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Sun-kissed atolls, coral reefs teeming with marine life, tropical weather and world-class hotels…the Maldives has all the trappings of one of the globe’s all-time great beach destinations. However, the Maldives was also long considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip thanks to its remote location and some of the world’s most expensive resorts – think overwater villas that can cost upwards of $2,000 per night.

Recently, though, the Indian Ocean archipelago has attracted more flights from more cities than ever, including the Middle Eastern hubs of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, and new resorts keep cropping up. Points aficionados might remember the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort opening in late 2016, where TPG scored a phenomenal award (and where you can book your own stay for just 60,000 Marriott points per night). But there are also old standbys like the Park Hyatt Maldives and the Conrad Maldives that continue to impress guests from all over the world.

If you want to travel to the Maldives yourself, you are in luck. There are plenty of points and miles options for award tickets and award stays at the gorgeous hotels there. Keep in mind that the political climate in the capital, Malé, has been tense for the last few years and came to a head in February when a state of emergency was declared. It has since been lifted, but you might want to look into the issues affecting the country and decide whether it is the destination for you.

The Maldives is filled with jaw-dropping hotels.

Airlines That Fly to the Maldives

Though tiny, the airport in the Maldivian capital of Malé (MLE) has become an international hub in recent years. Here are the major airlines flying there.

  • Aeroflot from Moscow (SVO)
  • AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
  • Air France from Paris (CDG) – seasonally starting in November
  • Air India from Bengaluru (BLR) and Thiruvananthapuram (TRV)
  • Alitalia from Rome (FCO) – seasonally starting in October
  • Austrian Airlines from Vienna (VIE) – seasonally starting in October
  • Bangkok Airways from Bangkok (BKK)
  • British Airways from London Gatwick (LGW) – seasonally starting in October
  • Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (HKG)
  • China Eastern from Shanghai (PVG)
  • China Southern from Guangzhou (CAN) via Colombo (CMB)
  • Condor from Frankfurt (FRA) starting in September
  • Edelweiss Air from Zurich (ZRH)
  • Emirates from Dubai (DXB) and Colombo (CMB)
  • Etihad from Abu Dhabi (AUH)
  • Korean Air from Seoul (ICN) via Colombo (CMB)
  • Lufthansa from Frankfurt (FRA) seasonally from November
  • Qatar Airways from Doha (DOH)
  • Saudia from Riyadh (RUH)
  • Singapore Airlines, Silkair and Scoot from Singapore (SIN)
  • SriLankan Airlines from Colombo (CMB)
  • Turkish Airlines from Istanbul (IST)

Once you get to Malé Airport, you can take boats to the capital city, which is on a nearby island, or to dozens of resorts that are on nearby islands. If you’re staying farther afield, though, you’ll likely have to take an inter-island flight on Maldivian. Check out this post on dealing with fees like seaplane transfers for getting to various resorts around the country.

Two quick notes: If you’re having trouble finding award availability or cheap fares to Malé itself, you can consider flying to Colombo, Sri Lanka instead and purchasing a cheap ticket from there; they’re usually around $200 round-trip.

Second, although I discuss the options on single carriers below, chances are your awards will involve a mix of carriers. You may need to book a separate ticket to get to an international gateway within the US, or you may have to fly on another airline via a hub in Europe or Asia before connecting to one of their partners that flies to Malé. Bottom line: keep an open mind and make sure you consider all the choices.

created by dji camera
Over the Baros luxury resort in the Maldives.

Mileage Table

Here are the various mileage and points currencies (and the airlines to which they apply) that you might be interested in using to fly to the Maldives. I haven’t listed all the partners of each program; I’ve instead focused only on the ones on which it would be a good use of miles to fly all the way to the Maldives or include as part of an award containing a mix of carriers. The mileage numbers cited are specifically for round-trip travel to/from the US, though you’ll notice some are ranges due to overlapping mileage charts for specific partners.

Miles/Points Transfer and Airline Partners Miles Needed Round-trip
Aeroplan (Air Canada) Air India, Amex Membership Rewards, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Marriott Rewards, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Turkish Airlines, United Economy: 100,000

Premium Economy: 130,000

Business: 150,000

First: 210,000

Alaska Mileage Plan Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Korean Air, Marriott Rewards Economy: 60,000-200,000

Premium Economy: 70,000

Business: 100,000-280,000

First: 140,000-300,000

 

American AAdvantage British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Marriott Rewards, Qatar Airways, SriLankan Economy: 80,000

Business: 140,000

First: 230,000

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Air Canada, Air India, Amex Membership Rewards, ANA, EVA, Marriott Rewards, Singapore, Thai, Turkish Airlines, United

*Just note you must transit through Asia per ANA’s mileage conditions.

Economy: 80,000

Business: 136,000

First: 240,000

Delta SkyMiles Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, Amex Membership Rewards, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Korean Air, Marriott Rewards Economy: 80,000-140,000

Business: 160,000-270,000

Emirates Skywards Alaska, Amex Membership Rewards, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Marriott Rewards Economy: 147,500-157,500

Business: 235,000-247,500

First: 255,000-270,000

Etihad Guest American Airlines, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Rewards Economy: 172,000

Business: 305,000

First: 330,000

 

Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) Aeroflot, Alaska, Alitalia, Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, China Eastern, China Southern, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Delta, Korean Air, Marriott Rewards Economy: 80,000

Premium Economy: 160,000

Business: 200,000

JAL Mileage Bank American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Marriott Rewards Economy: 60,000-120,000

Premium Economy: 80,000-105,000

Business: 100,000-150,000

First: 155,000-230,000

 

Korean Air SkyPass Aeroflot, Air France, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Korean Air, Marriott Rewards Economy: 95,000-100,000

Business: 170,000

First: 210,000-230,000

 

Singapore KrisFlyer Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, ANA, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Singapore, Thai, Turkish Airlines United Economy: 92,000-110,000

Premium Economy: 167,000-177,000

Business: 196,000-220,000

First: 276,000-290,000

United Mileage Plus Air Canada, Air India, ANA, Austrian, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Lufthansa, Marriott Rewards, Singapore, Thai, Turkish Airlines, United Economy: 85,000

Business: 150,000-170,000

First: 180,000-280,000

American Express Membership Rewards Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways, Delta SkyMiles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Flying Blue, Singapore KrisFlyer Varies, depending on transfer partner
Chase Ultimate Rewards British Airways, Flying Blue, Korean Air SkyPass Singapore KrisFlyer, United Varies, depending on transfer partner
Citi ThankYou Rewards Flying Blue, Etihad Guest, Singapore KrisFlyer Varies, depending on transfer partner
Marriott Rewards
Aeroplan, Alaska, American, ANA, Delta SkyMiles, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad, JAL, Korean Air, Singapore, United Varies, depending on transfer partner

Airline and Mileage Options

Now that you have an idea of the myriad options available, let’s talk about these airlines and the best ways to book award tickets on each. This is not a totally comprehensive list but instead includes the most convenient options and ones on which award seats are (relatively) readily available. All award availability is accurate at the time of writing, but inventory changes regularly, so check the corresponding website or use a tool like ExpertFlyer for up-to-date information.

Here are the options in alphabetical order.

1. Air France

Air France will be flying a 777 with its newest business class to Malé starting later this year.

Last year, Air France began flying from Paris Charles de Gaulle and Malé seasonally from November to March, and it looks like the airline is bringing the service back this year. The Paris-Malé flights depart on Thursdays and Saturdays, and the Malé-Paris returns depart on Fridays and Sundays.

The flights will be operated by a 787-9 with the airline’s newest business-class seats, making this an especially interesting redemption option. As of now, the airline flies to nearly a dozen US airports from its base in Paris including Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD) using a mix of 777s with the new business class and A380s with the old.

Where to search: It will depend on the type of miles you hope to use, but I’d suggest looking either on Delta.com or directly on Air France’s site.

Miles to use: Flying Blue miles are your best bet since the airline releases more award space to its own members than to partners, though it does look like Air France is opening up space for those wishing to use miles from one of its SkyTeam partners. For example, here is a Delta award displaying both economy and business space.

As you can see, it will cost you the following miles round-trip…

  • Economy: 100,000 miles
  • Business: 240,000 miles

Delta is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Rewards.

If you choose to book directly with Flying Blue, there are lots of ways to top up your account, since the program is a partner of all four major transferable points programs. The good thing is that awards are readily available, like the following.

 

Unfortunately, the new Flying Blue program has some illogical pricing that varies based on your dates, class of service and routing. Based on my flexible searches, it appears that round-trip award flights from the US to the Maldives can get as low as:

  • Economy: 92,000 miles
  • Premium Economy: 199,000 miles
  • Business: 230,000 miles

Just be aware that Air France-operated flights will be subject to relatively high taxes and fees. However, you may be able to find partner redemptions (on Saudia or Korean, for example) using the Air France search engine, and the taxes/fees on those tickets will be much lower.

2. Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR - December 30, 2012: Cathay 777Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 taxing in Hong Kong. Cathay pacific is a Hong Kong based airline. It currently operates 136 aircraft and has firm orders for another 96. (Photo by Frogman1484/Getty Images)
Photo by Frogman1484/Getty Images.

The Hong Kong-based carrier flies to Malé from its hub four days a week. In the US, it operates flights to Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Dulles (IAD) – and it has some of the best first and business class seats in the world.

Where to search: Cathay is a member of Oneworld, but you can’t search for award availability on American Airlines’ site. Instead, I tend to use British Airways’ search engine to look for awards.

Miles to use: You have a few fantastic mileage options for booking awards on Cathay. The first is American Airlines AAdvantage miles, and as of 2016 you can fly to the Maldives (and India) via Hong Kong on Cathay as a single award. Here’s how much it’ll cost you to do so (round-trip):

  • Economy: 80,000 miles
  • Business: 140,000 miles
  • First: 230,000 miles

Just keep in mind that only the US to Hong Kong leg will have a first-class cabin; Cathay Pacific flies an A330 to Malé, and it only has business class.

You’d only need 70,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay’s fabulous first-class seats (at least, part of the way).

Cathay is also non-alliance partners with Alaska Airlines, and while the program only partners with Marriott Rewards for transfer purposes, it does frequently run bonuses on purchased miles. Unfortunately, you do need to book these over the phone, though I’d recommend finding availability first through British Airways’ site. To redeem your Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific to the Maldives, you’ll need the following miles round-trip:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Premium Economy: 70,000 miles
  • Business: 100,000 miles
  • First: 140,000 miles

Finally, you could also use JAL Mileage Bank, which has a distance-based award chart. The airline is a transfer partner of Marriott Rewards as well. Here’s how many miles you’d need round-trip from Los Angeles to Malé via Hong Kong…

  • Economy: 120,000 miles
  • Business: 150,000 miles
  • First: 230,000 miles

3. China Eastern

Like some of the others on this list, China Eastern
Photo courtesy of China Eastern.

This Chinese carrier has a hub at Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and flies to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO). It makes this list thanks to a decent hard product (seat) and the fact that awards are available throughout the year.

Where to search: I find Delta.com is the best search engine for awards on China Eastern, and awards are readily available, like the following:

Miles to use: Your best bet is either Delta or Korean miles. Delta will charge you the following for a round-trip award ticket:

  • Economy: 100,000 miles
  • Business: 240,000 miles

Korean Air will charge you the following:

  • Economy: 100,000 miles
  • Business: 170,000 miles
  • First: 230,000 miles

Just be aware that Korean’s SkyTeam award search engine is still quite buggy, so you will likely have to call into the airline’s mileage desk to book your award. The carrier also has a somewhat convoluted award booking process and no longer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, so your booking options are much more limited.

4. Emirates

Fly Emirates to Malé via Dubai.

Emirates is based in Dubai (DXB) and operates a mix of A380s and 777s on its routes to both the US and 777s to Malé. It currently flies to 12 US airports including Boston, Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco and Washington, among others. Note that if you want a first class award, you’ll be limited to the US-Dubai segment, since planes operating to Malé at the moment do not tend to have first class cabins aboard.

Where to search: Emirates isn’t in an alliance, but it does partner with several airlines, including Alaska and Japan Airlines. Alaska’s site is probably the best for finding this award availability, though Emirates’ inventory does appear on ExpertFlyer as well.

Miles to use: Most US-based flyers will probably prioritize Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Emirates redemptions. Unfortunately, Alaska revised its Emirates award charts (way upwards!) with no notice in 2016, so there aren’t bargains anymore. However, award availability is decent, and Alaska is a transfer partner of Marriott Rewards. As noted above, it’s also known for running bonuses on purchased miles, and unlike JAL or other Emirates partners, you won’t be subject to horrendous surcharges for redeeming Alaska miles on Emirates.

Here’s how many miles you’ll need (and note, the Maldives are considered as part of the Middle East in Alaska’s award chart for Emirates):

  • Economy: 85,000 miles
  • Business: 165,000 miles
  • First: 300,000 miles

Another option is JAL Mileage Bank, which is also a Marriott Rewards transfer partner. Unfortunately the carrier increased surcharges on these awards in 2017 and will be raising rates on awards on November 20, 2018 Here are the round-trip mileage redemption numbers for a sample itinerary from New York JFK to Malé via Dubai based on the airline’s partner chart, which is different from its Oneworld chart:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles (70,000 as of 11/20)
  • Business: 100,000 miles (130,000 as of 11/20)
  • First: 155,000 miles (190,000 as of 11/20)

Finally, you could use Emirates’ own Skywards miles to book an award on the airline, and the program partners with American Express Membership Rewards. Amounts will vary based on your origin, but here is the range for round-trip award flights from various US cities to Malé.

  • Economy: 147,500 – 157,500 miles
  • Business: 235,000 – 247,500 miles
  • First: 255,000 – 270,000 miles

These tickets do incur hefty fuel surcharges; a round-trip flight that starts in the US will tack on over $1,500!

5. Etihad

Etihad is another great option for getting to the Maldives.

This Abu Dhabi-based carrier has some of the best business and first class seats in the world…though not on the A320s it’s currently flying from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Malé. Its four US destinations are Chicago, Los Angeles, New York-JFK and Washington-Dulles.

Where to search: If you want to find award seats on Etihad, you have to search Etihad’s own site here. Look for the award categories labeled as “Guest” and those seats should be bookable using partner miles.

Miles to use: Though it’s not in an alliance, Etihad is partners with American Airlines, which is a Marriott Rewards transfer partner. Etihad’s own Etihad Guest mileage program is also a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott.

Awards through the Etihad Guest program price out differently depending on city pairs and award buckets, but here are the saver levels for example awards from New York JFK to Malé via Abu Dhabi.

  • Economy: 172,666 miles round-trip
  • Business: 305,112 miles round-trip
  • First: 330,000 miles round-trip (though note that this number was obtained calculating a separate first-class award between New York and Abu Dhabi connecting to a business-class flight on the Abu Dhabi – Malé portion).

American Airlines AAdvantage will charge you the following round-trip:

  • Economy: 80,000 miles
  • Business: 140,000 miles
  • First: 230,000 miles

Just beware that American AAdvantage agents have a hard time finding the same “Guest” saver-level award space you might find on Etihad’s own site, so you might have to try calling the airline’s Australian desk, which seems to have more luck with this sort of thing.

Why not fly first class on Korean Air?

6. Korean Air

Korean Air’s main hub is at Seoul Incheon (ICN), and while it does fly to Malé, keep in mind that the flight makes a stop in Colombo en route. Korean flies from Seoul to Atlanta (ATL), Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Seattle (SEA) and Washington-Dulles.

Where to search: As with so many of these other airlines, this will depend on which type of miles you hope to use for your flight. If you’re going to use Korean’s own miles, you should search on Korean’s site. However, if you’re going to use partner miles, search on Delta.com.

Miles to use: Sure, you could use Delta or Flying Blue miles, but Korean opens up more award availability to members of its own SkyPass program that it’s far and away your best option. Unfortunately, the program no longer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you’re left with the Marriott Rewards program. Bear in mind too that the airline may be reducing award availability lately, but I’m hoping that this is just a short-term issue. I was able to find miscellaneous one-way awards, like this one.

Here’s how many miles you’ll need each way from the US to Malé:

  • Economy: 95,000 miles
  • Business: 170,000 miles
  • First: 210,000 miles

7. Qatar Airways

Qatar flies to several US destinations as well as to Malé from its hub in Doha.

Qatar Airways has expanded rapidly in recent years and currently flies to 10 US cities. Most of these flights are aboard 777s with the airline’s oldest business class. However, the flights to Boston, New York-JFK and Philadelphia (PHL) are operated by the airline’s A350s, and some of the JFK and Washington-Dulles flights are aboard 777-300ERs with the airline’s much-lauded QSuites. From Doha, the airline flies A350s to Malé.

Where to search: Qatar is a member of Oneworld, but you can’t search for award availability on American Airlines’ site. Instead, I tend to use British Airways’ search engine to look for awards.

Miles to use: You have a couple good options to use miles to get to the Maldives on Qatar. The first is American Airlines AAdvantage miles:

  • Economy: 80,000 miles
  • Business: 140,000 miles

I’ve only listed business class because you won’t find first class on the aircraft Qatar uses on these routes.

You could also use JAL Mileage Bank in the same amounts listed above for Cathay since all three airlines are in Oneworld.

8. Singapore Airlines

Singapore flies an A330 from its hub in Singapore (SIN) to Malé (so no first class on this flight). In the US, it flies from Los Angeles to both Tokyo (NRT) and Seoul before continuing on to Singapore. It also has flights from from San Francisco to Hong Kong (and then Singapore) and from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) and then Singapore. Those flights all have first class, while the nonstop currently flying from San Francisco to Singapore aboard the A350 only has business class (in addition to economy and premium economy).

Where to search: I’m going to keep this simple and suggest you use Singapore’s own KrisFlyer miles to fly the airline since it releases so much more award space to its own members than to those of partner airlines. In that case, use SingaporeAir.com to search.

Miles to use: Singapore KrisFlyer miles is far and away your best choice here for the reasons listed above as well as the fact that the program’s a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Rewards. The possibilities to boost your account balance are nearly endless.

A sample business-class award on Singapore from San Francisco to Malé using KrisFlyer miles.
A sample waitlisted business-class award on Singapore from San Francisco to Malé using KrisFlyer miles.

Here’s how many miles you’ll need from the West Coast to the Maldives (round-trip):

  • Economy: 92,000 miles
  • Premium Economy: 167,000 miles
  • Business: 196,000 miles
  • First: 276,000 miles

And from the East Coast:

  • Economy: 110,000 miles
  • Premium Economy: 177,000 miles
  • Business: 220,000 miles
  • First: 290,000 miles

9. SriLankan Airlines

Why not try SriLankan if you’re coming from London or Asia?

SriLankan doesn’t actually fly to the US, but I wanted to include it here because transferring through Colombo and just catching a cheap round-trip to Malé from there is a great option for a lot of travelers.

As of now, SriLankan flies to a variety of international gateways through which you can connect to partner flights to/from the US. Those to keep in mind include Abu Dhabi, Bangkok (BKK), Beijing (PEK), Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, London (LHR), New Delhi (DEL), Singapore and Tokyo, among others.

Where to search: As with other lesser-known Oneworld carriers, I find the most useful site for searches to be BritishAirways.com.

Miles to use: This will depend on where you want to connect (for instance, if you just want to come from the US via Europe or the Middle East, or if you’ll already be in Asia and want to catch a SriLankan flight from another major city there). However, you’ll probably be best off using American Airlines miles. Here’s an example of round-trip award rates to fly round-trip from Hong Kong:

  • Economy: 50,000 miles
  • Business: 80,000 miles

10. Turkish Airlines

Turkish might be a good option for travelers with Star Alliance miles.

With political unrest in Turkey, tensions in the country’s south and along its border with Syria, and some travelers experiencing security issues at US airports after visiting the country, some folks might want to avoid this Star Alliance carrier. However, it can still be one of the best choices for getting from the US to the Maldives. From its hub in Istanbul (IST), the airline flies an Airbus A330 to Malé, while it flies a mix of A330s and Boeing 777s to its nine US destinations including: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami (MIA), New York-JFK, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles. On top of that, award availability tends to be pretty good.

Where to search: I’d suggest using either United or Aeroplan  — the mileage currencies you’re likeliest to use booking awards on the airline — to find award seats.

Miles to use: As hinted at above, your two best options are probably United Mileage Plus miles or Air Canada Aeroplan miles. United is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Rewards, while Aeroplan is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott.

United will charge you the following amount of miles to fly Turkish from the US to Malé round-trip:

  • Economy: 85,000 miles
  • Business: 170,000 miles

If you want to use Aeroplan miles, it’ll cost you the following amount:

  • Economy: 100,000 miles
  • Business: 150,000 miles
The Maldives is calling… time to use your miles to fly there!

If you have the Amex or Marriott points to do it, you might also consider ANA miles, since the program would charge you far fewer miles round-trip.

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business: 136,000

However, you can only book these as round-trip awards, so you lose a bit of flexibility to piece together two one-way tickets with different programs.

Bottom Line

Though it was once one of the world’s hardest-to-reach destinations, the Maldives is more accessible than ever thanks to plentiful flight connections on all three major alliances as well as many non-alliance airlines. The key is twofold: knowing which miles you can use on which airlines and coming up a strategy for maximizing their value (such as booking one-way awards so you can fly one carrier there and another back). If you want to plan your own Maldives vacation, take a look at your points portfolio and the mileage options available to you, then leverage them for the award ticket you want.

Featured image by Ryan Forbes.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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