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Perhaps they’re recognizing a threat from the rising investment in transferable points currencies coming from American Express, Citi and Capital One because they’ve just added another new airline transfer partner: Emirates Skywards.
- Airlines: United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Air France KLM, Singapore Airlines, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Emirates
- Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG
Emirates has been an American Express transfer partner since 2013 and is a Capital One transfer partner as well. With Chase’s addition that leaves Citi as the only major transferable points currency not partnering with Emirates Skywards.
Emirates Offers a Great Flight Product
Emirates offers one of the great first class experiences in the sky. You don’t have to be flying one of their limited number of planes with ‘new’ first class to have a special experience. Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s are mainstays of their fleet, and both feature suites with doors in first class.
Emirates First Class Suite
Business class on the other hand tends to be weak. It’s a flat seat without a ton of space on the A380. Most of their Boeing 777s have angled seats.
What’s special is that on the Airbus A380 first class features two shower spas. The floors are heated so you don’t step onto a cold floor when coming out of a hot shower you’ve just taken at 36,000 feet.
Emirates Airbus A380 Shower Spa
If you’re flying on an Airbus A380 then business class features a bar in the back of the cabin. Even if I’m flying first class I’ll head back to business to check it out (though I’ll ask them to bring up some of the first class liquor for my drink).
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Bar
Emirates is one of my favorite airlines to fly, and there are only a handful of ways to book award travel on the carrier. That’s why it’s nice to be able to transfer points to the Skywards program.
One of the great things about Emirates is its extensive route network from the United States to their hub in Dubai and beyond to destinations in the Mideast, Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
They fly from the following airports to Dubai: Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort-Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington Dulles. They also fly to Dubai from Toronto, and they also operate Newark – Athens and New York JFK – Milan.
With that many flights I find I’m often able to secure award space to Dubai, and I’ve had good luck booking travel to places including Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
Cost of Emirates Skywards Awards
Emirates doesn’t have a published award chart. Instead they have a calculator. One-way awards cost more than half of a roundtrip, as they must be booked as a ‘flex’ fare (no fee to change or cancel) instead of the less expensive ‘saver’.
Flying between the US and Dubai runs:
- Economy: 72,500 – 82,500 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)
- Business: 145,000 – 165,000 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)
- First: 217,500 – 247,500 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)
You’ll see that roundtrip business class awards cost twice what roundtrip coach awards cost, and roundtrip first class awards cost three times as much as roundtrip coach.
The mileage cost of Emirates awards largely track the distance flown. New York JFK – Milan costs 45,000 miles roundtrip in economy; 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class; 135,000 miles roundtrip in first class. Since the route is operated by an Airbus A380, it’s a great way to experience the airline’s flagship product in both directions.
Emirates Adds Surcharges to Awards
Emirates Skywards adds the cost of ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ when redeeming an award. The amount varies by route — from nothing, to over $1500 roundtrip.
Paying these surcharges can still make for a good deal, akin to buying a deeply-discounted coach ticket that doesn’t earn miles, and redeeming miles for an upgrade. Of course having access to Emirates miles means having the ability to upgrade on Emirates as well.
Finding Availability and Booking Space
My starting place is usually just to search the Qantas websites for award space. I find that’s quickest. Expertflyer.com shows availability that’s offered to Skywards members, and upgrade and award space comes from the same inventory. You can also search the Emirates Skywards website without any miles in your account after logging in.
Overall I’m excited to see that Chase Ultimate Rewards points now transfer to Emirates Skywards.
(HT: Zach Honig)