Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for Emirates First and Business Class…Is It Worth It?

With Alaska’s devaluation, we lost a good way to redeem miles for Emirates First Class with miles and points—at least, miles and points that you can buy outright. However, Chase Ultimate Rewards still offers two key options for those who want to use points to fly Emirates.

Emirates offers an amazing First Class product on their A380s, which feature an onboard shower spa. Business Class on the A380 is not too shabby either, with personal minibars, direct aisle access, and an onboard bar for mingling.

Emirates A380 Onboard Bar

Emirates A380 Onboard Bar

However, Emirates’ Business Class product on 777s leaves a lot to desire, especially since they don’t have direct aisle access, and are angled flat.

Earlier today, I covered the ways you can use Japan Airlines miles to redeem for Emirates First Class. I covered JAL’s award charts, routing rules, and some sweet spots for redemptions. In this post, I am going to cover some ways you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Emirates tickets; Japan Airlines is one of them.

Transfer to Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air, one of Chase’s partners, allow redemptions on Emirates. Korean Air has a region or zone based award chart.

Korean Air Emirates Redemption Award Chart

Korean Air Emirates Redemption Award Chart

Here are the key ones.

  • New York – Milan
    • 170,000 miles round-trip in First
    • 125,000 miles round-trip in Business
  • USA – Dubai
    • 210,000 miles round-trip in First
    • 140,000 miles round-trip in Business
Emirates A380 First Class Seat

Emirates A380 First Class Seat

The routing rules are pretty simple, because only roundtrip travel is allowed, and only direct flights between the regions are eligible. Korean Air does impose fuel surcharges, and according to their website, the fees and surcharges on Emirates start at US$158.

You can’t book these tickets online, but would have to call Korea Air, at 1-800-438-5000. It’s also worth noting that you can only redeem Korean Air SKYPASS miles for yourself or family members, and Korean Air will ask you for proof of relationships.

Transfer to Marriott -> SPG -> Japan Airlines

As I mentioned, you can redeem Japan Airlines miles for travel on Emirates. One of the limitation is that Japan Airlines miles are hard to accrue, since the only noteworthy partner is SPG, whose points are hard to come by in the first place.

With the merger of Marriott and SPG, you can now transfer points between the two programs. This means you can effectively transfer Chase UR points to SPG in a 3:1 ratio. But is it worth doing so?

(Spoiler alert, the answer is no, and it’s such a big no that I’mg going to work through all the math).

Transfer to Marriott

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner with Marriott, and you can transfer Chase UR points to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott points can be directly transferred to Japan Airlines:

  • Direct Transfer: 140,000 Marriott points = 35,000 JAL miles
  • Hotel + Air Package: 270,000 Marriott points = 85,000 JAL Miles + 7 nights at a Category 1 – 5 Marriott hotel
Marriott's Hotel + Air Package for Japan Airlines JAL Miles

Marriott’s Hotel + Air Package for Japan Airlines JAL Miles

The direct transfer is a terrible value, and you should never do that. This is because you can now transfer the same amount of Marriott points to SPG, and get at least 50,000 JAL miles.

How about the Hotel + Air package? Under this scheme, you can transfer 540,000 Marriott Points for 170,000 JAL miles, enough for the New York Sweet Spot trip I mentioned above, plus 14 nights at a Category 1 – 5 hotel. A category 5 hotel usually costs 25,000 points per night, or 300,000 points for 14 nights (you get the 5th night free).

Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is a Marriott Category 5 Hotel

Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is a Marriott Category 5 Hotel

You can’t redeem this online, and will have to call Marriott to initiate the transfer and book the nights. The nights have to be consecutive, and any unused nights are forfeited. There is also one big caveat here: Marriott says it may take up to 6 weeks for the airline miles to transfer, which is a huge window. By the time your JAL miles arrive, the award availability may very well be gone. Marriott claims to have an express service, but a fee may apply.

Transfer to SPG

SPG offers a 1:1 transfer between SPG points and JAL miles, and their usual bonus of 5,000 miles when you transfer 20,000 points apply. In this instance, you will need the following for the two sample trips above:

  • 4000-mile Trip: 165,000 Chase UR Points -> 165,000 Marriott Points -> 55,000 SPG Points – > 65,000 JAL miles (55,000 + 10,000 bonus)
  • JFK-Milan Roundtrip: 240,00 Chase UR Points -> 240,000 Marriott Points -> 80,000 SPG Points -> 100,000 JAL Miles (80,000 + 20,000 bonus)

SPG also offers Nights + Flights packages:

  • 60,000 SPG points = 50,000 JAL miles + 5 Nights at Category 3 Hotel
  • 70,000 SPG points = 50,000 JAL miles + 5 Nights at Category 4 Hotel
The Ovolo Southside Hotel in Hong Kong is an SPG Category 3 Hotel

The Ovolo Southside Hotel in Hong Kong is an SPG Category 3 Hotel

SPG claims that you save between 18,000 and 20,000 Starpoints for this bundle, but that’s simply not true. This is because SPG offers bonuses on both miles (20,000 transferred miles gets 5,000 bonus) and hotel (5th night free) redemptions. A Category 3 hotel usually costs 7,000 Starpoints per night, and a 5-night stay itself will otherwise cost you 28,000 points (5th night free). A Category 4 hotel usually costs 10,000 Starpoints per night, which comes to 40,000 points for a 5-night stay.

The Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Bangkok is also an SPG Category 3 Hotel

The Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Bangkok is also an SPG Category 3 Hotel

If you are interested at SPG hotels, you could maximize this by transferring in the following amount of Chase points for the two sample routes above.

  • 4000-mile Trip: 225,000 Chase UR Points -> 225,000 Marriott Points -> 75,000 SPG Points – > 65,000 JAL miles + 5 Nights at Category 3 Hotel
  • JFK-Milan Roundtrip: 360,00 Chase UR Points -> 360,000 Marriott Points -> 120,000 SPG Points -> 100,000 JAL Miles + 10 Nights at Category 3 Hotel

You can of course mix and match transfers, if for example, you don’t plan on staying with SPG for 10 nights.

Transfer SPG or Marriott points to Alaska?

SPG and Marriott both partner with Alaska Airlines, and you can transfer your SPG or Marriott points to Alaska. The transfer ratios are actually exactly the same as transferring to JAL (with the exception of 140,000 Marriott Points = 50,000 Alaska miles via direct transfer, which is still worse than if you’d just transfer the 140,000 to SPG and then to Alaska).

However, Alaska miles are simply no longer valuable for redemptions of Emirates flights. In most cases, t costs double JAL miles, in Alaska miles, for the same itinerary. There is no reason to transfer Chase UR points to Alaska for the purpose of redeeming Emirates First Class. 

Pay in “Cash” via the Ultimate Rewards Portal

If your goal is just to check it off your bucket list, you can always find a cheap short flight, and pay cash for the experience. For example, Emirates flies their A380 between Hong Kong and Bangkok. You can consistently get a First Class on that flight for ~$1,250. I honestly think you are much better off paying $1,250 for the experience, and save your UR points for something else.

And guess what?! If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can actually redeem your points towards this flight, at a rate of 1 point = 1.5 cents. That means the 6-hour experience (plus lounges!) will “only” cost you ~83,000 Chase UR points.

You can just use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for an Emirates flight! chase emirates

You can just use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for an Emirates flight!

Now, it’s worth noting that you can redeem 70,000 Korean Air miles for the same ticket, but then you’d be subject to surcharges and award availability.

The Verdict

Transfers to Marriott, SPG, and JAL

NOT. WORTH. IT. Just no…because this is what boils down to.

  • 165,000 Chase UR Points for a 65,000 JAL miles. That’s good for trip that travels less than 4,000 miles.
  • 240,000 Chase UR Points for 100,000 JAL miles. That’s good for a roundtrip flight between New York and Milan in Emirates A380 First Class.
  • 375,000 Chase UR Points for 155,000 JAL miles. That’s good for an itinerary with 5 flights in Emirates A380 First Class, and will get you from New York to Milan, Dubai, Bangkok, and back.
  • 480,000 Chase UR Points for 200,000 JAL miles. That’s good for an itinerary with 5 flights in Emirates A380 First Class, and will get you from Los Angeles to Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, and back.

At the top end, you are looking at almost 1 million Chase UR points for two people. That’s absolutely nuts!

Korean Air Redemptions

If you can look past the fuel surcharge and requirements to book one-way with limited routing choices, Korean Air is actually a pretty reasonable way to get a seat in Emirates First Class.

For the most part, their rates are pretty reasonable. Just as a comparison, this is what United charges:

  • US – Europe
    • 160,000/220,000 miles RT in First (United/Star Alliance)
    • 115,000/140,000 miles RT in Business (United/Star Alliance)
  • USA – Middle East
    • 180,000/280,000 miles RT in First (United/Star Alliance metal)
    • 140,000/160,000 miles RT in Business (United/Star Alliance metal)

If you are flying between New York and Milan, Emirates is just charging a 10,000 mile premium in First or Business Class over United’s own product. I would argue that on the Emirates’ A380, both the First and Business Class product are worth the 10,000 mile premium. There are of course other options, even including using Korean Air SKYPASS miles on other SkyTeam partners.

Ultimately, I know many people have a special place for Emirates in their hearts (or on their bucket lists). I know I will never forget showering at 30,000 feet, and having a drink at the onboard bar. Korean Air SKYPASS by no means offer a special “deal” on Emirates, and the fuel surcharge might put some people off. But if you haven’t flown their First Class product, I think Korean Air is a reasonable way to experience it.

Comments

  1. If I wanted to fly SEA-DXB-CMB (colombo) how many points would that be? Would I have to effectively book it as two separate tickets? Thanks!

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