The best ways to get to the Maldives on points and miles
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current routes and mileage costs. It was originally published on Oct. 9, 2018.
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.
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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. While it seems like a classic luxury getaway, the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort only opened in late 2016, and the last year or two has seen the opening of a new Waldorf Astoria, JW Marriott, Westin and countless other properties.
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. Today we’re going to take a look at some of your best options.
Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.
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. Weather makes the Maldives a highly seasonal destination, so not all of these flights operate year round.
- Aeroflot from Moscow (SVO)
- AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- Air France from Paris (CDG)
- Air India from Bengaluru (BLR) and Thiruvananthapuram (TRV)
- Alitalia from Rome (FCO)
- Austrian Airlines from Vienna (VIE)
- Bangkok Airways from Bangkok (BKK)
- British Airways from London Gatwick (LGW)
- Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (HKG)
- China Eastern from Shanghai (PVG)
- China Southern from Guangzhou (CAN) via Colombo (CMB)
- Condor from Frankfurt (FRA)
- 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)
- 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 our 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 (CMB) instead and purchasing a cheap ticket from there; they’re usually around $200 round-trip. This is partly because of the short distance and also because of how many airlines operate fifth-freedom flights from Colombo to Malé, including Emirates, Korean Air and China Southern.
Second, although options on single carriers are listed 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 U.S., 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. Don’t be afraid to mix and match airlines, and you might even consider breaking up your long trip with a stop in Europe or Asia to give you better odds of finding the award space you need.
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. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, just the programs that provide the best value to North American based travelers.
We also haven’t listed all the partners of each program; instead focusin 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 or from the U.S., though you’ll notice some are ranges due to overlapping mileage charts for specific partners.
|Miles / points||Transfer partners||Airline partners||Miles needed round-trip|
|Aeroplan (Air Canada)||Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy||Air India, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Turkish, United||
Premium Economy: 130,000
|Alaska Mileage Plan||Marriott Bonvoy||Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Korean Air||
Premium Economy: 110,000-120,000
|American Airlines AAdvantage||Marriott Bonvoy||British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Qatar Airways, SriLankan||
Premium economy: 125,000
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy||Air Canada, Air India, ANA, Singapore, Thai, Turkish Airlines, United||
|Avianca LifeMiles||Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy||Air India, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Turkish, United||
|Flying Blue (Air France-KLM)||Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy||Aeroflot, China Eastern, Delta, Korean Air||
Premium Economy: 200,000-500,000+
** (Flying Blue award rates are highly variable)
|JAL Mileage Bank||Marriott Bonvoy||American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates||
Premium Economy: 140,000
|Singapore KrisFlyer||Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, Capital One Miles||Air India, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Thai, Turkish, United||
Premium Economy: 167,000-177,000
|United Mileag Plus||Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy||Air India, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Turkish,||
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. Again, this is not a totally comprehensive list but instead includes the most convenient options and ones on which award seats are (relatively) readily available. Award availability varies heavily for such an far away and in demand destination, so make sure to use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to set alerts to keep you up to date when new seats open up.
Here is an alphabetical list of the best airlines to get you to the Maldives on points and miles:
Air France flies from Paris (CDG) and Malé seasonally from November to March using a shiny new 787-9 aircraft on the route. The Paris-Malé flights depart on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and the Malé-Paris returns depart on Tuesdays, 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 U.S. 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 and 787s 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. Here are some of the best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability.
Miles to use: Flying Blue miles are your best bet since the airline releases more award spaceto its own members than to partners. Unfortunately, Flying Blue’s switch to dynamic award pricing makes it nearly impossible to predict how much a ticket on this route will cost. Here’s a price calendar from New York-JFK to Malé (MLE), with economy flights running between 46,000 and 111,500 miles each way (note that some of these flights connect on Alitalia).
Meanwhile one-way business-class awards can easily run you 250,000+ miles each way.
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 and fees on those tickets will be much lower.
If you choose to book directly with Flying Blue, there are lots of ways to top up your account, since the program is one of just two that partners with all five major transferable points programs. This means you can transfer points at the following rates to your Flying Blue account:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards 1:1
- Amex Membership Rewards 1:1
- Citi ThankYou Rewards 1:1
- Capital One Miles 2:1
- Marriott Bonvoy 3:1 with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred
The Hong Kong-based carrier flies to Malé from its hub four days a week all year long, using an Airbus A330 on the route. In the U..S, it operates flights to Boston, Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Newark (EWR), San Francisco and Washington Dulles — and it has some of the best first and business class products in the sky.
Where to search: Cathay is a member of Oneworld, meaning you can search for and book Cathay Pacific awards directly from most major Oneworld loyalty programs, including American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer. In fact the only major partner that doesn’t display Cathay Pacific award space is the one you’ll want to use most — Alaska Airlines.
Miles to use: You have a few fantastic mileage options for booking awards on Cathay. The first is American Airlines AAdvantage miles, which makes a notable exception to its award routing rules to let you fly east to the “Indian Subcontinent” region of its award chart which includes the Maldives. 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 U.S. to Hong Kong leg will have a first-class cabin; Cathay Pacific flies an A330 to Malé, and it only has business class.
Cathay is also non-alliance partners with Alaska Airlines, and while the program only partners with Marriott Bonvoy 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
When you compare these prices to what American Airlines charges, the quality of this deal becomes even more obvious. American charges approximately a 50% mileage premium in all cabins to book the exact same award, and Alaska Airlines will even let you tack on a stopover in Hong Kong free of charge.
This Chinese carrier has a hub at Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and flies to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York-JFK and San Francisco. It makes this list thanks to a decent hard product (seat) and the fact that awards are available throughout the year.
However, any discussion of China Eastern must include a disclaimer that the soft product (namely food and service) leave something to be desired, especially on an ultra-long trip to the Maldives. TPG’s Ethan Steinberg has flown the carrier’s business-class product on both the 777-300ER and a newly delivered 787-9. While he wouldn’t hesitate to do so again in the future if the right deal presents itself, he’ll be packing my own food to eat on board.
Where to search: I find Delta.com is the best search engine for awards on China Eastern. Awards from the U.S. are readily available, though you might have a harder time finding availability on the connection from Shanghai.
Miles to use: Your best bet is to use Delta SkyMiles. Delta’s cheapest round-trip award tickets price out at:
- Economy: 100,000 miles
- Business: 240,000 miles
Emirates is based in Dubai (DXB) and operates a mix of A380s and 777s on its routes to the US and 777s to Malé. It currently flies to 12 U.S. airports including Boston, Chicago, Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco and Washington Dulles, among others.
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: When it comes to booking Emirates awards these days, you’re faced with a tradeoff between higher award rates and sky-high fuel surcharges. Unfortunately, Alaska devalued its Emirates award charts with no notice in 2016, so there aren’t bargains anymore. However, award availability is decent if you’re flexible with dates, and Alaska is a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy. 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 followed that up by increasing award rates in 2018. Here are the one-way 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: 47,000 miles
- Business: 85,000 miles
- First: 135,000 miles
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 U.S. 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 U.S. will tack on over $1,500!
This Abu Dhabi-based carrier has some of the best business and first-class seats in the world, though not on the A320s it sometimes flies from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Malé (though many flights are now also operated by first-class equipped 787s). Its four U.S. 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. 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 Bonvoy transfer partner. Etihad’s own Etihad Guest mileage program is also a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One 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.
Qatar’s Qsuite is one of the best business-class products in the world, and certainly one of the most comfortable ways to fly to the Maldives. The airline has expanded rapidly in recent years and currently flies to over 10 U.S. cities. Most of these flights are aboard 777s and A350s that feature the newest Qsuite. From Doha, the airline flies A350s to Malé that alternate between Qsuite and Qatar’s older (but still excellent) reverse herringbone seats.
Where to search: Qatar is a member of Oneworld, so you can search for award availability on American Airlines’ site or on another alliance partner like British Airways.
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.
Singapore flies a 787 from its hub in Singapore (SIN) to Malé (so no first class on this flight). In the U.S., it operates a number of interesting fifth-freedom routes to both Europe and Asia as well as nonstop flights to Singapore from the West Coast and Newark, the world’s longest flight.
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 generally does not release premium cabin award space to any partner programs. In that case, use SingaporeAir.com to search.
Miles to use: Singapore KrisFlyer miles are 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, Capital One and Marriott Bonvoy. The possibilities to boost your account balance are nearly endless, but that’s no guarantee that you’ll find any award space.
Here’s how many miles you’ll need from the West Coast to the Maldives (round-trip):
- Economy: 92,000 miles
- Premium Economy: 177,000 miles
- Business: 218,000 miles
- First: 306,000 miles
And from the East Coast:
- Economy: 110,000 miles
- Premium Economy: 187,000 miles
- Business: 242,000 miles
- First: 320,000 miles
Between opening a new global hub in Istanbul (IST) and beginning the long overdue process of updating its long haul fleet with new 787 aircraft, Turkish Airlines is becoming a much more appealing choice for Star Alliance travelers looking to fly to the Maldives. From its hub in Istanbul, the airline flies an Airbus A330 to Malé, while it flies a mix of A330s and Boeing 777s to its nine U.S. 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.
Miles to use: As noted at above, your best options are probably United Mileage Plus, Air Canada Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles. United is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, while Aeroplan and Avianca are transfer partners of both Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One and Marriott.
United will charge you the following amount of miles to fly Turkish from the U.S. 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 amounst:
- Economy: 100,000 miles
- Business: 150,000 miles
Meanwhile Avianca LifeMiles offers a significant savings in economy, charging the following rates:
- Economy: 85,000 miles
- Business: 156,000 miles
The airlines that “made the cut” for this final list are those that combine decent award availability with reasonable prices and a robust U.S. route network. Still, there are a few other airlines that fly to the Maldives that deserve to be mentioned here.
British Airways is a familiar carrier to many, and easy enough to book with both American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios (though distance-based Avios award chart might not be the best choice for this longer trip). However, BA didn’t make the cut because it flies to the Maldives from London Gatwick (LGW), while most of its flights to the U.S. run through London Heathrow (LHR) and transiting between those two airports is an unnecessary headache.
Two other Star Alliance carriers deserve a shout out here: Austrian Airlines flies to the Maldives 2 to 3x a week depending on the season, which is surprising given how small a fleet it has. The carrier also serves a number of U.S. destinations (primarily Star Alliance hubs like Washington Dulles and Chicago) and while Austrian’s fleet could use a bit of a refresh, the airline offers a top-notch dining experience to business-class passengers.
Perhaps the most noticeable absence from this list was Lufthansa, which flies from its hub in Frankfurt to the Maldives twice a week during peak season. A Maldivian vacation is something you want to plan far in advance, but Lufthansa doesn’t release any premium-cabin award space to partners until about 15 days before departure. This means if you want to fly business class to the Maldives, Lufthansa is probably not your best option.
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.
Ethan Steinberg contributed to this post.
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