Emirates has slashed the taxes and fees charged on award bookings by ~90%. In the past, their $1,000+ fees on award flights killed any semblance of a deal using Skywards miles, but these changes make them worth a second look.
One of the potential new sweet spots is their fifth freedom route between Newark and Athens. That trip can now be booked from 85,000 miles + $41 one-way; that is, if you can find availability. I don’t know if everyone has spent the last 24 hours booking first class awards to take advantage of the reduced taxes and fees, but they seem to be pretty hard to come by right now – at least on this route anyway.
Booking a round trip is even better value because rather charging the same amount as two one-ways, a first class round trip award booking on this route will only cost 135,000 miles rather than 170,000.
You’re reliant on finding award availability in first class in both directions though. I searched for a one week round trip through the end of the schedule and didn’t find any availability, although I didn’t check every single date combination and so you’ll hopefully have more luck.
The great thing is that there’s wide open availability in business class – here’s what the award calendar looks like in September.
As you can see, round trip in business class is 125,000 miles + $123, so if you can find round trip availability in first class, that’s definitely worth considering seeing as you’d only have to redeem an additional 10,000 Skywards miles.
Mixed Cabin Round Trip Awards
A nice feature of the Skywards program is that it lets you mix cabin class on round trips to take advantage of the reduced pricing. For example, I included a screenshot earlier of a first class award on the Newark to Athens route on September 18 which costs 85,000 miles + $41. Although there’s no first class availability a week later from Athens to Newark, there is in business class for 62,500 miles + 77 EUR (~$84.50)
If you were to book a one-way in first class and a one-way in business class, your total cost would be 147,500 miles + ~$125.50 in taxes and fees. You can do better though. The Emirates search engine allows you to book a round trip award by selecting mixed cabins which is helpful if you’ve come across a scenario like the one above.
By selecting first class for the flight to Athens and business class for the return leg displays the following results:
Rather than charging you the one-way cost for the first class leg, Emirates instead charges 67,500 miles which is half the cost of a round trip first class award even though that’s not what you’re actually booking. That therefore reduces your redemption by 17,500 miles, so bear this in mind when booking award travel.
How To Get Emirates Skywards Miles
Another great feature of Emirates Skywards is how easy it is to transfer miles into the program. It’s one of the five most promiscuous airline programs as you can transfer in from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Marriott Bonvoy and Capital One, having been added as a ThankYou partner last month.
Other Emirates Sweet Spots
Emirates has some additional sweet spots on partner airlines, as well as some non-flight redemptions, so check out the following posts for examples:
- Searching for Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
- Searching for Emirates sweet spots with non-flight awards