Cleared for Takeoff: A 5-star trip from Phoenix to Dubai for two
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Cleared for Takeoff is a weekly series showing readers like you the best ways to book post-pandemic adventures using points and miles. If you’d like tips on booking your own trip using miles, please email us with your preferred itinerary and current mileage balance.
Dubai is open for American tourists so long as you pack a negative COVID-19 test. While cash rates are usually high, you can visit the glitzy desert- and skyscraper-filled city for little out of pocket using hard-earned points and miles. Reader Adney Koga recently reached out to us about booking an award trip to the Emirati city this fall:
My wife and I are looking to book a trip to Dubai during Oct 1-10 of this year. Home airport is PHX. There will be two of us. This would be our first trip in 7yrs without our kids, so looking forward to it.
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Current points stash
Adney and his wife are in a good position in terms of their points and miles balance. With a combined total of about 260,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 202,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles, 78,000 United MileagePlus miles and 188,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, they have enough points and miles to cover two round-trip business-class tickets to Dubai and a nine-night hotel stay.
- 260,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
- 175,762 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
- 26,433 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (wife).
- 77,711 United MileagePlus miles.
- 62,876 American Express Membership Rewards points.
- 125,126 American Express Membership Rewards points (wife).
Airfare to Dubai
Miles needed: 140,000 American miles + $45.40
Unfortunately for Adney and his wife, there aren’t any nonstop flights from Phoenix (PHX) to Dubai (DXB) and the one-stop options are limited. So, they’ll likely end up needing two layovers and should expect at least around 24 hours of travel each way. Adney didn’t specify which cabin they’d like to fly in, but given the long flight times and their points balances, I’m going to recommend premium-cabin flights for their journey. Plus, they’re going to Dubai after all, so it would be fitting for them to arrive in style.
Given Adney’s large stash of American miles, I recommend they redeem those miles first. Plus, they’ll be able to get a lot of value out of them before they potentially get devalued later this year. Chase and Amex have lots of transfer partners, so devaluations aren’t as much of a threat for those currencies.
American Airlines partners with several airlines that fly to Dubai, including British Airways and Royal Jordanian. But for the most comfortable experience, they’ll want to fly Qatar Airways. Although nonstop flights between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were suspended for over 3 1/2 years, they resumed at the beginning of 2021 as diplomatic relations improved.
Qatar offers one of the best business-class experiences — especially on Qsuite-equipped aircraft. Every Qsuite is extremely private, thanks to sliding doors. However, if Adney and his wife pick two center seats in an odd-numbered row, they’ll be able to convert their seats into a “double bed.”
American Airlines AAdvantage charges 40,000 miles each way in economy and a reasonable 70,0000 miles each way in business class. As such, Adney can book two one-way business-class tickets without even needing to tap into his wife’s miles. Plus, taxes and fees are only around $20 per person, even in business class.
How to book this award with points
Booking Qatar Airways flights with AAdvantage miles is extremely straightforward and can be done online. Head to aa.com, enter your route (PHX-DXB), select your dates and check off the “Redeem miles” box.
You’ll then be able to filter your results by cabin class on the search results page. If there’s no award availability on your preferred dates, American has a handy calendar search tool you can use. Alternatively, you can subscribe to ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) and set alerts to be notified when award space opens up. Luckily for Adney, there’s plenty of award space in October. Keep in mind that even though some awards price out as business class, they may contain one or more segments in economy. If that’s the case, there will be a message in orange that says, “The class of service you searched may not be available on one or more flights.”
After you’ve selected a flight, you’ll need to log in to your AAdvantage account to complete the booking. The taxes and fees on this ticket should come out to around $20 per person.
How to earn enough miles for this award
Adney has more than enough AAdvantage miles for this award to Dubai. However, if you’re looking to replicate this itinerary and need more miles, you can do so fairly easily by picking up a cobranded American Airlines credit card:
- AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard: 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. Additional 10,000 miles when an employee card is used for a purchase.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: 65,000 American Airlines bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening.
- AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard: 60,000 bonus miles and a $99 companion ticket awarded after making a purchase within the first 90 days of card opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, Citi AAdvantage Business Platinum Select, AAdvantage Aviator Red and the AAdvantage Aviator Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Airfare from Dubai
Miles needed: 156,000 Amex points + $25.54
For the return, I recommend they redeem their Amex points through Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is a Star Alliance member, so they can book a one-stop return with Air Canada via Toronto (YYZ) or a multistop return with a connection in Europe and the U.S. with airlines like Lufthansa and United. All of these airlines offer fairly similar inflight experiences in business class, including lie-flat seats and multicourse meals.
LifeMiles typically charges 42,500 miles each way in economy and 78,000 miles in business class on this route. However, what’s nice about the program is that it allows you to select different cabins for each segment. So, if Adney’s itinerary includes a short flight, they may be able to reduce their cost by flying coach on that leg.
How to book this award with points
While LifeMiles isn’t known for offering the best customer service, it does let you book partner awards directly on its site. Once you’ve transferred the points you need to LifeMiles (more on that soon), head to LifeMiles’ “Travel” page, add your route (DXB-PHX) and the number of travelers.
You’ll then be prompted to sign in to your account and select your departure date from a calendar.
Then, select your flights and cabins. As mentioned above, LifeMiles allows you to select different cabins for each segment (assuming there’s availability), allowing you to potentially save some miles.
How to earn enough miles for this award
The quickest and easiest way to earn Avianca LifeMiles is by transferring points from a flexible points program. Luckily, Avianca also partners with all the major transferable points programs, except for Chase Ultimate Rewards. This means that you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio from Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou points. Although Adney can’t pool his Amex points with his wife, they can transfer the points into each other’s LifeMiles accounts by being authorized users on each other’s cards.
While Adney and his wife have enough points to book their flights, you can top up your transferable points balances by applying for these top offers:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first three months of account opening.
- Citi Prestige® Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Dubai hotels you can book with points
Dubai is home to a plethora of world-class hotels which can be booked with points. Since Adney doesn’t have a preferred chain, his best option would be to book a World of Hyatt property using points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
You’ll find everything from modest Hyatt Place properties to Park Hyatts around the city, but here are some of the best options:
- Andaz Dubai The Palm: 20,000 points per night.
- Grand Hyatt Dubai: 15,000 points per night.
- Hyatt Place Dubai Baniyas Square: 5,000 points per night.
- Hyatt Regency Dubai: 8,000 points per night.
- Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights: 12,000 points per night.
- Park Hyatt Dubai: 20,000 points per night.
With 260,000 Ultimate Rewards points, Adney has enough points to book his nine-night stay at the five-star Park Hyatt or Andaz. Out of the two, the Andaz has a more desirable location, located right off the beach near Dubai’s famous Palm Islands with easy access to the Mall of the Emirates and other attractions. Just note that when Hyatt implements peak and off-peak pricing this year, the rates for these properties could drop to 17,000 points per night or go as high as 23,000 points. A safe bet would be to secure the current standard rates while still possible and then rebook down the line if Hyatt ends up reducing the number of points per night for your dates.
How to book a Hyatt hotel with points
The process for booking a Hyatt hotel with points is just like paying cash. The only difference is that you have to check the “Use Points” box when searching.
You can also switch between paid and points rates when selecting your room. For longer stays, you might want to take advantage of World of Hyatt’s new Pay My Way feature. Unfortunately, unlike some other chains, Hyatt doesn’t offer a free fifth night on award stays.
How to earn World of Hyatt points
Since Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, Adney has enough points to cover the entire stay. However, if you’re looking to replicate this itinerary and don’t have that many Ultimate Rewards points, you can boost your Hyatt balance by picking up the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which offers up to 60,000 bonus points. You’ll earn 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning two bonus points per $1 spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn one bonus point (on up to $15,000 spent).
As an added benefit, you’ll also get Hyatt Discoverist status and the ability to earn additional elite status credits via card spending.
Alternatively, signing up for another Ultimate Rewards-earning card from the Chase Quartet is a solid alternative.
As you can see, despite all of the glitz and glamour, Dubai is an extremely redemption-friendly destination. Thanks to points and miles, Adney and his wife will be able to fly there in business class and spend nine nights in five-star hotels for very little out of pocket. Their itinerary is also straightforward to replicate if you’re hoping to go on a similar trip yourself. Just be sure to plan ahead since finding award availability to Dubai can sometimes be challenging.
If you have a destination in mind and need help figuring out your points strategy, send us an email to be featured in the next installment of Cleared for Takeoff.
Featured photo by Rasto SK/Shutterstock.
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