Understanding What Awards Are Possible With Virgin America’s New Partnership With Emirates

Virgin America has introduced a mileage earning and redemption partnership with Emirates.

That makes sense. When Emirates lost their relationship with United they went looking for new partners to feed them U.S. traffic. It helps fill their planes to have a marketing relationship that takes passengers beyond their destinations in the U.S., and that brings passengers from other U.S. cities to their international flights.

A couple of years ago I expected that Emirates might connect up with American, I do know they had some discussions at the time, but then American brought on Etihad as a partner… and subsequently Emirates Mideast rival Qatar has become slated to join oneworld (in a matter of days). That’s left Emirates hustling up bilateral relationships such as with Qantas and Alaska Airlines. This announcement fits their current strategic pattern.

Virgin America proclaims that with this partnership,

Guests can fly on Emirates out of New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington (IAD), Seattle (SEA), Houston (IAH) and Boston (BOS)*. Emirates flies to over 130 destinations across six continents and whilst on-board you can sit back and enjoy the highest levels of service, gourmet locally-inspired dining and up to 1,500 channels of award-winning in-flight entertainment.

While having 130 destinations may be great on the earning side of things (though I’d probably credit flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan in many cases), you don’t really have your pick of 130 destinations for redemption.

The Virgin America award pricing tool allows you to pick only Emirates direct flights and Emirates flights in combination with Virgin America flights.

So you can fly from San Diego to Dubai since Virgin America can take you to an Emirates US gateway city. But you cannot fly from San Diego or New York JFK to Dubai and beyond on a single award. The website’s pricing tool suggests that flying New York JFK to Dubai to, say, India would require pricing two different awards.

And there are no first class awards on Emirates that are included on the Virgin America award pricing tool. Plus, as is common with this program, there are fuel surcharges. Disappointing.

New York JFK – Dubai prices out in economy and business.

West Coast departures are more expensive than East Coast ones, here’s Seattle-Dubai:

You can throw in Virgin America destinations without bumping up the mileage cost.

They price out New York JFK – Milan non-stop, not just Dubai:

And you don’t have to fly through Dubai with one of these awards, tag flights like Bangkok – Hong Kong are included as an option.

These mileage prices are all one-way and at first glance seem low. However, my rule of thumb is that Virgin America has a pretty ‘deflated’ award chart and that in order to compare apples-to-apples you need to double the number of Virgin America miles to figure out how many points their price is equivalent to in a standard airline award chart… and that makes the awards seem a whole lot less cheap.

You can book one-way Emirates awards, including in first class, online using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. And for long haul roundtrips often the least-mileage way to do it is using Emirates’ partner Japan AIrlines (which is a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, has a distance-based award chart, though transfers are not instant).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Emirates. New York – Dubai roundtrip on Emirates is 95,000 points plus ~ $1400 in taxes/fees. New York-Milan roundtrip on Emirates is 59,000 points and ~ $670 in taxes/fees. One-way awards are permitted. Still, Alaska Airlines is generally a better partner for one-way awards and Japan Airlines a better partner for roundtrip. Virgin Atlantic. JFK-London in Virgin Upper Class is 35,000 points roundtrip plus ~ $1000 in taxes/fees. Virgin Australia. Los Angeles – Sydney is 80,000 points roundtrip in business class and over $900 in taxes/fees (compare to 160,000 Delta miles but no fuel surcharges). Short-haul business class within Australia is quite reasonable. Singapore Airlines. Short-haul regional business class on Singapore can be quite attractive, eg. Singapore – Bangkok roundtrip is 13,000 points and ~ $45 in taxes/fees Hawaiian. Hawaiian Airlines West Coast – Hawaii is 20,000 points roundtrip in coach, so the credit card gets you that. First class is 50,000 points. And no fuel surcharges apply. […]


  1. In addition to your research, Emirates is also a partner of JetBlue, feeding them passengers at JFK.

  2. They are but the frequent flyer tie-in isn’t the same, that seemed a bit of a more minor mention, but you’re absolutely correct.

  3. Economy 45,000 $720 taxes and fees Business Class 95,000 $1410 taxes and feesReward bookings using points on Emirates available from October 24, 2013

    So 95k miles + 1410$ to go on EK
    buying 120k miles from US for 1400$ and going to DXB and pretty much anywhere in the world in Biz

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