The Cheapest Longhaul Emirates First Class Fare I’ve Ever Seen

Filed Under: Emirates, Great Deals

I’ve written in the past about the huge variance in premium cabin pricing, and how some cities consistently have cheap first & business class fares. Airline pricing has never been based on the cost of providing transportation, but rather based on the fares that various markets can sustain. Some of the best premium cabin fares are published out of Cairo, Egypt, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Casablanca, Morocco, Istanbul, Turkey, etc.

As most of you probably know by now, Alaska Mileage Plan greatly devalued Emirates first class awards a few months back, in many cases doubling the prices of those awards. With their new mileage rates (200,000 miles for one-way first class between the US and Asia or Europe), it just isn’t worth redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates first class anymore, in my opinion.


However, a much better option may just be outright paying for Emirates first class. For a while now, Emirates has been publishing some cheap first class fares out of Maputo, Mozambique, just a very short flight from Johannesburg. View from the Wing wrote about these fares a while back, though it looks like they’ve gone down even more.


For example, you can book a first class ticket from Maputo to Johannesburg to Dubai to Los Angeles in Emirates first class for just ~$2,386 one-way.


The roundtrip fare is less than double the cost of a one-way, and is under $4,000.


For what it’s worth, similar fares are available to San Francisco, and even cheaper fares are available to other US gateways.

To put this into perspective, booking the ticket in the opposite direction would cost almost 10x as much, as those fares start at $35,000+ roundtrip in Emirates first class.


In absolute terms ~$4,000 is still a lot of money, but for a journey covering over 25,000 flown miles roundtrip, that’s an incredible deal for international first class, especially on Emirates.

Of course this isn’t necessarily the most practical itinerary for someone based in the US, though if you’re planning a trip to Africa, this could be a great way to book a one-way return at a reasonable cost for one of my favorite first class products in the world.


If you’re going to return to Africa at some point (or if you’re based there — I know some readers are), you can make it a roundtrip.

You could credit these flights to a number of frequent flyer programs, though my first choice might be Alaska Mileage Plan, given how valuable their miles are. You’d earn 150% of flown miles for Emirates first class.

Nowadays the best way to redeem miles for Emirates first class is through the Japan Airlines MileageBank program, as they have a distance based award chart.

Here’s their distance based award chart for travel on Emirates:


JAL is transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, so for someone based in the US that would still be my preferred way to book Emirates first class.

Bottom line

It’s amazing to me how much airline pricing can vary depending on where you originate. If you’re wanting to fly Emirates first class and can position yourself to South Africa/Mozambique (or plan on being there anyway), this is an incredible deal. Paying under $4,000 for roundtrip Emirates first class is the cheapest legitimate longhaul first class fare I’ve seen on them.

(Tip of the hat to this FlyerTalk thread)

  1. maputo is in mozambique, not south africa…..

    also, while maputo is a cool town, mozambique visas are a pain…

  2. Although shorter, there have been a bunch of London-KL (via DXB) flights R/T in Emirates First for ~$4000 from either LHR or LGW….still a great deal

  3. Maputo is the capital of Mozambique. It’s not in South Africa. Not sure if visas are required for Mozambique.

  4. A small edit is needed to your article – Maputo (known as Lourenço Marques before independence) is the capital and largest city of Mozambique.

  5. Would be an awesome trip to pull that off but like you noted you’ve got to get to Maputo first. 75K AA miles with QR in business if you can find the connecting flight from DOH down though.

  6. Change your blog title to “dolla dolla all the time” if you’re not going to discuss how to get premium cabins on miles.

    Remember when your readers used your excellent review of SQ Krisflyer miles to get suites class, or your great insights on how to use AA miles to book cathay etc? Good times. Haven’t seen that in ages.

  7. This has nothing to do with the post itself, but the ads popping up in the middle of the screen seems to be a new “enhancement” that’s really annoying…

  8. @me The techniques havent changed much…are you having a hard time booking awards? His trip report introductions still show the number of miles used from whichever program to book flights.

    Why not change your name to @Troll if youre not going to post anything useful?

  9. @ Tennen — Uh oh. Would you mind taking a screenshot if you see it again? That’s definitely not supposed to happen.

  10. Its a bit more expensive but [at least for me] its more useful. ATH-LAX is around $5k roundtrip pretty much all the time on emirates.

  11. Fare origination also has to do with the GDP of a country, and or (usually more so) political “considerations”. Also capturing traffic from competitors in neighboring countries (Europe comes to mind).

    If one knows where to look, you can find tons of great cheap F and J fares 😉 across the planet

  12. In Jan 2015, my husband and I returned EK F CPT-DXB-LAX for $3200 per person. So we’ve seen these lower cost fares in EK F before, though the Maputo fate is crazy good. But the $3200 fare was so good that I had to bite, and it was worth every penny.

  13. Maybe I should have applied for a Prestige card so I could also get $1000 of “value” from, say, the Beverly Wilshire, before I return to Maputo.

  14. If you don’t comment positively on posts you like (which none of you do) then why does it seem *so* important to comment on everyone you don’t like?

  15. @ AC — Hah, true, but that was an AA fare that allowed travel on EK, and not an actual EK fare (since the longhaul segment had to be on AA or BA).

  16. I’m based in Africa (West Africa, though), and have spent a good amount of time in Maputo. It’s a great, fun city, with nice people and amazing food and culture. Worth a visit regardless of cheap Emirates flights! And for what it’s worth, the visa situation isn’t that hard. You can get one in the airport upon arrival (at least this was the case a year or two ago when I was there last). Before, when I was living in New York, I got my visa fairly painlessly by visiting the consulate near the UN. And I know plenty of people who have had no trouble getting their Mozambican visa via mail to the embassy in the DC.

  17. A stunning fare! Do you need a Mozambique Visa for U.S. citizens if you simply transit in Maputo?

  18. They are on to you. This is what I got:

    “Sorry, we were unable to price the requested flight. Please choose different dates and try again.”

    And that was with the “flexible dates” option.

  19. You can no longer get visa on arrival. It’s a pity, Maputo is a great place to visit!

    I’m not sure if you require a transit visa, interested if anyone knows?

  20. Just wanted to ask an honest question without any agenda as I appreciate the information you provide. However, I don’t understand your love over abiding for Emerates Airlines given the UAE’s questionable human rights record and divisive stance against homosexuals. Do you ever feel conflicted supporting and even endorsing this state-owned airline?

  21. @Kay
    Lucky has been asked and has answered your same question MULTIPLE times. I’m gay and have lived / worked in the UAE. What’s on the books versus what actually happens there are vastly vastly vastly different. As a gay person there’s zero problem there. It was one of the gayest places I’ve ever lived. I lived in Abu Dhabi and the gay culture, though clearly not as visible as in NYC or SFO or Europe, was robust and very present every where you went. No, you cannot waive a rainbow flag and no you cannot expect to have a public marriage ceremony or anything like that. In general, relationships (hetero) and family is culturally a private affair there. They respect peoples’ privacy there. They expect it in return. As long as you understand that then there are zero issues.

  22. Lucky, how crediting miles on this fare works? Can I credit the SA leg to a Star Alliance program and the EKs legs to AS or is it all to AS and the SA leg is lost?

  23. INCREDIBLE !!! I live in LA ….. to score a roundtrip ride in Emirates First Class for all that distance for such a pittance ?? What am I waiting for ?? I paid a lot more than that to get to Australia 2 months ago ……

  24. Well, Mozambique’s currency, Metical has been dropping dramatically. A year ago USD 1 = MZN 38, and now USD 1 = MZN 67, almost half the value. I’d be very surprised if the current fare would last forever. I’m going to get this and book for next year’s MPM-JNB-DXB-HND which is currently priced at USD 1,750. Very generous change/refund penalty (USD 22/44 respectively!) too.

  25. I will be in South Africa and would like to use this fare to return to the US. Purchasing a positioning flight from JNB can be done at a reasonable price.

    Does anybody know whether a visa is required for flying from JNB to MPM and back on the same day (without leaving the airport)?

  26. Well, this appears to have “died” for now. Prices have increased $1k+ for all routes I’ve checked since last night. Glad I got in and booked. On the other hand, I was looking at making an itinerary change last night and it looked good, but it was late and I was tired and prices have been steady (or dropping) since this was posted……so I figured I’d sleep on it and make the change in the morning. Guess not! Oh well – still a great deal!

  27. Nico: I got in too for a trip from MPM to SFO. I would prefer not to stay in Maputo, just transit (fly in from JNB and fly out the same day. There seems to be conflicting info about whether a visa is required if one is just transiting and not leaving the airport. I found this on the Emirates website:

    Transit – Mozambique (MZ)
    Visa required.

    TWOV (Transit Without Visa):
    Holders of onward tickets.

    Are you planning a stay or just a transit. If the later, do you know if a visa is actually required?

  28. Elaine: I don’t know the answer to your question. My “plans” are pretty fluid. We’re flying into JNB in early January and flying out of Maputo in early February. We’re reading conflicting things on safety in Mozambique and will probably continue to just evaluate the situation as we get closer to the date. We will just kind of continue to monitor the situation and do some research (as we really don’t know enough about Mozambique yet). Without having done our research, I can say that the *loose* thought is to spend about 3-ish weeks in South Africa and a weekish in Mozambique — meaning we’d need a visa. However, I’ve also been looking at flights from JNB to MPM — but we’re on an early flight out of MPM to hit the A380 from Jo’burg at 11:45, so I think we’d need to overnight in Maputo any way you slice it and need a visa.

    That said, I just looked up the visa fees and see why you’re asking. I’m not too excited about spending $160 EACH if all we end up doing is spending a night at a hotel near the airport. Not the most I’ve ever paid for a visa, but a significant amount more than I would have expected a visa to Mozambique to cost. Wow. Thanks for pushing me to look further. If you find an answer, please update here. Thank you!

  29. Nico: Yes, $160 x 2 is a lot for an overnight or just changing planes. Our Emirates itinerary has us leaving MPM at 15:35, so we can fly in that morning on SAA from JNB and back the same afternoon for our Emirates evening flight. I sent an email to the Mozambique embassy asking if a visa is needed for a simple airport connection. I will update this blog if I get a response.

    Whether or not we have to buy the visa, the $2364 fare to SFO including a stopover in Dubai and a limo home from the airport is fabulous! Thanks Lucky for alerting us.

  30. Elaine: Right. We paid $2199 for MPM-JNB-DXB-SIN-MEL with stopovers in Dubai and Singapore and chauffeur service from and to the airport in both places plus from the airport in Melbourne – so I’m not meaning to cry, either. Realized last night we could have added Auckland for about $200 more, but didn’t change before the fares went up. Like you said, we’ll fork over the $320 if need be, and will likely look at how to spend a few days in Mozambique if we must pay for a visa, but if we end up just transiting, that obviously isn’t ideal. All that said, there is no morning flight that would get us there before our flight out of Maputo. Not sure if we could stay overnight in the airport…..nor how we’d handle luggage (would South African be able to check our bags through for the flight back out of MPM? Seems likely something wouldn’t work out right. My wife always checks a bag……)

  31. Nico: I contacted the US Consular Section in Mozambique to ask about whether a visa was necessary for flying in and out of MPM without leaving the airport. Here is the response:

    “You do not need a visa if you are transiting and not leaving the airport, and the way I see it because there is no check-in transit desk at the airport you would have to inform the crew and they will have somebody to assist on arrival to escort you to the check-in area”.

    Consular Section
    U.S. Embassy
    Av. Kenneth Kaunda, 193
    Maputo, Mozambique
    +258 21 49 2797
    [email protected]

  32. Hi Lucky.

    So I am an avid follower of your blog, checking in to read your latest stories every morning when I get to work! Very productive of me, I know 🙂

    I read this story when you first published it (I live in Johannesburg), and I excitedly mentioned this possibility to fly Emirates F class to a colleague of mine who is travelling to Singapore in December. He was planning on flying SQ in J class, and we crunched some numbers as per your blog and the costs worked out the same!

    He’s just booked his trip and he is understandably VERY excited! His first time in first class – and on Emirates no less! Thanks for the tip 🙂

    And keep up the good work! xx

  33. Has anyone tried for a visa on arrival? I’m not sure I’m going to get my new passport back in time to apply before I leave the US. There seems to be some info out there about the ability to get a visa on arrival and the Mozambique embassy website has been down for quite a while. If anyone has had experience with it, I’d love to know. I’m most concerned about being able to board the plane in JNB without a Moz visa.

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