Over the weekend, Chase Ultimate Rewards added its latest transfer partner — Emirates Skywards. While this post was originally going to announce that bit of news, it quickly morphed into something better.
The frequent flyer program of the airline known for its blinged out business and first class cabins hasn’t really been on my radar. After the announcement, I dug a bit deeper into a few Emirates Skywards redemption opportunities. Most people have been turned off by the program due to huge carrier-imposed surcharges and fees (not to mention a significant number of miles) required with Skywards bookings.
However, there seems to be sweet spot that is under the radar (or a new development?) that’s not just a good redemption for Skywards, but also perhaps one of the best value redemptions for flying Emirates first class.
First, here is the bit of news about Chase’s latest transfer partner.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Now, Chase has ten Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners. These include:
- Aer Lingus
- Air France-KLM
- British Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- United Airlines (exclusive to Chase)
- Virgin Atlantic
Additionally, Chase has three hotel transfer partners. These include:
- Hyatt (exclusive to Chase)
How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are fairly easy to earn thanks to generous signup (and spend) bonuses. Points can be earned with Chase’s many business and personal cards. Don’t forget about Chase’s 5/24 rule if you’re thinking of applying. Some of these cards include:
- Chase Ink Business Cash Card – comes with $500 cash back (or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have a premium card like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred, etc.). The card earns 5x points at office supply stores. There’s no annual fee.
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Card – comes with a hefty 80,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus and earns 3x points on travel, shipping, advertising, internet and cable service. The annual fee is $95.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has a 50,000 UR welcome bonus and earns 3x points on dining and travel and a $300 travel credit that helps offset the $450 annual fee.
Emirates Skywards — The Basics
Emirates Skywards is also a transfer partner of both Capital One and American Express, so Chase isn’t unique here. It’s an often overlooked program — for good reason, because its a program with mostly limited value.
However, Skywards miles for upgrades sometimes can make sense. Otherwise, as mentioned, outright redemptions usually require a huge amount of fees and surcharges and a decent number of miles too.
For example, a New York to Dubai roundtrip flight has about $1,700+ in carrier imposed surcharges and taxes and requires 145,000 miles in business class or 217,500 miles in first class.
Emirates’ New York To Milan & Athens Flights
An Emirates Skywards Redemption Without Absurd Fees?
Now to the good stuff. Emirates also operates a few fifth freedom routes to the US including New York-JFK to Milan and Newark to Athens.
The number of Skywards miles required for booking a one-way differs from booking a roundtrip.
Miles For A One-Way Between JFK-MXP or EWR-ATH
- Economy: 38,750 miles
- Business: 62,500 miles
- First: 85,000 miles
Miles For A Roundtrip Between JFK-MXP or EWR-ATH
- Economy: 22,500 miles (per direction)
- Business: 45,000 miles (per direction)
- First: 67,500 miles (per direction)
These mileage amounts definitely aren’t terrible. Not jaw-dropping but not bad. As you can see, booking a roundtrip saves a significant number of miles over a one-way. But of course, how about those pesky carrier-imposed taxes and fees? And what about routing? This is where things can get very interesting.
Emirates First Class Fees = Economy Fees
On Emirates’ website, when booking a flight using Skywards miles in economy, fees are about $180-220 in each direction. Then for business class, that goes up to a whopping $500-700 in each direction. Finally, we get to first class. At least online, it looks like first class carrier-imposed charges are exactly the same as economy.
This isn’t just relegated to Milan or Athens but also seems to work for other destinations as well. However, for the scope of this post, I’m going to stick to discussing the New York to Milan and Athens routes.
Here are the fees for each class of service in one direction (the number of miles shown are as if this were to be booked as a roundtrip):
It looks like whether booking as a one-way or a roundtrip, Emirates is pricing out first class fees at the economy level.
Here are the total number of miles and taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges for a roundtrip first class flight between New York and Milan.
And here are the total number of miles and taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges for a roundtrip economy class flight between New York and Milan.
Yep, same amount of fees. At least in my book, 135,000 miles + $401 is a pretty awesome redemption for a roundtrip first class between the US and Europe. Keep in mind this is Emirates’ flagship A380 on the JFK-MXP route (the EWR-ATH route is operated on a Boeing 777) — we’re talking about suites, showers, an onboard bar, and opulence galore.
Wait, but it gets better…
The Amazing First Class Redemption With Emirates Skywards
While I mentioned the direct New York to Milan and Newark to Athens flights above, not flying direct turns this from a great redemption opportunity to an incredible one.
Emirates allows a routing through Dubai on these fifth freedom routes — and still charges the same exact miles and taxes as if you were flying direct.
Yes, that means you can fly one-way in Emirates First Class from New York to Dubai to Milan for 85,000 miles and ~$190 in taxes and fees. 😮
Theoretically, this should also work for the roundtrip rate that I quoted above for 135,000 Skywards miles and ~$400 in fees. However, you would have to find first class award space on all four segments — JFK-DXB, DXB-MXP, MXP-DXB, and DXB-JFK.
That’s simply insane value — and fewer miles than what Alaska MileagePlan required pre-devaluation. Alaska previously required 100,000 miles each way for Emirates first between the US and Europe via Dubai (but with only about $40 in taxes and fees). That increased last year to 180,000 Alaska miles each way.
This routing at the mileage levels seem to be just limited to the fifth freedom cities between New York and Milan/Athens. To find availability, use ExpertFlyer, search on Emirates’ site directly, or use an award booking service like our affiliate partner Juicy Miles.
Has anyone tried to book this first class redemption? Did it actually work in practice?
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