You don’t have to pay sticker price to fly business class on Emirates. Instead, you just need to buy miles strategically.
Say you want to travel between Los Angeles and Dubai nonstop on Emirates in business class. You’re looking at a ticket that runs over $10,000 round-trip or nearly $7,000 one-way.
Even if you buy months in advance and travel in the heat of summer, you are still looking at over $6,000 round-trip:
And in case you are wondering, “hidden city” and “throw away” ticketing options with Emirates are quite limited when originating in the USA or Canada…
Paying With Miles For Emirates
But what about paying with miles? Emirates’s own Skywards loyalty program is an option and even an American Express Transfer partner, but requires a lot of miles and comes with high fees. In my example above, a round-trip saver award to Dubai would come to 227,500 miles and about $1,700 in taxes and fees.
Another option is with JAL, which would charge only 130,000 miles round-trip, but also pass on the $1,700 in taxes and fees. That’s obviously a far better value, but JAL miles are quite difficult to obtain, especially with the devaluation of the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Finally, there is Alaska Airlines, which offers a happy medium between booking with Emirates directly and JAL…and arguably the best deal of them all. Alaska charges 82.5K miles each way for business class between the United States and Dubai. There are no fuel surcharges passed on by Alaska Airlines, so your taxes/fees will be minimal. I’d say 165K r/t and no fees is a better deal than 130K r/t and high fees.
There’s another advantage to booking Alaska as well. Not only can you book one-way awards, but Alaska allows stopovers on one-way awards. So you can fly to Dubai, stay as long as you want, and then continue on to another destination within the region for no extra miles. The Middle East region includes parts of Northern Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.
That makes using Alaska miles a particularly attractive deal.
A Great Sale
Through tomorrow evening, Alaska Airlines is offering up to a 50% bonus on purchased miles through its MileagePlan program. The offer includes three bonus tiers based upon how many miles you purchase:
- 10,000 – 19,000 miles = 20% bonus
- 20,000 – 39,000 miles = 35% bonus
- 40,000 – 60,000 miles = 50% bonus
So what does that work out to? If you have zero miles in your Alaska account, the cost is $1,629.94.
Again, you can use those miles to travel from anywhere in North America to Dubai, stopover, and then continue onto another regional destination. Domestic U.S. flights are also included.
There’s always a catch. All award space is capacity-controlled so you’re not going to be able to necessarily travel on the day you want, especially if you book in advance. That said, for the business traveler and spur-of-the-moment leisure traveler, Emirates releases a lot of last-minute space. It is consistently a great option for close-in bookings and if you’re willing to connect, you are virtually guaranteed a seat.
Using purchased miles on Alaska Airlines to fly in Emirates business class represents an ongoing and lucrative arbitrage opportunity. Even when the sale ends, you’re still getting a better deal buying Alaska miles than paying retail for the flights from Emirates.