Update: These offers for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
While Emirates operates an extensive global route network, they have two routes to Europe that are especially popular with New Yorkers. I get questions all the time about the best way to redeem miles on these flights, so I’ll address that in this post.
Emirates’ flights from New York to Milan and Athens
Emirates operates two fifth freedom flights from the US to Europe. In other words, the flight is technically from the US to the UAE, but they stop in Europe, and they have pick-up rights, meaning passengers can fly between the US and the intermediate point.
Specifically, Emirates operates flights from New York JFK to Milan, and Newark to Athens.
The New York to Milan flight is operated by an A380 with the following schedule:
EK206 New York JFK to Milan departing 10:20PM arriving 12:15PM (+1 day)
EK205 Milan to New York JFK departing 4:10PM arriving 7:00PM
The Newark to Athens flight is operated by a 777-300ER with the following schedule:
EK210 Newark to Athens departing 11:55PM arriving 4:05PM (+1 day)
EK209 Athens to Newark departing 5:30PM arriving 9:30PM
Redeeming Emirates Skywards miles for these flights
Emirates Skywards is transfer partners with both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so a lot of people have access to these points. The catch is that Skywards isn’t a particularly compelling program, and redemption rates and surcharges are high. However, redemption rates between the US and Europe aren’t that bad, especially when you consider that award space is typically pretty readily available in advance.
On top of that, a lot of New Yorkers value the convenience of flying nonstop to Italy and Greece, rather than connecting through another hub.
So, how expensive are these flights when booked through Emirates Skywards?
- A one-way ticket on either route will cost 62,500 miles in business class, or 85,000 miles in first class
- Regardless of whether you’re flying first or business class, taxes and carrier imposed surcharges total ~550USD for the flight from the US to Europe, and ~300USD for the flight from Europe to the US
- If you are booking a roundtrip ticket from the US to Europe on Emirates, book it as two one-ways, rather than a roundtrip; the fees for a roundtrip are ~1,150USD, so you save ~300USD by booking it as two one-ways
Here are just a few screenshots that are examples of the award costs:
Alaska miles aren’t the best option for booking these flights
It used to be that Alaska Mileage Plan miles were the best value for booking Emirates first class tickets. In spring of last year, Alaska Mileage Plan hugely devalued redemption rates on Emirates. However, even back in the day, redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates first and business class between the US and Europe wasn’t a great deal.
They used to charge 100,000 miles for a one-way first class ticket from the US to Europe, while now they charge 180,000 miles. They used to charge 75,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Europe, while now they charge 105,000 miles.
Part of the reason the redemption is so expensive is because they let you fly via the MIddle East. After all, when you’re flying in Emirates first class, why would you just fly from New York to Milan, when you could fly from New York to Dubai to Milan for the same price? 😉
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is still the best deal
The best value for booking Emirates first & business class awards is the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program. The catch is that the only partner points currency it has is Starwood Preferred Guest. You can convert Starpoints into Japan Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. That means you’re getting 1.25 Japan Airlines miles per dollar spent. If your goal is to earn Japan Airlines miles, the best credit card to use is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
However, JAL isn’t partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou.
So if you were booking through JAL, on either route you’d pay 65,000 miles for roundtrip business class, or 100,000 miles for roundtrip first class.
Generally they don’t add carrier imposed surcharges, so as far as I know you should just be paying the standard taxes and fees on the ticket.
This is a phenomenal value, though do keep in mind the challenges with this method:
- Points won’t transfer instantly from Starwood Preferred Guest to Japan Airlines
- You need to book by phone
Searching Emirates award availability
You can search Emirates award availability directly on Emirates’ website, though you need to be a Skywards member. I find the interface to be a bit cumbersome, so my preference is to search through ExpertFlyer, which requires a membership. Award availability on these flights tends to be solid.
While the best value for booking Emirates’ flights to Milan and Athens is to transfer Starpoints to Japan Airlines, the process can be a bit cumbersome, and also not all that many people have huge balances of Starpoints.
Booking directly through Emirates Skywards isn’t actually that bad of a value if you have a big stash of Amex points, at 62,500 miles one-way in business class, or 85,000 miles one-way in first class. You can transfer over Amex Membership Rewards and book online easily. While the surcharges are high, many people will still find this worthwhile for the ability to fly nonstop to Milan or Athens.
For many this may even end up being a better value, given the accelerated rate at which you can earn Membership Rewards points on cards like: