Searching for Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards

JAL business class Sky Suite. Images courtesy of jal.co.jp.  It’s possible to fly JAL business class round-trip from North America to Australia for only 145,000 Emirates miles.

Emirates’ loyalty program, Skywards, has quietly become one of the promiscuous around now that they partner with Chase, Capital One, Amex, and Marriott (see our Transfer Partner Master List).  This makes their miles easy to get since you can transfer to them from almost anywhere (Citi is the one major holdout so far).

In addition to the many ways one can get miles, there are many ways to spend Emirates Skywards miles.  You can, of course, spend miles to fly Emirates.  Unfortunately, instead of an award chart for their own flights, they offer a miles calculator.  This makes it tough to find sweet spot awards as you’d have to plug in all possible city pairs to do an exhaustive search.  Fortunately, others have uncovered some great options such as JFK to Milan round-trip in Emirates first class for as few as 135,000 miles plus $401 in taxes and fees.  That’s phenomenal considering that Emirates usually imposes huge fuel surcharges on their own flights.  See this post by Juicy Miles for full details.

Another sometimes decent use of Emirates’ miles is to use them to upgrade paid flights.  They don’t have a published upgrade chart, so you have to put in your flight details to see the cost to upgrade.  One Mile at a Time covered the value of this option here.

One thing I haven’t read much about in other people’s posts, is whether there is value in using Emirates miles to book partner airline awards.  Emirates has quite a few airline partners, and they have a different award chart for each one.  It seemed to me likely that there would be a few diamonds in the Emirates’ rough.  So, I dug into each and every partner award chart…

Below you’ll find each of Emirates’ partner award charts along with my notes about each one.  I plan to follow up later with a look at each of Emirates’ non-airline partners.  For example, it’s possible to book certain Marriott hotels with Emirates miles, but is it a good idea? (hint: no).

Partner Airline Sweet Spot Overview

I managed to find a few exciting sweet spots in the Emirates’ partner award charts:

  • Fly Japan Airlines (JAL) round trip business class from North America to Australia for only 145,000 miles!
  • Fly Korean Air round trip business class from North America to South Korea for only 105,000 miles!
  • Fly Korean Air within Korea round-trip for only 10K miles economy or 12K miles business class

And a few that are not necessarily exciting, but worth keeping in mind:

  • Hop around Central America for 5,000 miles one-way on Copa
  • Hop around Brazil for 4,500 miles one-way on GOL
  • Use the old Qantas award chart to fly short distance Qantas flights for as few as 8,000 miles one-way in economy

Emirates allows a free stopover on JAL round-trip awards.  A great trip would involve flying JAL business class to Japan, stop to enjoy Tokyo, then fly onward to Sydney for 145K miles round-trip.  I don’t know how much the fuel surcharges would be, but they’re usually modest with Japanese carriers.

Partner Airlines

Air Mauritius

Not bad, but nothing too exciting here.  Other Star Alliance airlines have similarly priced or better priced awards.

Alaska

If you want to fly Alaska Airlines economy, consider transferring points to Singapore Airlines.  Emirates might offer competitive pricing for business class, though, if you don’t have access to American Airlines miles.

Copa

It looks like you can cheaply hop around Central America for 5,000 miles one-way on Copa.  That seems like a decent deal to me.

Easy Jet

GOL

It’s hard to beat 4,500 miles for one-way flights.  Use Emirates miles to fly GOL around Brazil for next to nothing.

Japan Airlines (JAL)

Prices shown above are round-trip.  It looks like JAL awards booked with Emirates miles are required to be round trip.  Emirates allows 1 free stopover per JAL award.

Business class award prices are quite reasonable.  The standout award, in my opinion, is 145,000 miles for JAL business class round-trip from the US to Sydney Australia.  That’s excellent.  125K round trip business class to much of Asia is very good too.

JetBlue

Award prices for flying JetBlue are for economy only (no Mint class awards are available).  Prices are tied to specific city pairs.  For example, JFK to MVY (Martha’s Vineyard) costs only 7,500 points one-way.  Prices on that route are often $75 one-way, so this would be poor value for your miles (only 1 cent per point value).  However, sometimes prices are much higher and so this could be a great deal.  The problem is that it’s unclear if it would be possible to book JetBlue flights with Emirates miles in those cases.

Overall, my guess is that there’s not much value here, but it would require testing out examples where the flights are expensive and the miles cheap to see if those flights are bookable.

Jetstar

Jetstar is an Australian low cost airline headquartered in Melbourne.  Emirates’ Jetstar award chart shows a huge number of Jetstar flights starting at 7K one-way.  There are also many that cost more.  It’s unclear to me if any of these offer good value.  The few I spot-checked were decidedly poor value.  For example, I looked at a random date for flying from Auckland to Wellington and found that Jetstar charges just $38 one-way.  7,000 miles would give you barely over half a cent per mile value.

Korean Air

Prices shown above are round-trip.  It looks like Korean Air awards booked with Emirates miles are required to be round trip.  The column labelled “Prestige” is Korean Air’s business class.  Emirates does not appear to allow booking first class on Korean Air.

Emirates doesn’t list Korean Air award prices from North America in a single section so I’ve listed the relevant prices here:

Between North America* and… Economy Round Trip Prestige (Business Class) Round Trip
Korea 70,000 105,000
Southeast Asia** 85,000 125,000
Southwest Asia (Mumbai, Kathmandu, Tashkent, Colombo, Male) 95,000 140,000
Oceania (Auckland, Brisbane, Nadi, Sydney) 110,000 165,000

* North America includes the following cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington DC

** Southeast Asia includes: Bangkok, Cambodia, Cebu, Chiang Mai, Da Nang, Denpasar, Guam, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Koror, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Nha Trang, Penang, Phuket, Siem Reap, Singapore, Yangon

Business class award prices from/to North America are quite reasonable.  The standout award, in my opinion, is 105K round-trip business class from North America to Korea.  125K round trip business class to southeast Asia is excellent too.  Another great option is the ability to fly round-trip within Korea for 12K miles in business class (or 10K economy).

Malaysia Airlines

The Emirates award chart for flying Malaysia includes specific pricing for many different city pairs with pricing starting at 8K miles one-way.  Whether or not there are good values to be had depends upon the paid pricing for these flights.  My guess is that the value here is poor, but I haven’t researched this one beyond looking at the award chart.

Qantas

This distance based award chart is very similar to (but sometimes slightly cheaper than) Qantas’ own award chart that was in effect until June 19th 2019 (found here).  With this award chart, relatively short distance flights can be a great value to book with miles.  With nonstop flights you’ll usually do better booking with British Airways Avios, but when connections are involved, this award chart may come out ahead.

Advice: check out this option when planning to fly short distance economy Qantas flights.

S7 Airlines

Award prices for flying S7 begin at 7,500 miles one-way.  Whether or not there are good values to be had depends upon the paid pricing for these flights.  My guess is that the value here is poor, but I haven’t researched this one beyond looking at the award chart.

South African Airways

Prices shown above are round-trip.  It looks like South Africa Airways flights booked with Emirates miles are required to be round trip.

The award prices here are way too high.

TAP Portugal

I believe the above prices are for round-trip travel, but the award chart doesn’t specify one way or another.  If the prices are round-trip, then they are too high.  If the prices are one-way, then they are way, way too high.  Nothing to see here.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Askia Suruma
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Askia Suruma

Thanks for doing this Greg. I’ve got 180k in orphan Emirates miles and this helps with the planning of how to use them.

Abey
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Abey

Leave it up to fm to dig out the gems for us !! This is greatly appreciated

dominick
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dominick

Greg, your comments don’t show (and to be fair, I am a bit confused on Emirates site itself), but are the Copa 5k redemptions by segment? There seems to not an entire permutation grid here.
So, if I wanted to fly FROM Guatemala to say, David (panama). Is it 11k (to PTY) then 5k more to David? Flying from GUA to Tegucigalpa seems like it would be 11k + 11k one way?
If this is the case, then there are some deals, but then others are the opposite.

dominick
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dominick

NWM, I saw this “Miles stated are for direct flights only. Where no direct service is available, two or more rewards may be required”

Neil
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Neil

Very useful post!

HChris
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HChris

You guys have become my favorite blog out there! Everyone loves sweetspots. I found something interesting in the Emirates chart for JAL. Moscow to Australia is only 125k roundtrip in J. However, flying Australia to Moscow roundtrip in J it says 256k. Makes me wonder whether the chart is correct or if the demand is simply that much higher. If it is correct, it’s worth positioning from Europe to Moscow. The only other cheap option I know of is ANA’s program for their own flights from Europe to Australia for 136k in J, but for that you need a lot of Amex points.

ABC
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ABC

what’s emirate’s award availability on Korean?

Andy Shuman
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Andy Shuman

A phenomenal post Greg! Wouldn’t occur to me to look for values in this greedy airline, and yet here they are! 🙂

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