Open for business: What to know about getting to Dubai on points this fall

Jun 24, 2020

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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.


The government of Dubai announced on June 21 that it would reopen to international travelers on July 7, 2020. It’s welcome news for points and miles enthusiasts: the emirate is home to some of the most exclusive points hotels in the world, and you can fly there on one of the world’s best first-class products.

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As we previously reported, tourists visiting the country will be required to present a recent COVID-19 PCR test negative certificate done within 96 hours of departure or undergo testing at Dubai airports. Tourists must also download the COVID-19 DXB app and register their details.

Note that the emirate is preparing to reopen during one of the hottest months of the year — temperatures can easily hit triple digits in July — and you’ll still be required to wear a mask or face a fine.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

That said, if you’re planning a trip to Dubai this summer (or fall, when it’s much cooler) you have several options. Here’s how to get to (and stay in) Dubai on points and miles.

Dubai flight deals currently available

Emirates

You’ll have better luck catching a nonstop flight to Dubai if you’re on the East Coast. That’s because Emirates currently offers limited service between Dubai (DXB) and just four North American cities: New York-JFK, Washington-Dulles (IAD), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Toronto (YYZ).

If you are based in or near one of these cities, cash tickets aren’t cheap — even in economy. Round-trip flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport start at a whopping $1,346 in economy for mid-October dates. It doesn’t look like other routes are much cheaper, either.

Emirates restarted some flights after suspending all of them in March due to the virus. Right now they’re being flown with the Boeing 777, as the Airbus A380 remains grounded. But we’re seeing the A380 on the schedule as early as August, so that’s a good sign.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Emirates First Class

The carrier’s newest iteration of the 777-300ER — which is currently slated to operate the JFK-DXB flights on most July dates — only features six suites in the first-class cabin, spread across two rows in a 1-1-1 layout. The A380 features a much larger first-class cabin, with 14 fully-enclosed suites at the front of the upper deck.

Photo by TPG
Photo by TPG

You’ll find the cheapest deals on online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, but you may avoid potential headaches by booking directly through the airline.

Understand cancellation policies before buying an airline ticket

Before buying any airline ticket in the current realities, understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for the carrier you book. Airlines have been adjusting their policies to be more friendly for future bookings, but what that means can vary from airline to airline, and they may differ depending on whether you used cash or miles.

Related: How to avoid change and cancellation fees

While you’re now often able to rebook an airline ticket for a future date without a change fee, just remember that you’ll likely still be on the hook for any fare difference from your old ticket to the new one.

Getting to Dubai on points

If you find the above price appalling, no worries. There are still other ways to get to the city using points and miles.

Emirates

For US-based flyers, the best mileage program for Emirates awards is likely Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. The program will charge you just 42,500 miles each way in economy between the US and Dubai (DXB). Unfortunately, if you want to travel in style, one-way tickets in business and first class jump significantly — to 82,500 and 150,000 miles, respectively.

You could also book through Emirates’ own Skywards loyalty program, which partners with all four of the major transferable points currencies (plus Marriott Bonvoy). You can transfer points to your Emirates account at the following rates:

One-way flights (booked directly through Emirates) will cost you 62,500 miles in economy or 100,000 in business class out of New York. We’re seeing pretty decent availability throughout the summer and fall. For first class, one-way tickets will set you back nearly 109,000 miles plus $162 in taxes out of New York.

To cover the taxes, don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can even offset your airfare purchase completely by charging it to the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and then redeem Venture miles at a rate of 1 cent per point.

Aeroplan

Several Star Alliance members fly to Dubai, including EgyptAir, Turkish and Lufthansa which means you can use Aeroplan miles to get there if you’re low on Emirates miles or can’t find availability on dates that work. One-way flights to Dubai (with one or two connections) start at 40,000 miles in economy or 82,500 miles in business class.

Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Where to stay in Dubai with points

Marriott

There are over 40 Marriott hotels in the Dubai area alone, which means you’ll have plenty of options ranging from low-budget hotels to high-end resorts.

Related: Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai

One particular property worth highlighting is the Al Maha Resort just outside of Dubai. We consider the Al Maha to be the best value redemption in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio. That’s because the Al Maha costs just 85,000 Marriott points a night for a standard award, with prices topping 100,000 points per night during peak pricing. Note that award reservations at the Al Maha also include room and board, which means you’re entitled to three complimentary meals and two desert activities per day. That means you can save hundreds of dollars every day.

IHG

The IHG brand has 21 hotels in Dubai, though some won’t reopen until later this year or 2021. Rates start at 12,500 points per night for a hotel like the Holiday Inn Express Dubai Internet City to 22,500 points for the InterContinental Dubai Festival City for September dates. Thanks to the program’s new dynamic award pricing, you may be able to find some deals — and remember that any nights priced at 40,000 points or less are eligible for the annual award-night certificates issued on select IHG credit cards.

Related: 4 of the best-value points hotels in Dubai

Hilton

Hilton has 22 hotels in Dubai, ranging from 17,000 Hilton Honors points a night for the Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport to 80,000 points for Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre for fall dates. To quickly explore the range of prices, fire up Hilton’s Points Explorer tool and see where your desired properties are pricing.

Hyatt

Hyatt doesn’t have as many properties in Dubai as the programs I mentioned above, but the hotels it does have are worth mentioning. Starting at just 5,000 World of Hyatt points a night, the Hyatt Place Dubai Jumeirah is just minutes away from the Burj Khalifa. Hyatt’s most luxurious hotel in Dubai, by far, is the Park Hyatt Dubai, which is on a pretty spot along Dubai Creek and costs 20,000 points per night.

Bottom line

If you’ve been amassing a ton of points and miles during the coronavirus pandemic, Dubai is an excellent option for points enthusiasts. While it’s hot there now, it typically cools down in October if you’re planning your first trip since the pandemic. You can fly one of the world’s best airlines and first class products to the city and stay in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. From budget options to all-inclusive resorts, there’s something for everyone.

Featured photo by owngarden/Getty Images

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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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