. 

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways doesn't offer U.S. travelers a co-branded credit card. However, travelers can effectively earn Qatar Avios through several U.S. credit cards via Qatar Airways' transfer partnerships:

  • American Express Membership Rewards — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Citi ThankYou Points — 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Marriott Bonvoy — 3:1 transfer ratio. 

Airline loyalty programs

Winner: Tied

Since Qatar Airways joined the Avios scheme in 2022, British Airways Executive Club and Qatar Airways Privilege Club have aligned reward prices. However, each program has its pros and cons when it comes to earning Avios.

British Airways

Starting in October 2023, British Airways is changing how travelers earn Avios on British Airways flights. Instead of being based on the distance of your flight and fare booking class, travelers will start earning Avios based on how much they spend on the flight.

When it comes to redeeming Avios, NerdWallet analysis found travelers get just 1 cent per Avios. That's one of the worst average redemption values of any program we analyzed, tying British Airways with ultra-low-cost-carrier Spirit Airlines.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can get better value than the baseline by taking advantage of sweet spots or upgrading your flight to a premium cabin.

Qatar Airways

Travelers earn Qatar Airways Avios based on the distance of the flight and booking fare class — very similar to how the British Airways Executive Club currently works. Figure out exactly how many Avios you'll earn by using the so-called Qcalculator and entering your class of service, airline, and membership level.

Then toggle over to the "Book an award flight" tab to figure out how many Avios you'll need to redeem for an award flight. Qatar Airways effectively uses a region-based award chart where awards between the U.S. and Qatar cost:

  • 35,000 Avios in economy

  • 70,000 Avios in business class

  • 105,000 Avios in first class (where offered)

After a recent improvement, the Qatar Airways partner award chart now practically matches the redemption rates when booked through British Airways or Iberia.

In-flight experience

Winner: Qatar Airways

Despite recent improvements by British Airways, Qatar Airways still offers better onboard seating, service and food.

British Airways

After years of lack of investment, British Airways got serious about refreshing its fleet over the past few years. Now, BA's onboard experience is miles ahead of what travelers experienced prior to the COVID pandemic.

British Airways installed larger entertainment screens and power outlets in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus — British Airways' names for economy and premium economy. Meanwhile, business and first class cabins were upgraded with new, modern seats — even with closing doors for privacy.

Qatar Airways

In both expert voting and the anecdotal experience of travelers, no airline matches Qatar's onboard experience. Both Qatar economy and business class cabins are often ranked within the top three of many metrics from overall experience to catering.

Qatar's Qsuite business class product truly lives up to its claims of "First in Business." And the Qatar economy product is so good that Qatar Airways' CEO doesn't see a need to offer a premium economy product.

British Airways vs. Qatar Airways recapped

When it comes to British Airways vs. Qatar Airways, the metrics point to British Airways being the winner — at least for U.S.-based travelers. British Airways offers more routes to the U.S. and a dedicated rewards card offering flight discounts and statement credits for reward flights.

Plus, now that Qatar and British Airways both use the Avios scheme, there's not much differentiation between the two.

However, if you have a choice to fly either British Airways or Qatar Airways, Qatar Airways is going to provide a much better onboard experience.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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