Searching for Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards [JAL, Copa, and Qantas awards devalued]

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UPDATE 2/1/2021: Emirates has stealthily eliminated most of their partner sweet spot awards.  The award charts for flying JAL and Copa, for example, have changed to distance based award charts.  And the distance based award chart for flying Qantas has changed from a good one to a bad one.  As a result, using Emirates miles to fly these airlines is no longer a good deal.  The best remaining option for partner awards appears to be to use Emirates miles to fly Korean Air. Hat Tip: Matt from Frequent Miler Insiders on Facebook.
Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
Korean Air is the last great (or at least pretty good) sweet spot when using Emirates miles to fly partners.

Emirates’ loyalty program, Skywards, has quietly become one of the promiscuous around now that they partner with Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, Amex, and Marriott (see our Transfer Partner Master List).  This makes their miles easy to get since you can transfer to them from almost anywhere.

In addition to the many ways one can get miles, there are many ways to spend Emirates Skywards miles.  You can, of course, spend miles to fly Emirates and, at times, you can get great value for your miles in that way.

Another decent use of Emirates’ miles is to use them to upgrade paid flights.  They don’t have a published upgrade chart, so you have to put in your flight details to see the cost to upgrade.  One Mile at a Time covered the value of this option here.

One thing I haven’t read much about in other people’s posts, is whether there is value in using Emirates miles to book partner airline awards.  Emirates has quite a few airline partners, and they have a different award chart for each one.  It seemed to me likely that there would be a few diamonds in the Emirates’ rough.  So, I dug into each and every partner award chart…

Below you’ll find each of Emirates’ partner award charts along with my notes about each one.  I plan to follow up later with a look at each of Emirates’ non-airline partners.  For example, it’s possible to book certain Marriott hotels with Emirates miles, but is it a good idea? (hint: no).

Emirates Partner Sweet Spot Awards Overview

I managed to find a few exciting Emirates partner sweet spot awards in the Emirates’ partner award charts:

  • Fly Japan Airlines (JAL) round trip business class from North America to Australia for only 145,000 miles!
  • Fly Korean Air round trip business class from North America to South Korea for only 105,000 miles!
  • Fly Korean Air within Korea round-trip for only 10K miles economy or 12K miles business class

And a few that are not necessarily exciting, but worth keeping in mind:

  • Hop around Central America for 5,000 miles one-way on Copa
  • Hop around Brazil for 4,500 miles one-way on GOL
  • Use the old Qantas award chart to fly short distance Qantas flights for as few as 8,000 miles one-way in economy

Emirates allows a free stopover on JAL round-trip awards.  A great trip would involve flying JAL business class to Japan, stop to enjoy Tokyo, then fly onward to Sydney for 145K miles round-trip.  I don’t know how much the fuel surcharges would be, but they’re usually modest with Japanese carriers.

Partner Airlines

Air Mauritius

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards

Not bad, but nothing too exciting here.  Other Star Alliance airlines have similarly priced or better priced awards.

Alaska

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards

If you want to fly Alaska Airlines economy, consider transferring points to Singapore Airlines.  Emirates might offer competitive pricing for business class, though, if you don’t have access to American Airlines miles.

Copa

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
Find the full award chart here.

It used to be possible to hop around Central America for 5,000 miles one-way, but with the latest chart, 8,000 miles one-way is the cheapest option you’ll find.

Easy Jet

GOL

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
The complete chart can be found here

It’s hard to beat 4,500 miles for one-way flights.  Use Emirates miles to fly GOL around Brazil for next to nothing.

Japan Airlines (JAL)

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

Before Emirates switched to the distance based award chart, above, it was possible to spend only 145,000 miles for JAL business class round-trip from the US to Sydney Australia.  Another sweet spot was 125K round trip business class from the US to much of Asia.  Today, prices would be far higher.

JetBlue

Award prices for flying JetBlue are for economy only (no Mint class awards are available).  Prices are tied to specific city pairs.  For example, JFK to MVY (Martha’s Vineyard) costs only 7,500 points one-way.  Prices on that route are often $75 one-way, so this would be poor value for your miles (only 1 cent per point value).  However, sometimes prices are much higher and so this could be a great deal.  The problem is that it’s unclear if it would be possible to book JetBlue flights with Emirates miles in those cases.

Overall, my guess is that there’s not much value here, but it would require testing out examples where the flights are expensive and the miles cheap to see if those flights are bookable.

Jetstar

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

Jetstar is an Australian low cost airline headquartered in Melbourne.  Emirates’ Jetstar award chart shows a huge number of Jetstar flights starting at 7K one-way.  There are also many that cost more.  It’s unclear to me if any of these offer good value.  The few I spot-checked were decidedly poor value.  For example, I looked at a random date for flying from Auckland to Wellington and found that Jetstar charges just $38 one-way.  7,000 miles would give you barely over half a cent per mile value.

Korean Air

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

Prices shown above are round-trip.  It looks like Korean Air awards booked with Emirates miles are required to be round trip.  The column labelled “Prestige” is Korean Air’s business class.  Emirates does not appear to allow booking first class on Korean Air.

Emirates doesn’t list Korean Air award prices from North America in a single section so I’ve listed the relevant prices here:

Between North America* and… Economy Round Trip Prestige (Business Class) Round Trip
Korea 70,000 105,000
Southeast Asia** 85,000 125,000
Southwest Asia (Mumbai, Kathmandu, Tashkent, Colombo, Male) 95,000 140,000
Oceania (Auckland, Brisbane, Nadi, Sydney) 110,000 165,000

* North America includes the following cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington DC

** Southeast Asia includes: Bangkok, Cambodia, Cebu, Chiang Mai, Da Nang, Denpasar, Guam, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Koror, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Nha Trang, Penang, Phuket, Siem Reap, Singapore, Yangon

Business class award prices from/to North America are quite reasonable.  The standout award, in my opinion, is 105K round-trip business class from North America to Korea.  125K round trip business class to southeast Asia is excellent too.  Another great option is the ability to fly round-trip within Korea for 12K miles in business class (or 10K economy).

Malaysia Airlines

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

The Emirates award chart for flying Malaysia includes specific pricing for many different city pairs with pricing starting at 8K miles one-way.  Whether or not there are good values to be had depends upon the paid pricing for these flights.  My guess is that the value here is poor, but I haven’t researched this one beyond looking at the award chart.

Qantas

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

Short distance economy Qantas flights used to be a good deal with Emirates points.  But now, with the new award chart shown above, it’s hard to find good value.

S7 Airlines

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards

Award prices for flying S7 begin at 7,500 miles one-way.  Whether or not there are good values to be had depends upon the paid pricing for these flights.  My guess is that the value here is poor, but I haven’t researched this one beyond looking at the award chart.

South African Airways

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards

Prices shown above are round-trip.  It looks like South Africa Airways flights booked with Emirates miles are required to be round trip.

The award prices here are way too high.

TAP Portugal

Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards
View the full award chart here

I believe the above prices are for round-trip travel, but the award chart doesn’t specify one way or another.  If the prices are round-trip, then they are too high.  If the prices are one-way, then they are way, way too high.  Nothing to see here.

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