Emirates is an airline based in Dubai, best known for its top notch premium cabins. Thanks to 2 fifth freedom routes operated by Emirates, you do not have to fly to/through Dubai to get the Emirates first or business class experience. Instead, you can fly between Newark and Athens or New York (JFK) and Milan.
In this post, I’ll go over how you can book Emirates business or first class flights between the US and Europe for ~$160 out of pocket.
How to earn Emirates Skywards miles
Earning the miles needed to book an Emirates award ticket is easier than you may think. You do not have to fly on Emirates to have access to Emirates miles. There are no Emirates co-branded credit cards in the US, but even if there were, you’re better off earning transferable currencies. The best way to earn Emirates miles is to use a type of card that earns a currency that is transferable to Emirates.
You can transfer points from the three transferable currencies I discuss most on this blog to Emirates: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Capital One Venture miles (though the COV transfer ratio of 2:1 isn’t great). Chase UR and Amex MR transfer at a 1:1 ratio.
Earn enough points for a roundtrip business class flight to Greece or Italy by opening just one card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card now has a welcome offer of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This is the highest offer we’ve ever seen. 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least $1250 when you redeem them in the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. You can also transfer those points to Emirates or other airline partners at a 1:1 ratio.
100,000 Ultimate Rewards have the potential to be worth a lot more than $1250 if you learn how to redeem them with transfer partners such as Emirates. As you’ll see in this post, you can book roundtrip flights in business class to Italy or Greece for as little as 90,000 Emirates miles. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio, so opening this card and earning the welcome bonus would give you more than enough!
With this card, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining spend, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. The annual fee is very reasonable at $95.
Here is a frequently asked question: if my spouse already has the Chase Sapphire Preferred, can I open one? Yes. Each spouse can have their own, as long as you qualify. To qualify, you must be credit worthy (to be determined by Chase) and you must be under 5/24 (meaning you have not opened more than 5 cards from any bank in the past 24 months). Also, you cannot have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve currently open. If you have previously had a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it has been at least 48 months since you last received a welcome bonus, you’re eligible to earn this 100k bonus.
Until recently, redeeming Emirates miles had some significant out of pocket costs on award tickets
Emirates was notorious for outrageous fuel surcharges. For the US-Europe Emirates routes, redemption pricing with Emirates Skywards miles has always been decent, but the added out of pocket expenses due to high fuel surcharges often made it a deal breaker.
There were ways to redeem Emirates miles for business or first class flights at a good value, but with that still came some unavoidable steep out of pocket fees. In the past year, that has changed as Emirates has significantly reduced fuel surcharges.
Fuel surcharges are much more reasonable than they used to be
The fuel surcharges are now so low that I think the US-Europe routes deserve their own post.
At the time of publishing (June 2021) US-Europe in economy on Emirates roundtrip would have a total of ~$120 in out of pocket fees, taxes, and surcharges. For business or first class, the out of pocket total is ~$160. This is much more reasonable than what it used to be. When I originally wrote about the Emirates Skywards program in 2019, fuel surcharges on a roundtrip US-Europe business class or first class itinerary were around $1100!
Redemption pricing for US-Europe award flights on fifth freedom routes operated by Emirates
Emirates does not publish award charts for their own flights (though there are charts for flights operated by partner airlines), but you can find redemption prices for individual routes with their miles calculator. Emirates also has a flexible calendar search feature, making it easy to find the lowest possible redemption price for your date range.
For economy and business class seats, there are “Saver” tickets and there are “Flex Plus” tickets
Saver tickets require less miles, but they are only available to book as roundtrip tickets. You would have to book a Flex Plus ticket to book a one-way, and Flex Plus tickets require more miles.
Like award tickets booked with most other airline programs, award seats on Emirates flights are subject to availability, with saver tickets being the most limited.
Here are the lowest possible redemption amounts roundtrip for EWR-ATH or JFK-MXP:
Remember, Emirates allows one ways, but for economy or business class tickets it’s not half of the roundtrip price like some other programs that allow one ways. Instead, it’s more than half because you have to book at the Flex Plus price rather than the Saver price. Roundtrip is a much better value for economy and business class.
- Economy: 45,000 Emirates miles (or 38,750 one way)
- Business: 90,000 Emirates miles (or 62,500 one way)
- First: 170,000 Emirates miles (or 85,000 one way)*
62,500 actually isn’t a bad price for US-Europe business class one way, but it’s obviously better to book as a roundtrip if possible.
*Since first class flex tickets will not be available for travel that begins after after July 1, I’m going with the flex plus pricing.
There are also two types of Emirates first class award tickets (for now at least)
For first class Emirates award flights booked with Emirates miles, there are also two types of tickets but with a different name for the lower priced award. The lower redemption cost ticket is called “Flex” and the higher redemption cost ticket is “Flex Plus”.
For roundtrip EWR-ATH or JFK-MXP in first class for travel through July 1, you can book at Flex pricing for 135,000 which makes each way 67,500 miles.
For travel after July 1, things are changing with first class award tickets. Flex pricing for first class will not be available. To book award seats in first class, you will only be able to redeem at the Flex Plus level. You can book one ways, and the first class one way price will be half of the Flex Plus roundtrip price of 170,000 (so 85,000 each way). In other words, there is no redemption pricing advantage of booking a roundtrip first class award vs. a one way for travel after July 1.
First class award seats are also subject to availability.
How to Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards points for Emirates flights to Europe in business or first class
If you have transferable bank points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, there are two different redemption methods you can use to book flights with either of these types of points:
- Redeem by “paying” with points at a fixed value. Each rewards program has different values, but basically this just means you’re redeeming your miles or points as cash to cover travel purchases. The fixed value is between 1 and 1.5 cents per point, depending on which card you have.
- Transfer points to Emirates or other airline or hotel partners. Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points become Emirates miles. You can redeem them according to the rules and redemption prices of the airline or hotel program to which you transfer, which is Emirates Skywards in this case. The redemption value varies, but this is how we’re often able to get 2 cents or more per point.
The first method sometimes works well for low fares and for economy tickets. If you’re trying to book business or first, the paid fare would have to be super low to make this your best redemption option. In other words, for premium cabins, transfer partners result in a lower redemption cost most of the time.
I found business Saver availability that I can book with Emirates miles for a roundtrip itinerary EWR-ATH for September 14-24. We will discuss redemption pricing by transferring Amex or Chase points to Emirates to book this in a moment.
First, I want to show the redemption price if you redeem Amex points at amextravel.com or ultimaterewards.com(the first method described above) for this ticket.
Business class fares for EWR-ATH for the dates I used in the examples for this post happen to be very low; roundtrip was just under $3,000. I know that’s a lot, but it’s low for business class. Even at these low prices, you’ll see that transferring to Emirates to book is still a better option.
Amex Membership Rewards
When you redeem Amex points for flights at Amextravel.com, points are worth 1 cent each.
This means that a business class fare of $2,965 would require 296,525 Amex points.
Don’t book like this!! Transferring to Emirates would require less than 1/3 of that amount!
Chase Ultimate Rewards
When you redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights at ultimaterewards.com, points are worth 1.25 or 1.5 cents each, depending on which card you have
At those rates, a roundtrip ticket that costs $2,965 would require:
- 237,216 points if you have Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred or
- ~197,700 points with Chase Sapphire Reserve
This is a little better than Amex points, but you’ll still do much better by transferring the points to Emirates if Saver tickets are available.
To book this itinerary by converting Amex or Chase points to Emirates miles, you would only need 90,000 points total
For business class, EWR-ATH is as low as 90,000 Emirates miles roundtrip plus $166 in taxes and fees. JFK-MXP roundtrip in business class is as low as 90,000 Emirates miles and $159 in taxes and fees.
Tip: Consider booking a positioning flight if necessary
If EWR or JFK is not your home airport, it may be worth booking a positioning flight to take advantage of Emirates business or first class award seats.
For example, I could book a roundtrip from DFW to EWR for as low as $117 or a little over 15,000 United miles. To get those United miles, I could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United. I’m only using United in this example because they happened to have the cheapest pricing for these dates, but of course any airline works. At these prices, I would probably just pay cash for the flights and save my points for bigger redemptions such as the Emirates premium cabins we’re discussing in this post.
The paid fare for the EWR-ATH Emirates roundtrip ticket September 14-September 24 is currently $2965. Normally, I would expect higher fares for US-Europe business class. But even with a low fare of $2,965, it’s worth considering the positioning flight.
Recapping redemption options for EWR-ATH roundtrip in business class:
- Amex Membership Rewards at Amextravel.com: 296,500 Amex points
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points at ultimaterewards.com: 237,216 or 197,700 (depending on which card you have)
- Convert Amex and/or Chase points to Emirates miles: 90,000 points plus $166 (and maybe the cost of a positioning flight)
These redemption prices could change. If the fare gets higher, more Amex points would be required to book this at amextravel.com. Likewise, redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points at ultimaterewards.com for these flights when the paid fare is higher would result in a higher amount of Ultimate Rewards points required.
If saver tickets aren’t available, the redemption price using Emirates miles would be higher. Even the higher price of a flex plus ticket (125,000 Emirates miles roundtrip) isn’t bad for business class EWR-ATH or JFK-MXP, though.
90,000 is way lower than 296,525 or 197,700, so what’s the catch?
Most airlines limit the amount of award tickets on any given flight. Even if a paid seat is available, you may not be able to book an award seat. This is not unique to Emirates; this is just how award travel works.
Once you transfer Chase or Amex points to an airline partner, your points become airline miles and they are subject to the policies of the airline program. Transfers are permanent and you cannot transfer miles back to Amex or Chase. For that reason, it is best to search for award availability and make certain your dates and route are available before you transfer any Amex or Chase points to Emirates (or any airline program). Otherwise, you could be stuck with thousands of Emirates miles. Transfers from Chase or Amex to Emirates are usually posted immediately, so there is no reason to transfer before you confirm availability.
It’s easy to search for availability since Emirates awards can be booked online. But I’ll go through the steps below.
How to search Emirates.com for award tickets
To search for award space, you will first need to create an Emirates Skywards account. It’s free. Again, do not transfer any Amex or Chase points into your Emirates account yet.
Log in to your Emirates Skywards account. Give the route, dates, number of passengers and class. When you’re giving the dates, you can check the box if you want to search for flexible days. You can also search for one way but remember, one way in business class and economy is more than half of the roundtrip price.
September 14-September 24 is available at the Saver price.
The roundtrip total is 90,000 miles, making each way only 45,000 miles.
The total for fees, taxes and surcharges is only $166, which is a significant improvement from 2019 when these fees were over $1,000!
A one way is 62,500 and $60
Once you find dates, click the one you want and click Continue. You’ll see the available routes. In this case, there’s only one option for each way.
At this point, if you’re happy with the available itinerary, you can go ahead and transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points and/or your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Emirates account. Points should show up immediately, but you may have to log out of your Emirates account and log back in. Once the points are in your Emirates account, you can complete the booking.
Click here for instructions on transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners.
Click here for instructions on transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to airline partners.
Roundtrip EWR-ATH in first class on Emirates is 170,000 miles plus $166
I also found first class award space for a few dates in September. Availability for both business class and first class was a little easier to find than I would have expected.
170,000 miles may sound like a lot, but the paid fare for these dates would be $7504.
Here is the cents per point math if you’re interested:
- Paid fare minus out of pocket expenses ($7504-$166)= $7388
- $7388/170,000 miles=0.043
- 0.043 X 100= 4.3
- 4.3 cents per point
We usually try to save our Amex and Chase points for redemptions worth 2 cents per point or more (which is why we rarely redeem via amextravel.com or ultimaterewards.com). 4.3 cents per point is definitely a good value, but I’m not sure I would splurge on first class both ways.
Quick chat about point/mile values
Just remember, high value redemptions are fun and exciting but if it’s not a ticket you planned to buy anyway, you aren’t actually saving any more money than a lesser value redemption. For example, if the business class ticket is $2,965 and I can book the roundtrip for 90,000 miles plus $166, this would be a value of around 3.1 cpp.
- $2799 ($2,965 minus the out of pocket which is $166= $2799) /90,000=0.0311
- 0.0311 X 100= 3.1
First class is a better cents per point value (~4.3), but requires 80,000 more miles roundtrip than business class. I’m getting a higher redemption value with first, but I’m redeeming more points. Rather than focusing on the value, deciding between business and first in this situation just depends on how much you’re willing to redeem.
Since I probably wouldn’t pay for either of these tickets, I’m not really saving money either way, so the cents per point value doesn’t really matter much to me. Redeem your points in a way that works best for you and your goals.
What I would probably do here is book one way in first and one in business class.
Emirates allows you to mix classes on a roundtrip ticket so another option would be to fly there in first and back in business/economy, or vice versa. More on booking mixed class in the next section.
If you want the first class experience but you’re short some miles, you can also book a mixed cabin roundtrip ticket…
… with one way being first and the other way being business or economy for half the amount of the business or economy saver roundtrip price, as long as it’s booked as one ticket (as opposed to two one ways). This is subject to availability and I’ll show the steps for searching.
First class EWR-ATH and business class ATH-EWR would be a total of 130,000 miles plus $166. (85,000 for first class, then half the saver business class price which is 45,000 miles)
You can also book EWR-ATH in business and ATH-EWR in economy and it would be a total of 67,500 miles.
How to search for a mixed cabin itinerary with Emirates
Make sure you are logged into your Emirates account. Click on “advanced search: multi-city, promo codes, partner airlines”
Make sure Book Classic Rewards Flight is selected at the top. Click Advanced search.
Type in outbound, date, return, date, which classes you want, then hit search
I actually had to do this part twice beause it glitched the first time. So try again if it doesn’t work.
First class on the outbound and business class on the return would be a total of 130,000 miles pus $166. The paid fare for this exact itinerary wold be over $5,000.
In the past, economy seats on Emirates flights were almost never a good value due to fuel surcharges, but that may be different now
The massive reduction in surcharges means economy award tickets booked with Emirates miles may sometimes be a good value.
The saver economy price for a roundtrip EWR-ATH ticket booked with Emirates miles would be 45,000 miles plus $126 in taxes and fees.
You shouldn’t rule out redeeming Emirates miles for economy, but you may be better off redeeming via a cash-back/purchase eraser type method (amextravel.com or ultimaterewards.com). If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards points, it makes sense to figure out the redemption price both ways.
90,000 miles and minimal surcharges for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe is an excellent deal. Even if you have to spend $200 on a positioning flight, it could be worth it.
Fuel surcharges are no longer a huge burden when booking Emirates award tickets. Fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees for rountrip EWR-ATH or JFK-MXP routes:
- Economy: ~$120
- Business and first: ~$160
Earn enough points for a roundtrip business class flight to Greece or Italy
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card now has a welcome offer of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This is the highest offer we’ve ever seen. 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least $1250 when you redeem them in the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. You can also transfer those points to airline or hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio.
You can book a roundtrip flight in business class flights to Italy or Greece for as little as 90,000 Emirates miles. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio, so opening this card and earning the welcome bonus would give you more than enough!
With this card, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining spend. The annual fee is very reasonable at $95.
If you want a premium travel card and you frequently book flights, consider the Platinum Card from American Express. The welcome bonus is currently 125,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months with this link. Note that this is a personal referral offer and the public offer is currently 100k after spending $6k in 6 months. Also, new cardmembers receive 10 points per dollar on purchases at restaurants and when you shop small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined purchases during the first 6 months.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines and at amextravel.com on up to $500,000 per calendar year. The annual fee on this card is higher at $695 [rates and fees], but the benefits are great, especially if you travel often. Terms apply. Click here to learn how to apply.
Amex Rates and Fees:
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