Update on Emirates awards between New York and Milan

On Monday I wrote about Emirates’ new fifth freedom route between New York Milan, which will be launching this October. At the time the flights hadn’t actually been loaded in the GDS yet, though now they have, so I figured I’d provide a quick update.

First of all, award availability on the flights is phenomenal. As far as I can tell every single flight has two first class award seats and at least seven business class award seats (the highest number of seats they’ll show at any given time):

Award space can be searched on ExpertFlyer most easily, for what it’s worth.

As I’ve written about before, one of the very best ways to book Emirates award is through Japan Airlines, which is a Starwood transfer partner. Unlike some foreign carriers (Turkish, LOT, US Airways… oh wait) I actually find their call center to be pretty decent.

I decided to call up Japan Airlines to do a “dummy” booking through their call center. I did this for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to confirm that their availability and pricing matched what I was expecting. Second of all, I wanted to see if they were imposing fuel surcharges on these redemptions. Emirates began imposing fuel surcharges for all redemptions booked through their Skywards program as of March 31, 2013, so I was curious to see if these were being passed on to those booking through Japan Airlines as well.

When I first wrote the post I pointed out that the award should fall in the category of being 6,001-8,000 miles roundtrip, which would have cost 39,000 miles in coach, 63,000 miles in business class, or 100,000 miles in first class. Great Circle Mapper says the distance is 3,995 each way, or 7,990 roundtrip:

ITA Matrix says the roundtrip distance is 7,964 miles:

However, for whatever reason Japan Airlines claims the one-way distance is 4,013 miles. Just as I’ll never be able to “prove” geography to a US Airways agent, I don’t expect to ever be able to “prove” distance to a Japan Airlines agent. So that bumps this award into the 8,001-10,000 mile category on the award chart.

The good news is that it’s only marginally more expensive — an extra 1,000 miles in coach, 2,000 miles in business class, and the same price in first class.

Best of all there were no fuel surcharges and the taxes on the ticket totaled $87, which roughly aligns with what ITA Matrix says they should be:

The downside to booking through Japan Airlines is that you can’t combine any other partners on the same award, so this is most practical if you’re actually traveling between New York and Italy, and not looking to book this as part of a larger award involving other carriers.

Both the business and first class prices are the lowest in the markets. Of course the main issue is that the easiest way to rack up Japan Airlines miles is through Starwood points transfers, and there’s no easy way to rack up Starwood points. The easiest way to rack them up is through the Starwood Personal American Express and Starwood Business American Express (affiliate links) both of which offer 25,000 point sign-up bonuses after spending $5,000 within six months. The bonus never gets substantially higher, unfortunately. Around Labor Day they’ll often run a promotion for a 30,000 point sign-up bonus, but that’s as high as it gets. That being said if you pick up both the personal and business cards and complete the minimum spend you’re looking at 60,000 points, already more than enough for a roundtrip business class award (when you factor in the 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).

Also keep in mind that Starwood allows household transfers for those living at the same address, so that’s a good way to pool points from multiple people towards a single award.

Filed Under: Advice, Awards
  1. i hate to say this but with all these restrictions (no other carriers, no one ways, etc) it’s really kinda useless for most… šŸ™

  2. @ Lantean — Agree it’s useful in a very specific market, but if you do live in New York and want to travel to Europe, it’s an unbeatable option. I’m still saving Starpoints to travel to the Middle East in first class on Emirates.

  3. Also, I do not think JAL allows you to book for any friends. So this is for a specific flight, specific place for a specific person only.

  4. Thanks Lucky! thats awesome no fuel surcharges were added. I hope JAL doesn’t claim JFK-DXB is over 7000 miles one-way since it would increase a first class roundtrip flight to 155,000 JAL miles. Still, that’s cheaper than 180,000 on AS.

    Another way perhaps to rack up JAL points is to fly oneworld airlines and credit those miles to your JAL mileage account.

  5. I appreciate you pointing this route out. Another interesting thing about this route is the availability.

    Gary have you noticed something rather odd about Emirates EK, first class availability? I have been looking at EK first class availability on expertflyer searching for “Z” There was lots about 2-3 weeks ago. You could depart from SEA many days a month, LAX maybe 5-6 days, and JFK several as well. All of a sudden this week there was zero everywhere this summer, AND availability when it did show up was only Z1 no more Z2’s as were plenty 2-3 weeks ago.

    EXCEPT … on this new JFK-MXP route which as you write about has good availability and can be routed JFK-MXP-DXB … and beyond.

  6. Given the marginal difficulty of earning SPG (extremely difficult) vs earning UR (extremely easy), why not just redeem KE miles for Emirates?

  7. @Greg, I believe the JFK-Milan route starts on October 1st, which is after the summer.

    I was an Emirates Skywards member since 2006 and will admit I rarely ever found seat availability in Emirates First (saver level) back in 2008-2010 for JFK-DXB on A380 (though there were a few on the B777 route) but since a year ago, there has been a lot more availability.

  8. Lucky, I want to book JFK-BKK in Z, I can find the outgoing flight but cannot find the return flight if I just search JFK-BKK on expertflyer. However, if I do the return in segments (BKK-DXB DXB-JFK) I can find availability. My question is a) Can I book it by segments on JL, and b) can I do a stopover in DXB?

  9. @ clayd333 — You can absolutely have a stopover in Dubai. You can give them flights segment-by-segment to book, and they should be able to follow your logic.

  10. TYVM! Gonna burn a ton of SPG points and Hilton points in Thailand (Already booked Conrad Koh Samui)! Do you have any BKK-USM flight advise? We will probably stay a day or two in BKK.. Again thanks for all of the posts, It seems like you’ve read my mind on your last few trips….

  11. Justin, you make a very good point. From checking the redemption chart on KE, it’ll cost 210,000 miles for a roundtrip flight from north america to Dubai, which is not that bad since that’s the same number of points required for Emirates Skywards members.

    However, not sure if this has changed but a few months ago Lucky wrote how complicated/laborious it is to redeem flights from Korean Skypass.

  12. The mileage thing is easy to figure out. They use the IATA mileages, which are based on the cities and not the airports. Thus, they’re doing NYC-MIL, not JFK-MXP. A quick check on ExpertFlyer shows that NYC-MIL is 4013 miles.

  13. UPDATE: EK has schedule-changed those flights to oblivion and has has deleted all the MILNYC fares it filed.

    Mistake or something more important going on (like missing authority, government permits, or such)?

  14. UPDATE: EK has schedule-changed those flights to oblivion (interestingly including the DXB-MXP segments) and has has deleted all the MILNYC fares it filed.

    Mistake or something more important going on (like missing authority, government permits, or such)?

  15. Any idea how many Korean Miles this redemption would be? Doesn’t look like they publish a fare for this route on their website…

  16. @ Ryan — As of now this is a city pair for which you can’t redeem Korean Air miles, though there’s a chance that’ll change sometime down the road.

  17. Emirates (Skywards) per April 1 (at only 6 days notive) totally destroyed their frequent flyer program by imposing HUGE fuel surcharges (which are up to 70% of a purchased ticket!!!) For example for a Europe-Asia Y class ticket you will pay a staggering Euro400 in fuel plus at leat 75k miles, if you can buy a ticket for Euro600! also, to earn Emirates miles is almost impossible- for most trip you get only about 30%! miles credited of effective miles flown; to summarize, Skywards is now one of the WORST programs in sky and basically leaves you grounded!!!

  18. Hi Lucky,

    Does JAL allows mixed cabin on award bookings on EK? Can they hold the ticket while waiting for spg transfer to JMB?

    Thanks in advance!

  19. @ Fan — They do allow mixed cabin, but they charge you for the highest class of service you fly. They won’t be able to hold the ticket while you transfer Starpoints, unfortunately.

  20. @ Fan — Sorry, wish I had an answer, but don’t have experience with changes after ticketing. Open jaws are fine, though.

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