Luxurious ways to fly to the Maldives using miles

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Having just spent three nights in the Maldives, I can’t help but think about returning to the Maldives using miles to get there in luxury and comfort. In the past, I’ve said that the Maldives is a long way to go for a nice beach and good snorkeling. On our last night in paradise, I asked Greg whether the Maldives was good enough to return rather than go to a place like Grand Cayman or Hawaii or some other (much closer) tropical island. In response, he made the point that he thinks the Maldives may be worth it if the journey is also part of the luxury. The Maldives is a long way to fly, so if you’re going to do it you may as well get there in comfort & luxury. Here are the best ways to do it.

Maldives using miles

Luxurious ways to get to the Maldives using points

Emirates First Class

Maldives using miles
Emirates is one of the most luxurious ways to get to the Maldives using miles.

Miles required: 160K each way via Emirates Skywards

Few airlines offer a more blingy experience than Emirates. From Dom Perignon to dine-on-demand catering and gold-plated everything, it is hard not to enjoy the excess. This is surely one of the most fun ways to get to the Maldives using miles.

If you’d like to fly Emirates all the way to the Maldives though, it’ll cost you: your best option for booking Emirates flights is directly through Emirates Skywards which will charge you 160K miles each way + about $235 leaving the US or $528 round trip.

The good news is that Emirates is transfer partners with so many different US credit card programs that you may already have plenty of points. See the chart below for options.

Transfer from

Rewards Program Amex Transfer TimeChase Transfer TimeCiti Transfer TimeMarriott Transfer TimeCapital One Transfer Time
Emirates SkywardsInstantInstantInstant~3 daysInstant

Etihad First Class

The bad news is that Etihad is no longer flying the A380 with the famed first class “apartments”. The good news is that their non-apartments first class (pictured above) is still very nice.

Miles required: from 80K one way

Etihad was once famed for its first class “apartments”. Greg enjoyed that incredible first class experience during our 40K to Far Away challenge.

Etihad Guest Sweet Spots

Unfortunately, Etihad is no longer flying the A380. While that is somewhat disappointing, you can find comfort in the fact that my lone experience with Etihad first class was not in the apartments and still was among the most comfortable flying experiences I’ve had (pictured above). Etihad could certainly be a great way to get to the Maldives using miles.

Keep in mind though that although you can fly first class from the US to Abu Dhabi, the flight onward to the Maldives will only have economy and business class. That means a long 14 or 15 hour flight in first class and then business class on the 4 or 5 hour hop to the Maldives from Abu Dhabi. Note that one frustrating thing is that you will pay the full first class price as though the entire journey were in first class.

Your options for booking Etihad first to the Maldives include (and note that none of these airlines pass along fuel surcharges):

  • American AAdvantage: 115K miles one way. Note that through November 13, 2021 you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to AA with the Citi Premier or Prestige card.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 130K miles one way. Remember that Aeroplan allows you to add a stopover to a one-way for 5K miles, so for 135K you could add a stopover in Abu Dhabi. Aeroplan is an Amex transfer partner, Chase transfer partner, and Capital One transfer partner.
  • Asiana: 80K miles one way. This is a stellar deal, but unfortunately Asiana miles are difficult to collect. You can transfer from Marriott Bonvoy, but this would require a lot of Marriott points. Asiana also has a credit card and it earns 2x at grocery stores, so that could be a good way to accumulate the miles you need (keep in mind though that you’ll need to call Asiana to book; YMMV as to the difficulty involved in that).

Transfer from

Rewards Program Amex Transfer TimeChase Transfer TimeCiti Transfer TimeMarriott Transfer TimeCapital One Transfer Time
Air Canada AeroplanInstantInstant4 to 5 daysInstant
American AAdvantage~2 days
Asiana~1 day

Qatar Qsuites

Qatar Qsuites look awesome. We originally had plans to fly them one way from Dubai to the Maldives but switched to the nonstop on Emirates instead.

Miles required: from 70K one way

Qatar Qsuites is widely regarded as one of the best business class products in the sky. Having flown ordinary regional Qatar business class, I can vouch for service and the lounge in Doha both being fantastic. This would be a great way to get to the Maldives using miles.

Ways to book it:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage: 70K miles one way. With no fuel surcharges, this would be an awesome way to book. Remember that Citi ThankYou points can transfer to American Airlines through November 13, 2021.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 90K miles one way. Unfortunately, you’ll pay about $500 in fuel surcharges one way. The good news is that Asia Miles are easy to come by since they are an Amex transfer partner, Citi transfer partner, Brex transfer partner, and Capital One transfer partner.

Transfer from

Rewards Program Amex Transfer TimeChase Transfer TimeCiti Transfer TimeMarriott Transfer TimeCapital One Transfer Time
American AAdvantage~2 days
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesInstantInstant~1 day4 to 5 days

Singapore Airlines first or business class

Even the “old” style Singapore suites are still terrific. “New” first class is even more amazing.

Miles required: from 153K in first class or 109K in business class

Singapore Airlines is well known for its fantastic service. They are also known for amazing premium-cabin products: whether the old A380 suites, the new incredible suites that include both a great seat and a bed, or the “simpler” first class seats on some of the west coast routes, you are in for a treat with the service that comes with being a passenger on a Singapore flight. And the business class is nice enough that on a walk through the cabin I wondered to myself whether it was even worth booking first class given how similar it was to the (non-suites) first class product.

The best way to book Singapore Airlines premium cabins is via Singapore Krisflyer itself. Singapore is known to make far more seats available to members of its own program, so Krisflyer gives you your best shot of finding availability.

Price depends on whether you’re departing the East or West Coast:

  • East Coast to the Maldives: 121K in business / 160K in first one way
  • West coast to the Maldives: 109K in business / 153K in first one way

Transfer from

Rewards Program Amex Transfer TimeChase Transfer TimeCiti Transfer TimeMarriott Transfer TimeCapital One Transfer Time
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerInstant~17 hours~1 day~1 day~7 hours

Lufthansa: Mixed-cabin award (first class & business class)

Fly Lufthansa First Class with no fuel surcharges and for less than sticker price.

Miles required: Fewer than 94K

Lufthansa has a strong reputation for its first class ground services in Frankfurt. It also has a reputation for being incredibly stingy with first class award availability. Historically, Lufthansa has only released first class award inventory to partners 14 days in advance of departure. There have been anecdotal reports of a 30-day window in recent times, but even still those first class award seats can be very difficult to find. When you do find it, you may get to the Maldives using miles for just slightly more than the cost of getting to Europe.

If you can find first class between the US and Germany, this could be an excellent value via Avianca LifeMiles. That’s because while you can fly first class on Lufthansa to Frankfurt (or maybe Munich?), they only operate a 2-cabin plane to the Maldives — you’ll only be able to get a mixed-cabin award partly in first class and partly in business class. That’s not necessarily bad news: unlike many programs, Avianca charges for mixed-cabin awards in a sort of pro-rated way. This is an oversimplification of a formula that nobody knows with precise certainty, but the basic idea is that they take the award price from A (your starting point) to C (your destination) and then calculate what percentage you flew in first class and charge you that percentage of the first class price from A to C and then determine what percentage of the distance you flew in business class and charge you that percentage of the business class price from A to C and add those two numbers together. Again, it’s not exactly that, but that’s as close to an explanation as you’ll get.

As an imperfect but related example, see this itinerary from New York (JFK) to Bangalore, India (BLR). New York to Frankfurt is in business class and Frankfurt to Bangalore is in first class.

Maldives using miles

Rather than get lost in the weeds with the math, what you need to know is that within that itinerary Avianca is charging 55K miles for the leg from Frankfurt to Bangalore as you see above (and the flights to Frankfurt in business class add up to about 39K miles). In this case, the distance flown from New York to Munich to Hamburg to Frankfurt represents about 50% of the total flight distance and the trip from Frankfurt to Bangalore makes up about 50% of the total flight distance. A one-way business class ticket from New York to Bangalore would cost 78K miles and a one-way first class ticket would cost 111K miles. Avianca arrives at the 94K price based on 50% of the 78K business class price (39K) + 50% of the 111K first class price (55K miles) for a grand total of 94K miles. The math doesn’t work out down to the mile here, but it’s a “close enough” approximation.

Back to the Maldives: a mixed-cabin itinerary from New York to Frankfurt in first class and Frankfurt to the Maldives in business class would actually mean that the business class leg is slightly further than the first class leg. That should make the award a bit cheaper than the Bangalore example above. The short story is that if you could get Avianca LifeMiles to price out a mixed-cabin first and business class ticket to the Maldives on Lufthansa, it would cost less than 94K miles. That’s particularly terrific when you consider the fact that a one-way first class ticket from New York to Frankfurt alone would cost 87K miles. Tag on the Maldives in business class for not much more!

Transfer from

Rewards Program Amex Transfer TimeChase Transfer TimeCiti Transfer TimeMarriott Transfer TimeCapital One Transfer Time
Avianca LifeMilesInstantInstant~1 dayInstant

Other business class options to consider

While not as luxurious as the options above, there are many other options for those who simply want to fly to the Maldives using miles to fly in business class lie-flat seats. Here are some of the best options in terms of quality of product and price.

  • Turkish Airlines. Known for their business class catering and lounge in Istanbul, this could be a good choice. Book via:
    • Miles & Smiles = 67.5K miles plus about $322 in taxes and fees one way
    • Avianca LifeMiles = 78K miles plus about $12 in taxes and fees one way
  • Lufthansa. Not known for being a great business class product, but lie-flat seats nonetheless. Book via:
    • Miles & Smiles = 67.5K miles plus high fuel surcharges
    • Avianca LifeMiles = 78K miles plus about $12 in taxes and fees one way (no surcharges)
  • Air France. Solid food, solid seat. While we weren’t “wow’ed” by Air France business class, it was certainly a comfortable experience. Note that Air France award pricing is variable. Book via:
    • Air France KLM Flying Blue: From 118.5K + $429 one way.

Bottom line

If part of the luxury of going to the Maldives is a luxurious flight to get there and back, there are a number of ways to make your 20 or 30 hours in transit as pleasurable as possible. I loved my stay at Le Meridien Maldives and I hope to get back there again, but after starting my sea plane journey from the resort at around 11pm Eastern time on Monday, I didn’t get back to my home airport until about 7:30pm Wednesday night (and only that early because I hustled to the gate to switch to an earlier flight rather than the one that originally would have put me in at about midnight Wednesday night). If I’m going to spend ~48 hours in transit again, you can bet it will be in one of the products in this post.

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BML

But I thought for your trip, you have a separate flight from Dubai to MLE, would be great if you cover what’s best way to get to MLE from Dubai as well on points. Also how much is the sea plane transfer to Le Meridian? Must be very expensive!

Jeff

yes this please! Flights from Dubai / Abu Dhabi <-> MLE are $1,000+ right now.
(the seaplane is ~$420 and no way around it, he talked about it on another update)

BML

Thanks Nick! Very helpful! Sitting together is priceless indeed!

GBSanDiego

Nicky ‘Mr. Maldives’ when r u going back again?

Mary

Thanks for this very relevant roundup of options. Back in June, I booked Business class flights on Singapore Airlines from SEA to MLE for February 2022. I have a 5-night package booked in the Maldives that *might* be date-changable, but the length of stay can’t change. Unfortunately I added on layovers of about 3 nights in Singapore on both ends, figuring that with vaccination, the pandemic would be pretty much over by then. :-{ We enjoy SIN so we were looking forward to the extra time there. Now I’m increasingly worried that SIN still will not be open to US residents in February, so I’m trying to book different flights to MLE. There is nothing on Singapore Airlines from the West coast that will work. I have lots of AA miles and I see plenty of flights on Qatar, but only in Coach. I’m being somewhat flexible on dates (anytime January-February) without even being sure I can move our package to new dates, and I’ve tried my home city (SEA) as well as SFO, LAX and all NYC airports. I’m starting to think that Qatar just isn’t releasing any Business class seats. Very frustrating!

Mary

Great suggestion — thanks, Nick!

WR2

I think CX using AS miles used to be the best way to MLE in F, but perhaps they haven’t resumed that service yet…if they ever will.

David

Great article – thanks! My wife and I are planning on a Maldives trip in January for our 30th anniversary – we have QSuites booked there, and Emirates F coming back. My question relates to the question you bring up in the first paragraph. Did you and Greg find that Covid restrictions affected the ENJOYMENT part of the journey? – i.e. are there so many service cutbacks on Qatar and Emirates that it affected your ability to enjoy the trip? We’re wondering if wearing a mask (which we support) for 14 hours on a plane might mean this trip might be more enjoyable to do a year or so later. Any perspectives would be appreciated – thanks 🙂

Cavedweller

David
Good post, I have the same idea But it maybe Delta ++++++++ by then. Then 24 hrs of travel not feeling well ..

MickiSue

We didn’t have as long a trip. But we went to and from VCE last month to see our daughter and her family. We found that wearing a surgical type mask was more comfortable than either cloth or N95. You can take it off, of course, to eat.

And I would loosen one ear loop, on the side I was lying, for sleep.

The worst part, honestly, was wearing a mask in the Lyft we took home. It was a hot and muggy night.

I doubt you’ll have that issue in January.

Sonny

I can confirm that the snack basket was still avail on my EK F flight from EWR-ATH a few weeks ago! Dom and Caviars were not listed on the menu but were avail upon request!

Gary

I am writing this from the Park Hyatt Maldives. We flew in on Qsuites IAD-DOH-MLE and will be flying out on Qsuites MLE-DOH-JFK. For me, the Covid restrictions definitely affected the enjoyment part of the journey. We had an 8 hour layover in DOH on the way to the Maldives and will have a 16 hour layover on the way back. I originally planned on using a FNC to stay at the Intercontinental Doha for the 16 hour layover, but cancelled because I didn’t want to have to pay $155 pp for a PCR test at the Park Hyatt. I’m not 100% positive, but I believe a PCR test is required to leave the DOH airport. If you don’t leave the airport all you need is the negative BinvaxNow/emed antigen test which are available (6 tests for $150). It is disappointing that I will be in Doha, but won’t be able to take advantage of some of the excellent hotel awards available there. If I had to do it over again, I would have booked a couple of nights at a hotel in Doha on the way back to the USA in order to experience Doha. Luckily, the Qatar Al Mourjan lounge at DOH is amazing. I have never experienced service like that available on the flight or in the lounges. The showers and sleeping/quiet areas available in the Al Mourjan will make the 16 hour layover bearable. Covid has made this the most stressful vacation I have ever been on, and I would not have done it if my wife didn’t have her heart set on going. The most stressful part is worrying about having to cancel within the 7 days prior to arrival or testing positive while you are at the resort. The policy for cancelling within 7 days prior to arrival is unbelievably bad: If you cancel, they give you your points back but they charge you the CASH RATE. For my 5 night stay at the Park Hyatt I would have gotten my 150000 points back, but I would have been charged ~$4000. On your journey to the Maldives it is very important that you do not get Covid. If you test positive while at the resort you are required to quarantine for 14 days, and you have to pay for the room and meals. If one person in your party tests positive but another does not, you need to pay for 2 rooms since you cannot be together. It is likely that the resort will give you a discount for the room and meals. Le Meridien gives a 30% off room discount and a 50% off meals discount, but the Park Hyatt would not tell me in advance what the discount would be here. Instead they said is would be at the discretion of the manager. Because of this, I didn’t really start to relax until yesterday (day 3 into our stay) when my wife and I got our negative BinaxNow test results back which will allow us to board the plane back to the USA. I hope this helps.

DSK

Great write-up Gary–thank you and I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip. We flew Q-Suites in 2019 and stayed at the Conrad Maldives, and it is unfortunate you will miss Doha. I arranged for a 20-hour layover on the way back and we stayed at the Marriott Marquis downtown (6-room suite and absolutely amazing lounge with gorgeous nighttime views of Doha for a pittance of Bonvoy points) for that reason. I have six trips booked domestic for the second half of 2021 and four international trips booked for the first half of 2022, and I am definitely concerned about the international trips for all of the reasons you mentioned. Remember to take the pillows from your flight home if you can (flight attendants encouraged us to do so)–we have three with different inspirational sayings, and I stare at them every day!

Gary

Thanks. I will definitely take the pillows from my next flights. They will come in handy at the Al Mourjan.

Sophia

Thanks for this post!

THEsocalledfan

Nick,

I booked Qsuites with Qatar directly using Qatar Privilege Club miles from Chicago for 85K one way, plus about $130 in taxes and fees. I transferred from Citi; that is a very good option you missed.

Last edited 1 year ago by THEsocalledfan
THEsocalledfan

I booked before they allowed AA transfers……but, if they go away, ends up being a great way to use Citi to get there. Learned that one from Gary Leff.

Kirby

Curious if you have issues getting into the lounge with an R fare award ticket.

THEsocalledfan

I am not aware of this issue (not an expert at all!). Can you expound on this further?

Kirby

Qatar created an unbundled Business fare (R class) last fall that doesn’t include seat selection or lounge access. Their lowest cost awards (Classic) book into the R fare bucket. Qatar says that award tickets still get seat selection and lounge access, but there have been folks denied lounge access erroneously. I would assume this would not be an issue in Doha.

THEsocalledfan

I checked my ticket, and it is in U class. I would think I’ll be okay?