Emirates massively reduces fuel surcharges on award tickets

May 26, 2020

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With travel essentially on pause around the world, airlines have been taking advantage of the downtime to perform maintenance on grounded jets and fine-tune their loyalty programs. Most of the changes we’ve seen lately have been negative, such as United introducing dynamic pricing on partner awards, but Emirates just made a quiet improvement that can save award travelers hundreds of dollars on future flights.

Emirates first class sits at the top of most award travelers’ bucket lists, thanks to the opulent gold-studded cabins and onboard shower and bar you’ll find on the carrier’s 100+ double-decker A380s. Award rates for Emirates first class are understandably high, but what’s really kept this experience out of reach for most travelers has been the sky-high fuel surcharges that accompany these tickets, often in excess of $700 for a one-way flight. Now, One Mile At a Time is reporting that Emirates has lowered these fuel surcharges to a much more reasonable amount.

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A one-way first-class award ticket from New York-JFK to Dubai (DXB) used to come with $812 in fuel surcharges, in addition to some smaller government taxes and fees. Now the dreaded “YQ” has been reduced to only $150, which is a very reasonable price to pay for one of the most luxurious experiences in commercial aviation. Now, your total cost when booking this award will be $161.50, plus the miles you redeem.

Fuel surcharges vary heavily based on your departure city, but Emirates appears to have reduced prices across the board. I checked a number of routes from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa, and the highest fuel surcharge I was able to find was the $150 shown above.

Related: Incredible, but with room to improve: Review of Emirates A380 first class, Dubai to Los Angeles

In addition to flying to Dubai, Emirates also operates two popular fifth-freedom routes from the U.S. to Europe: JFK to Milan (MXP) with an Airbus A380 and Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) with a Boeing 777. These flights are even cheaper than flying to Dubai, with taxes on one-way first-class award tickets totaling just $40.10.

How to book Emirates first-class awards

The timing of this couldn’t be any better, as over the last few years Emirates Skywards has been added as a transfer partner by Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One (in addition to American Express Membership Rewards, which has allowed transfers to Emirates since 2013). Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan used to be a great option for booking Emirates awards despite sky-high rates because the program didn’t pass on any fuel surcharges, but now you’d be better off booking directly through Emirates for most awards.

Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award tickets

Emirates uses a hybrid between a traditional region-based award chart and a distance-based chart, which means flights from the East Coast to Dubai are cheaper than those from the West Coast. For example, you can fly one-way from JFK to Dubai in first class for 136,250 miles and just $162.

If you’d prefer to fly a luxurious Middle Eastern airline to Europe, you can book Emirates flights from the New York area to Milan or Athens for just 85,000 miles each way in first class and $41 in taxes.

Bottom line

More often than not, no-notice changes to a loyalty program spell bad news. In fact, we’ve had plenty of unannounced devaluations to Emirates awards over the last several years, and it was about time for a positive change.

By shaving almost $700 off of its fuel surcharges, Emirates has made its premium-cabin awards much more accessible to U.S.-based travelers, and given us more reason than ever before to book with the Emirates Skywards program instead of a partner airline like JAL or Alaska.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.

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