Dubai’s history is staggering.
Once you make your way past the skyscrapers, you’ll discover a rich Emirati culture, deep culinary arts scene, and no sign of tourism slowing down. Home to the tallest freestanding building in the world and one of the global business hubs in the Middle East, Dubai is a must-visit for all travelers.
Delivering a record 16 million overnight visitors, Dubai’s tourism economy shows absolutely no signs of slowing down at all. Plus, it’s the home country of Emirates Airlines.
To many, Emirates Airlines represents an inauguration into the luxury travelers’ club. To others, it’s simply one of the most opulent experiences one can have.
Seeing as how some flights to Dubai are among the longest in the world, it can actually be pretty difficult to find nonstop flights there. In fact, Emirates is the only airline that offers nonstop flights from the U.S. to Dubai. You can also fly to Dubai on Air Canada from Toronto.
To put it simply, Emirates is far and away superior to almost any other airline. It’s important to note, however, that not all seats are the same.
In this post, I’ll cover the best programs to use for all cabin classes, including the planes that Emirates uses at each airport. I’ll also share a few ideas to construct an awesome itinerary featuring stopovers/open-jaws with a few additional miles!
This guide will be comprehensive, diving into all the best programs for flying to Dubai. The first programs we will look into are the most attractive, and the later programs will offer some alternatives to those.
Table of Contents
Best Programs to Use to Book Flights
When flying from North America, you essentially have 2 options if you want to fly directly to Dubai. In fact, the only airline offering direct flights to Dubai from the U.S. is Emirates. In Canada, you can pick either Air Canada or Emirates from Toronto-Pearson International Airport.
Booking Emirates is a little more complicated for a couple of reasons.
First, the cost of booking this amazing product is a lot higher than it once was, so it’ll cost you more miles to fly.
Second, Emirates operates 3 different planes on flights to North America:
- Airbus A380-800
- Boeing 777-300ER
- Boeing 777-200LR
Until recently, the A380 had the best first class product on Emirates Airlines — but with the new and improved First Class Suites on the 777-300ER, we may need to reconsider that.
Emirates’ business class on all 777s used to not even be lie-flat! Fortunately, this is not the case anymore, as Emirates will be retrofitting the new business class seats “soon.”
Even so, the new business class configuration is 2-3-2, meaning that although you’ll be able to enjoy lie-flat seats, you might be stuck between 2 others in a middle seat. Therefore, I would suggest you try to fly on an A380 if you like business class.
Below, you can see which airports fly which aircraft into Dubai.
|Airports Flying the Emirates A380 to Dubai|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||New York City (JFK)|
|San Francisco (SFO)||Washington D.C. (IAD)|
|Toronto (YYZ)||Houston (IAH)|
|Airport Flying the New Emirates 777-200LR to Dubai|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL)|
|Airports Flying the Old Emirates 777-300ER to Dubai|
|Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)||Seattle (SEA)|
|Orlando (MCO)||Newark (EWR)|
|Boston (BOS)||Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)|
Another thing to note is that if you fly from Fort Lauderdale, it would be best to examine the seat map before booking the flight. This is because not all flights from Fort Lauderdale operate the new Emirates 777-200LR. Some of them still feature the old, angled-flat seats. You can do some investigating through ExpertFlyer.
Emirates doesn’t have a regular schedule for releasing award space to their partners. Though they are an exceedingly popular award flight option, the prices for booking awards are now significantly higher than in the past…so it’s not as popular as it used to be.
Still, you’ll still want to be as flexible as you can when booking — building flexibility into your trip to Dubai will make finding award space significantly easier.
Also, remember to take into account the transfer time of your travel rewards cards points if you are transferring from flexible point programs. It would be a shame to miss an award because you hadn’t transferred your miles yet!
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
When booking Emirates first class, Japan Airlines is probably the go-to method for many travelers. Or at least it was…until they decided to bump surcharges up to ~$1,700 for flights departing from the U.S.
Since Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart, the prices of awards will vary. However, the 2 distance brackets we’ll be looking at for one-way travel are the 6,001-8,000 and 8,001-10,000 mile brackets.
Japan Airlines miles will also be heavily devalued on November 20, 2018. If you’re sitting on lots of Marriott points or JAL miles, now might be the best time to redeem them for Emirates first or business class.
For one-way flights, you’ll currently see rates ranging from 39,000-40,000 miles in economy, 63,000-65,000 miles in business, and 100,000-105,000 miles in first class.
Starting on November 20, 2018, one-way prices will jump up to 45,000-47,000 miles in economy, 80,000-85,000 in business, and 120,000-135,000 miles in first class.
Keep in mind that these are one-way prices, not round-trip.
For round-trip flights, award prices currently range from 55,000-60,000 miles in economy, 85,000-100,000 miles in business, and 135,000-155,000 miles in first class.
Starting on November 20, 2018, round-trip prices will jump to 55,000-70,000 miles in economy, 110,000-130,000 in business, and 165,000-190,000 miles in first class.
The chart below summarizes the prices above, including the upcoming devaluation:
Hot Tip: Japan Airlines’ award routing rules allow up to 7 stopovers! Even with some great value available from Emirates, you can get even better value: take advantage of their distance-based award chart and generous routing rules for multi-segmented routes that can exceed $100,000 in value.
The following is a summary of the routing rules on Japan Airlines partners. Award tickets on partner airlines are distance-based according to this chart.
The following rules apply to award tickets on partner flights:
- Using Japan Airlines and another partner airline will require the partner award chart, not the Japan Airlines award chart. This is important, as Japan Airlines prices partner flights at a higher price.
- You can fly one-way.
- For round-trip bookings, your point of origin and returning point may be different as long as they’re in the same country. (Think flying from Los Angeles and returning to New York City.)
- You can’t back-track through your point or country of origin to fly to your destination. For example, you can’t fly from New York to Miami and back to New York before going on to Dubai.
- When flying mixed cabins in a round-trip itinerary, the higher class mileage cost will apply.
- You can have at most 6 sectors and 1 open jaw, with 3 stopovers maximum. Basically, this means you can visit 3 cities through a maximum of 6 flights.
- “One city” can be included 3 times at maximum for the whole itinerary, however, stopover at “one city” is permitted only once in the whole itinerary. This means you can transit a city 3 times, but only stopover once.
- A surface sector (open-jaw) is counted as a stopover for booking purposes. This means that it will count against your total sector count.
- Open jaws are calculated in the same distance-based method as all other segments.
You can book flights on Japan Airlines online by following the steps below:
- Go to the Japan Airlines website
- Log into your JAL Mileage Bank account
- Select JAL International Award Ticket Reservation
- Select round-trip or one-way
- Select your desired Area of Departure and Area of Arrival
- Select your travel dates, departure and destination airports, and class
- Select Designate Date if your travel must be on the specific dates you have selected, or Award Reservation Calendar if you have flexible travel dates
- Click Next
- If you selected Designate Date, you’ll be taken directly to your flight options
- Make sure the flights you select have seats available and do not require waitlisting.
- If you selected Award Reservation Calendar, you will see 7 dates for your departure and 7 dates for your return. Select the dates and you will be taken to your flight options for those dates.
- Confirm the Mileage Bank miles and taxes/fees required
- Select your desired flights and hit Next (assign seat now) so you can select your seat and complete the booking process
When you select your flights, make sure there is actual availability, since Japan Airlines will also list flights you can be waitlisted for.
Unfortunately, surcharges can be sky high at ~$1,700 if you’re departing from the U.S. Still, this is the best way I’d suggest to fly to Dubai.
You can now search for Emirates availability directly on the JAL website:
- Go to JAL’s website
- Search for your desired route and flight
- Pay the taxes/fees and complete your booking
If you’re planning an Emirates first class trip, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank will likely cost you the fewest miles. Make sure you give them a look!
Don’t forget to check out other amazing redemptions with the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program.
Here are some example routes you can book:
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 190,000 JAL miles and $1,716 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 Suites. One-way costs 135,000 JAL miles.
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 130,000 JAL miles and $1,716 in taxes and fees to fly Emirates’ lie-flat Business Class on the new 777. One-way costs 80,000 JAL miles.
- Toronto (YYZ) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 165,000 JAL miles and $1,145 in taxes and fees to fly Emirates First Class A380 Suites. Round-trip in business class costs 110,000 JAL miles and $1,145 in taxes and fees.
Earning Japan Airlines Miles
Japan Airlines is a transfer partner with Marriott. Keep in mind that for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to Japan Airlines, you will get 25,000 JAL miles, which is a 5,000-mile bonus to the usual 3:1 ratio.
Earn Marriott points with these cards:
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Card - earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.|
|Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points (terms apply). A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.|
Hot Tip: Need help booking? See our step-by-step guide for booking Emirates first class. If first class isn’t your style but you still want a ritzy business class experience, check out our guide for booking Emirates business class.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines is the go-to rewards program of choice for many travelers and credit card holders. They have co-branded credit cards and are Marriott transfer partners. They are also partnered with several luxury airline brands, one of which is Emirates.
One distinct advantage of Alaska Airlines is the ability to add a stopover or open-jaw on one-way flights. Another advantage is that there are no fuel surcharges imposed, which can save you a bundle (especially when they can run upwards of $1,700!).
Until Alaska Airlines massively devalued their Emirates award chart in early 2016, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan was the go-to method for booking first class awards on Emirates.
Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines now charges a ton of miles to book an Emirates first class ticket. Remember, however, that you’ll be saving a bunch of money on fuel surcharges!
|Cabin Class||Alaska Miles Cost (One-Way)||Taxes & Fees|
Not only are these award prices much more expensive than using Japan Airlines’ Mileage Bank program, but your point of origin or destination must be in the U.S.
If you have a ton of Alaska miles sitting around, here’s how you can book an Emirates first class ticket:
- Go to Alaska’s website
- Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”)
- Select your desired flight and “Add To Cart”
- Log in to your Alaska Mileage Plan account
- Pay the necessary taxes/fees and complete your Emirates booking
While Alaska Airlines might not be the go-to program for Emirates awards bookings anymore, Mileage Plan still provides some other amazing redemption options.
Hot Tip: The real value of Alaska Miles for Emirates flights is in booking a stopover on one-way award tickets. After you’re finished seeing Dubai, you could work toward somewhere else in the eastern hemisphere, like Australia or Asia.
For example, if you wanted to fly to Auckland, NZ via Dubai, you’d pay 65,000 miles in economy, 120,000 in business, or 225,000 in first class! This is not a bad deal at all, considering you’re only adding 75,000 Alaska miles for first class, 37,500 Alaska miles for business class, or 22,500 Alaska miles for economy on one of the world’s longest airline routes!
Another sweet spot is flying to Asia via Dubai. You’d only shell out an additional 10,000 miles in economy, 22,500 miles in business, or 30,000 miles in first to fly another 7-8 hours to Asia!
Regardless of your routing, your out-of-pocket cost will be at an absolute minimum in this case, ranging from $20-$50.
Here are some great example routes:
- San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Auckland (AKL) one-way for 225,000 Alaska miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 Suites the entire way! Business class will cost 120,000 miles.
- New York City (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) one-way for 180,000 Alaska miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 Suites the entire way! Business class will cost 172,500 miles.
- Washington D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) one-way for 150,000 Alaska Miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 Suites. Business class will cost 82,500 miles and $20 in taxes and fees one-way.
Earning Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
Alaska miles can be earned by signing up for their co-branded credit cards offered by Bank of America, but the main drawback is the limited transfer partners. You could also transfer hotel points from Marriott.
However, you can also purchase Alaska miles if you have a specific redemption in mind. The limit per transaction/purchase is 60,000 miles; in practice, you can have as many transactions as you want, making Alaska miles purchases “uncapped.”
Alaska Airlines often offers discounts of up to 40% on purchased miles, so be sure to consider buying miles when these large promotions are offered.
Korean Air (KAL) SKYPASS
Korean Air SKYPASS is another valuable program worth looking into. It is no longer a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, but it is still a Marriott transfer partner.
Korean Air offers more competitive fares than Alaska Airlines for round-trip tickets. Korean Air doesn’t allow one-way award bookings on Emirates, so you’ll have to book round-trip.
You’ll be on the hook for all fuel surcharges, which means you can pay up to $1,700 in taxes and fees.
Korean Air is like a combination of Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines: The redemption rates are between JAL’s and Alaska’s, and 1 stopover is allowed.
Check out the chart below to get an idea of the award prices on Emirates via Korean Air:
|Cabin Class||Korean Air Miles Cost (Roundtrip)||Taxes & Fees|
The 1 stopover allowance wouldn’t be very useful in this case, unless you intended on flying an Emirates fifth freedom route, such as the one from New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP).
Follow the same steps as in the Alaska Airlines section above to book Emirates via Korean Air SKYPASS. The only exception is you’ll have to call Korean Air to book.
- Go to Alaska’s website
- Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”)
- Note the flight number, date, and time
- Join SKYPASS
- Call SKYPASS at (800) 438-5000
- Complete the SKYPASS bonus redemption and family registration forms
- Ticket the reservation
Here are some great redemptions:
- New York City (JFK) – Milan (MXP) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 210,000 Korean Air miles and $1,716 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 Suites. Business class will cost 140,000 miles round-trip. You are allowed a stop-over in Milan.
- New York City (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 210,000 Korean Air miles and $1,716 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates First Class A380 suites. Business class will cost 140,000 miles round-trip.
Earning Korean Air SKYPASS Miles
Marriott-earning credit cards are a great way to boost your balance of Korean Air miles; on top of this, the generous sign-up bonuses that are offered on Marriott credit cards make it a no-brainer!
If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive 20,000 Korean Air miles plus 5,000 bonus miles!
Emirates Skywards Mileage Program
Oddly enough, the Emirates Skywards Mileage Program wouldn’t be the first option for many travelers. The price of awards are high, and you’re also responsible for fuel surcharges, which (as we discussed earlier) can be upwards of $1,700!
The only reason you’d want to use this program is for the ground service: the only way you can enter the Emirates First or Business class lounge and be chauffeured around is by booking with Emirates’ own frequent flyer program.
Emirates charges the following amounts for flights departing North America to Dubai:
|Cabin Class||Emirates Skywards Miles Cost (Round-trip)||Taxes & Fees|
You can book Emirates awards completely online. Follow these steps to book your Emirates flight:
- Go to Emirates’ website
- Log into your Emirates Skywards account
- On the top banner, click Loyalty and click Spend Miles.
- Scroll down and press Book Classic Rewards Now
- Click Classic Rewards
- Select your travel dates, departure and arrival airports, quantity, and class
- Run the search and book the Classic Rewards flight
Earning Emirates Skywards Miles
Emirates Skywards is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott.
Utilizing the Emirates award program is easier, because Emirates partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott. If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels, then you may also find transfer value with their hotel points.
Amex points transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.
Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)
|The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $1,500+ in value from the card every year. |
Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
|American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). |
With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.
Recommended Amex Cards (Business)
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Even though this card carries a hefty annual fee, we get ~$1,250+ in value per year by leveraging as many of the benefits/perks card. |
Get access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide, $200 in airline fee credits for incidentals (e.g. baggage fees) and a lot more. Also, earn a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points (terms apply). For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
|American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.|
|The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a real simple card that earns you 2x points on business purchases up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). There's no annual fee. For rates and fees of The Blue Business Plus, click here.|
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
If you’ve traveled on Emirates Airlines and feel like trying something new to Dubai, look no further than Air Canada.
Seeing as the only other option departing from North America besides Emirates would be Air Canada’s 787 Dreamliner business class, we’ve pretty much exhausted our options here.
Nevertheless, flying this Star Alliance partner is a great alternative option, especially if your home airport is in Canada or you don’t feel like sitting in a middle seat aboard Emirates’ new 777-300ER in business class.
Keep in mind that Air Canada only flies nonstop to Dubai 5 days out of the week, so you’ll have to plan for that in advance.
You can utilize ANA to book some of the best redemptions on Air Canada. Oddly enough, Air Canada’s loyalty program (known as Aeroplan) isn’t exactly the best way to redeem in this case. It’ll cost you more miles than ANA, and you’ll need to pay fuel surcharges in excess of $200-$300!
ANA offers some of the best round-trip redemptions in the business. Keep in mind that ANA only allows round-trip bookings, so one-ways are not an option here.
Hot Tip: ANA offers 1 free stopover AND 1 open-jaw, OR 2 open-jaws on round-trip award bookings. If Dubai isn’t your final destination, you could work in a number of routes using this routing rule.
If you don’t mind flying round-trip, ANA will definitely provide the most bang for your buck.
To fly round-trip to Dubai on Air Canada will cost 65,000 miles in economy and 104,000 miles in business. Even better, ANA does not pass on Air Canada’s fuel surcharges!
The round-trip prices are summarized in the following table:
|Cabin Class||ANA Miles Cost (Round-trip)||Taxes & Fees|
|Business (Signature Class)||104,000||~$50-$100|
Book Awards With ANA
You can use United or Aeroplan to search for award space here. In fact, though Air Canada is a Star Alliance partner, it’s best to use these websites to search any Star Alliance flights.
United Airlines is probably the easiest to use, but less accurate than Aeroplan. United Airlines can show phantom award space (award seats that aren’t actually bookable). Aeroplan doesn’t struggle with this, but connecting flights can cause Aeroplan to error out sometimes.
Personally, I’d start by using United Airlines and confirm with Aeroplan.
Once you’ve found availability on Aeroplan or United, go to ANA’s website to confirm availability and book completely online through ANA Mileage Club.
Here’s a route suggestion (the only nonstop route from Canada to Dubai):
- Toronto (YYZ) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-tripfor 104,000 miles and $74 in taxes and fees on Air Canada Business Class
Earning ANA Miles
ANA partners with Amex Membership Rewards, and Membership Rewards points transfer to ANA at a 1:1 ratio.
Avianca Vuela (AV) LifeMiles
The last method I want to cover in-depth is LifeMiles, the loyalty program of Avianca Vuela. In November 2017, Citi added Avianca Vuela as a transfer partner, which is the main reason I want to add this to our list.
Citi ThankYou is the least-discussed transferrable points system, but we should give ThankYou Points some love! Those who have a stockpile of Citi ThankYou points or spend a lot on ThankYou points-earning credit cards might want to consider this last method for flying to Dubai.
Since Avianca Vuela is a Star Alliance partner, you’d be flying on Air Canada with this booking.
It is typically difficult to earn substantial ThankYou points from Citi through sign-up bonuses due to their 24-month restriction.
One advantage, however, is that you can purchase LifeMiles! In fact, it’s often easier to just buy the miles and book with them. This method, however, does involve spending more than $1,000 on miles, so I would not suggest it unless you have a specific redemption in mind.
Here’s the award chart for the flights we’re looking at:
|Cabin Class||Avianca Vuela LifeMiles Cost||Fees|
Hot Tip: Like ANA, LifeMiles does not pass on any fuel surcharges for this route!
To book, follow these steps:
- Visit the Avianca Vuela website
- Click on “LifeMiles” in the bottom right corner of Avianca’s homepage
- Once you’re on the LifeMiles page, hover over “Use” and click on “Airlines”
- Enter your desired destination and travel dates and hit “continue.” The next screen shows availability and costs for those dates, as well as for 2 days before and after
- Select your flight
Earning Avianca Vuela LifeMiles
As discussed above, LifeMiles is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points.
You can also earn LifeMiles miles by applying for the Banco Popular co-branded card. There aren’t many other ways to snag lots of LifeMiles besides sign-up bonuses on credit cards.
If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels, then you could possibly top off your balance with their hotel points. However, this isn’t recommended, as there are better uses for Marriott points.
The last resort would be to buy LifeMiles. They often have sales providing up to a 150% bonus, so be sure to take advantage of that.
Other Options to Fly to Dubai
Although there are only 2 airlines you can fly to go to Dubai, there are many different ways to book these flights using various loyalty programs.
You can look into Singapore Airlines, Air Canada Aeroplan, Qantas, or Malaysian Airlines as well. These airlines don’t offer the most competitive redemption rates, but they’re technically still options.
Now that we’ve looked at all the best ways to fly to Dubai from North America, let’s recap what we learned.
There are 2 airlines offering flights from North America to Dubai:
- Air Canada (Toronto)
- Emirates (U.S. and Toronto)
To book Emirates, I’d first look at Japan Airlines, but beware of surcharges when booking. Japan Airlines Mileage Plan will be devalued starting November 20, 2018, so book your Emirates travel soon on JAL.
Alaska Airlines minimizes your out-of-pocket cost, but it does require more miles. Chase cardholders might find Korean Air to be their best option, since Korean Air is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Lastly, I’d look to Emirates if you want to experience the lounge and chauffeur service and have lots of American Express Membership Rewards or Marriott points.
To book Air Canada, I’d examine ANA very closely. If you don’t have enough Amex or Marriott points but have a lot of Citi ThankYou points, you can also check out Avianca Vuela, a Citi transfer partner.
Flying Emirates is basically a requirement to be inducted into the luxury flyer club. They’ve got a glamorous, over-the-top experience that everybody should try at least once!
If you’ve done it before, you can then try Air Canada for a solid executive-like experience. Plus, you’ll get a chance to try the all-new Air Canada business class lounge in Toronto!
Bottom line, there’s a lot of value to be had when flying to Dubai, especially when you choose to fly there using points and miles.