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Emirates Series: Award Chart Sweet Spots

by on November 5, 2013 · 8 comments

in Emirates, TPG Contributors

After last week’s announcement of Emirates as the newest American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, and as part of our Emirates Series, TPG contributor Jason Steele finds some sweet spots in the Emirates award chart where a few more miles will get you a lot farther. Other posts in the series include: The Basics of Earning and Redeeming, Using Miles To UpgradeGood News: Amex Points Transfer to Emirates Instantly and Elite Status.

Emirates is one of the only carriers in the world to serve all continents from a single hub, so travelers are offered some impressive award destinations. Yet just like any other carrier, the key to maximizing mileage redemptions is to uncover the sweet spots in the award chart.

Awards from North America

For whatever reason, Emirates doe not post an award chart on its web site, but I was able to create one for the first part in this series Earning and Redeeming awards. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you search for the most valuable use of your Skywards miles.

Below is the award chart from roundtrip Saver awards from the North America East zone, (BOS, JFK, EWR, IAD, YYZ). Note: one-way awards are only available on higher-priced Flex awards.

Zone Name Econ. SaverAward – From North America East Bus. Saver Award – From North America East First SaverAward – From North America East

North America (West)

155,000 310,000 465,000

South America

115,000 230,000 345,000

Africa (South & West)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Europe (West)

45,000 90,000 135,000

Africa (North & East)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Europe (South)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Near East

80,000 160,000 240,000

Middle East

75,000 150,000 225,000

Dubai/UAE

72,500 145,000 217,500

Asian Sub Continent (North)

80,000 160,000 240,000

Asian Sub Continent (South)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Asian Sub Continent (East)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Far East

95,000 190,000 285,000

Japan

100,000 200,000 300,000

Australia (West)

115,000 230,000 345,000

Australia (East)

140,000 280,000 320,000

New Zealand

140,000 280,000 320,000

Below is the award chart from round trip Saver awards from the North America West zone, (DFW, IAH, LAX, SFO, and SEA).

Zone Name Econ. SaverAward – From N. America West Bus. Saver Award – From N. America West First SaverAward – From N. America West

North America (East)

155,000 310,000 465,000

South America

125,000 250,000 375,000

Africa (South & West)

100,000 200,000 300,000

Europe (West)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Africa (North & East)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Europe (South)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Near East

85,000 170,000 255,000

Middle East

85,000 170,000 255,000

Dubai/UAE

82,500 165,000 247,000

Asian Sub Continent (North)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Asian Sub Continent (South)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Asian Sub Continent (East)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Far East

105,000 210,000 315,000

Japan

110,000 220,000 330,000

Australia (West)

120,000 240,000 360,000

Australia (East)

150,000 300,000 450,000

New Zealand

155,000 310,000 465,000

Sweet Spots

1. Go beyond Dubai. Dubai is a popular destination in and of itself, but many of the sweet spots I found in the airline’s award chart involve transiting through and going a bit further for very few miles. Getting to Dubai is a long trip from North America. New York to Dubai is 6,850 miles while the flight from Los Angeles is 8,340, one of the longest in the world. So once you have made the trip to the other side of the world, it only makes sense to explore it a little before heading onwards – especially since you are allowed a free stopover in Dubai in one direction on Saver awards and in both directions on Flex awards.

First – a helpful tip. Round trip awards from North America in business class that terminate in Dubai are 165,000 miles from the North America West zone (Dallas/Fort Worth-DFW; Houston-IAH; Los Angeles-LAX; San Francisco-SFO; Seattle – SEA), and 145,000 from their North America East zone (Boston-BOS; New York-JFK, Newark-EWR, Washington, DC-IAD, Toronto-YYZ). So it might be worth buying a cheap positioning flight to one of the airline’s North America East airports to save those 20,000 miles.

However, before you decide to do that be sure to calculate the total mileage requirement to your final destination because some trips from North America West actually require fewer miles – or fewer additional miles – than starting/ending in North America East even though the distance is greater.

For example, you would only need another 35,000 miles (200,000 total) to continue on Cape Town, South Africa from NAW, but 45,000 more from NAE (190,000 total), so you would only be saving 10,o00 miles by repositioning that way.

I'll be visiting Cape Town among other places.

Continuing on to Cape Town doesn’t mean spending a ton more miles.

Likewise, the Seycelles (SEZ) are just an additional 25,000 miles (170,000 miles total) for business class Saver awards from Eastern North America, and 15,000 from the West (180,000 miles total).

An additional 15,000 miles also gets you a business class award ticket extension from Dubai to southern European destinations such as Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus,so you can make a double header out of your trip for a total of 160,000 miles from the East or 180,000 from the West.

Destinations in the Near East, Middle East require only 5,000 more miles from North America West and East, and 5,000 more miles will also get you to  Asian Sub-Continent (North) from NAW (15,000 more miles from NAE), roundtrip. That means that a side trip in business class to Delhi or Mumbai – a trip of around 1,200-1,400 miles – costs only 5,000 additional miles for those who departed western North America.

In the South Asian sub-continent zone, the Maldives also make a great side trip if you’re coming from NAW, at only 15,000 additional miles (180,000 total), but are 35,000 more miles from North America East (170,000 total).

2. Go to Europe from North America East, not West. One of the biggest sweet spots that jumped out at me was that trips to western Europe from North America East were a mere 90,000 miles for round trip Saver award in business class.

Unfortunately, those departing from the Western North America zone, pay more than double the miles; a whopping 190,000 miles for round trip Saver awards in business class. Even coach awards are a bargain at only 45,000 miles from the North America East zone, but an incomparably high 95,000 miles from North America west.

Emirates luxurious First Class cabin is not out of reach thanks to SkyWards.

Want to experience Emirates’ famous First Class Suites? Western Europe might be just the ticket.

3. North America East to Western Europe is the route for experiencing Emirates First Class suites. The sweet spot for business class flights out of North America is true for first class awards as well – where Western Europe starts at 135,000 miles from the Eastern North America zone – which is actually cheaper than flying to Dubai at 217,500 miles!

Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 11.11.28 AM

Getting from North America East to Western Europe in first class is only 135,000 miles.

Unfortunately, the cost skyrockets to 285,000 miles if you depart from the North America West zone. At this point, you are best off taking a positioning flight to New York, Newark, Boston, Toronto, or Washington Dulles. From there, you can take time to visit Dubai on your way to any of the cities in the Europe west zone. This is actually the largest zone in their system including cities from Ireland to Italy as well as in the Ukraine and western Russia.

In fact, just like US Airway prices flights to North Asia with a stopover in Europe 10,000 miles cheaper than an award to Europe alone, Emirates flights between eastern North America and western Europe are offered for far fewer miles that itineraries to Dubai alone. Round trip Saver awards from North America East to Western Europe are only 45,000 miles in coach, 90,000 miles in business and 135,000 miles in first, round trip. In contrast flights from North America east to Dubai alone are 72,500 in coach, 145,000 in business, and 217,500 in first class.

5. Consider routes not transiting Dubai. Although nearly all flights on Emirates operate to or from their Dubai hub, they do offer some flights that serve other countries on their way to Dubai. These flights, known as fifth freedom routes, present some interesting award opportunities. For example, Emirates has a non-stop flight from New York (JFK) to Milan Malpensa (MXP). Although this flight continues on to Dubai, both award flights and revenue tickets can be booked between New York and Milan. Since this flight hits the Europe west zone sweet spot, round trip Saver awards are only 45,000 miles in coach, 90,000 miles in business and 135,000 miles in first, round trip.

Other routes include:

Between And Saver Economy Saver Business Saver First
Christchurch, New Zealand Sydney, Australia

36,000

72,000

108,000

Auckland, New Zealand Sydney, Australia

36,000

72,000

108,000

Auckland, New Zealand Melbourne, Australia

36,000

72,000

108,000

Auckland, New Zealand Brisbane, Australia

36,000

72,000

108,000

Sydney, Australia Bangkok, Thailand

45,000

90,000

135,000

Brisbane, Australia Singapore

60,000

120,000

180,000

Melbourne, Australia Singapore

60,000

120,000

180,000

Melbourne, Australia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

60,000

120,000

180,000

Hong Kong, China Bangkok, Thailand

20,000

40,000

60,000

Miles shown are round trip.

6. Consider Flying Economy- service and amenities might beat what you’re used to in premium cabins on other airlines. Due to the nature of the award chart and business always twice the miles as coach, and first is always triple the miles of coach, making premium awards pricy. With many other airline programs, business class tickets can cost little more than coach. For example, US Airways business class awards to North Asia are a mere 30,000 additional miles than coach, while business class Delta awards to Africa (other than South Africa) cost just 40,000 more than coach. Yet Emirates awards in business class always cost double those in economy class. Therefore, travelers making short and medium-haul flights to Dubai may wish to consider coach awards. Emirates service is considered to be excellent with many aircraft equipped with video on demand, WiFi, and several live channels of television…even in coach.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Greg

    The only JFK-Europe award that will pull up on their website (it’s not hard to make bookings there) is JFK-MXP on the nonstop. Other connecting options show up, but not to European destination.

    Don’t think they planned their program so you could go to Europe via DXB for 90k. They’re a lot stingier than that.

  • http://www.mightytravels.com/ MightyTravels

    MMh ok – so what is actually a good deal. Most options seem better covered by transferring to Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines Krisflyer.

  • Kelvin

    Without knowing the fuel service charges, this information isn’t too helpful.

  • joeypore

    The only reason I would ever do any of these is just to be able to say I’ve flown Emirates first class. Their ticket prices are always so exorbitant…

    But from the US, the only real perk to going through Dubai is 1) to see Dubai, or 2) to make an easier connection to Africa, India, some parts of Asia, etc.

    When I went to Dubai, I went DFW > LHR, and LHR > DXB, and it took just barely over the amount of time DFW > DXB would have taken…

  • shonuffharlem

    I thought their fuel surcharges were very high?

  • anon

    Yeah, the post makes it seem like you could fly JFK-DXB(stop)-CDG (or whatever) for 135k in J. It seems too good to be true; evidently it is.

  • KG

    Along the lines of Greg’s post. The sweetspot you mentioned does not exist. You cannot fly to Europe via DXB. Yes, their award pricing tool on the Emirates website quotes the figures you mentioned, but if you tried to call and book the ticket it would be a much higher mileage requirement. I checked this afternoon because the JFK-DXB-any city in Europe for the mileage figures you mentioned above would have been a great deal. Unfortunately it is not possible.
    KG

  • http://benhugh.es/ Ben Hughes

    @thepointsguy Right, might want to clarify your point #2 point – it’s misleading. The only route (I believe) that fits with what you say here is JFK-MXP, nothing else prices.

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