Saipan, located on the Northern Mariana Islands, is a destination that’s quite expensive to fly to, as it is incredibly far away. Oneworld member Qatar Airways and (still) Star Alliance member Asiana, however, have now teamed up to offer discounted business class flights! There’s basically daily availability from April onward. This deal may be particularly interesting for members of the British Airways Executive Club, as this deal alone would almost get you the Oneworld Sapphire status.
Worldwide travel restrictions are in place to slow the spread of Covid-19. We strongly recommend gathering detailed information about the travel and quarantine restrictions that apply to your desired origin and destination.
A good start is the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website. It provides current updates on a country’s immigration policies. Even better, the Covid-19 Travel Regulations Map is one of the most useful tools you can find.
We’ve found discounted flights from the following cities:
- Budapest: HUF 624,200 (~€1,737)
- Madrid: €1,744
- Stockholm: SEK 18,305 (~€1,814)
- Riga: €1,837
- Belgrade: €1,880
- Prague: CZK 50,212 (~€1,927)
- Oslo: NOK 20,310 (~€1,956)
- Zagreb: HRK 14,747 (~€1,950)
You would first fly with Qatar Airways to Doha, from where you’d continue to Seoul on a Boeing 777. From there, Asiana will fly you to Saipan with an Airbus A321. Sadly, Qatar’s business class flights no longer include lounge access (except if you’re flying from Budapest, for some reason).
We expect further shakeups in the airline industry over the following months. Some services might be cancelled, aircraft changed or downgraded. The schedule we describe may very well change.
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While the fare rules do not state an expiration date for this deal, they do offer some other restrictions. Your trip has to be at least 5 days long and may not exceed a duration of one month. Additionally, you cannot depart on Fridays or Saturdays, and the flight back home cannot start on a weekend. Not respecting those last two restrictions, however, will only result in a price hike of roughly €25, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Why is booking with an airline better than with an online travel agency?
More often than not, online travel agencies offer lower fares than airlines do. We still recommend booking with the airlines directly. There are three main reasons for that:
- The Covid-19 Pandemic
During the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19, planning international travel got more and more risky because of ever-changing restrictions. In contrast to many online travel agencies, most airlines modified their terms & conditions to become more customer friendly. Rebooking conditions are eased, change fees are waived and cancellations are much easier when there is no third party involved.
Further, by adding an OTA to your plans, you increase the risk of one service provider involved going bankrupt. Now, the airline and the online travel agency involved could vanish along with your money.
- Better Customer Service
In case any problems like delays, cancellations or missed connections arise, you can communicate directly with the airline. The airlines has to take care of you because you have a contract with them.
If a travel agency issues your ticket, you may have to reach out to them first. You also depend on your OTA to forward you information like flight changes instead receiving them directly from the airline. You may get a prime exhibition of responsibility shifting rather than problem solving.
This especially applies for premium tickets. You don’t want to spend more than €1,000 to wind up with some budget OTA’s telephone hotline in case anything goes wrong.
- Baggage Fees
Economy fares not including hold luggage are more and more common. In most cases, travel agencies charge much higher baggage fees than the airlines themselves. If bags are not included in your fare, airlines are often the cheaper alternative.
Qatar Airways Business Class
Not only is Qatar Airways an airline with a five-star Skytrax-rating, but it is also considered to offer one of the best business class experiences worldwide.
Most flights have seats, that can be converted into flat beds. In the Boeing 787-Dreamliner, they are even in a 1-2-1 alignment. Airplanes that have the QSuites even offer small, private suites that are usually only available in First Class:
This part is a bit tricky as Qatar Airways and Asiana are in two different alliances (Oneworld and Star Alliance, respectively). The Qatar flights are issued in booking class R. The flights from e.g. Madrid to Seoul via Doha (and back) should roughly get you:
- 30,960 on Finnair Plus
- 19,240 on British Airways Executive Club
- 19,240 on Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- 19,240 on Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer
- 19,240 on GOL Aéreos Smiles
- 19,240 on Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
- 19,240 on MEA Cedar Miles
- 19,240 on Qatar Airways Privilege Club
- 19,240 on S7 Airlines Priority Club
- 19,240 on Asia Miles
- 19,240 on Iberia Plus
- 15,390 on LATAM Pass
- 15,390 on Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus
- 15,390 on American AAdvantage
- 15,390 on Royal Jordanian Royal Club
- 15,390 on SriLankan FlySmiles
- 8,760 on Asiana Club
The two segments between Seoul and Saipan are issued in Asiana’s booking class C, meaning that they are worth:
- 9,370 on Air China PhoenixMiles
- 7,770 on SAS EuroBonus
- 7,770 on Avianca LifeMiles
- 7,770 on Air India Flying Returns
- 7,770 on Miles & More
- 7,770 on TAP Miles & Go
- 5,820 on Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
- 5,820 on EgyptAir Plus
- 5,820 on Aegean Miles+Bonus
- 4,850 on Etihad Guest
- 4,850 on ANA Mileage Club
- 4,850 on Copa ConnectMiles
- 4,850 on Air Canada Aeroplan
- 4,850 on Asiana Club
- 4,850 on Singapore KrisFlyer
- 4,850 on South African Voyager
- 4,850 on Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- 4,850 on EVA Infinity MileageLands
- 4,850 on Ethiopian ShebaMiles
- 4,850 on United MileagePlus
According to many news reports, Asiana will be bought by – and be integrated into – Korean Air (a SkyTeam member), meaning that the airline will likely not be a Star Alliance member for much longer. While it is unclear what this means for the different mileage programs, the number of miles displayed above could very well change.
If you’re a member of the British Airways Executive Club, the Qatar flights will get you 560 Tier Points! Simply add 4 British Airways segments, and you’ve got the Oneworld Sapphire status!