The Best Ways to Fly to Dubai with Points and Miles [Step-by-Step]

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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.

When flying first class, you’d do fantastic to fly either the A380 or 777-300ER. In business class, you’d prefer either the A380 or 777-200ER. Economy’s most spacious cabin is aboard the A380.

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.

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, Emirates first class is one of the most luxurious experiences you can have in the sky, and it has a mileage price tag to reflect that.

Second, Emirates operates 3 different planes on flights to North America:

  1. Airbus A380-800
  2. Boeing 777-300ER
  3. 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)
Boston (BOS) sometimes

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) sometimesDallas-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

Emirates First Class A380 Seat
Enjoy a luxurious Emirates first class suite when flying to Dubai aboard the Airbus A380. Image courtesy of Alex Miller / UpgradedPoints.com.

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.

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 pay rates ranging from 45,000-47,000 miles in economy, 80,000-85,000 miles 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 range from 55,000-70,000 miles in economy, 110,000-130,000 miles in business, and 165,000-190,000 miles in first class.

The chart below summarizes the prices above:

Japan Airlines Partner Award Chart
Japan Airlines employs a distance-based award chart. Image Credit: jal.co.jp.

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 partnersAward 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:

  1. Go to the Japan Airlines website
  2. Log into your JAL Mileage Bank account
  3. Select JAL International Award Ticket Reservation
  4. Select round-trip or one-way
  5. Select your desired Area of Departure and Area of Arrival
  6. Select your travel dates, departure and destination airports, and class
  7. 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
  8. Click Next
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Confirm the Mileage Bank miles and taxes/fees required
  12. 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:

  1. Go to JAL’s website
  2. Search for your desired route and flight
  3. 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. 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™ Credit Card - for a limited time, earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 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 when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. 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

Emirates A380 Business Class Middle Row Companion Seats
Emirates A380 Business Class. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

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 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 on Emirates, 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 ClassAlaska Miles Cost (One-Way)Taxes & Fees
Economy42,500~$20-$50
Business82,500~$20-$50
First150,000~$20-$50

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:

  1. Go to Alaska’s website
  2. Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”)
  3. Select your desired flight and “Add To Cart”
  4. Log in to your Alaska Mileage Plan account
  5. 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 50% on purchased miles, so be sure to consider buying miles when these large promotions are offered.

Korean Air (KAL) SKYPASS

Emirates New 777-300ER First Class Suites
Emirates New 777-300ER First Class Suites. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Korean Air SKYPASS is another valuable program worth looking into.

The Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner 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 ClassKorean Air Miles Cost (Roundtrip)Taxes & Fees
Economy70,000~$500-$1,700
Business140,000~$500-$1,700
First210,000~$500-$1,700

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.

  1. Go to Alaska’s website
  2. Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”)
  3. Note the flight number, date, and time
  4. Join SKYPASS
  5. Call SKYPASS at (800) 438-5000
  6. Complete the SKYPASS bonus redemption and family registration forms
  7. 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

You can earn Korean Air miles by transferring Marriott points.

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

Emirates First Class Lounge
Emirates award bookings made via Skywards or Qantas will be eligible to enjoy lounge access and chauffeur services! Image Credit: Shutterstock

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!

Emirates Skywards enjoys the most transfer partnerships of any Emirates booking method; that is, they are partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Emirates charges the following amounts for flights departing North America to Dubai:

Cabin ClassEmirates Skywards Miles Cost (Round-trip)Taxes & Fees
Economy72,500-82,500~$500-$1,700
Business145,000-165,000~$500-$1,700
First217,500-247,500~$500-$1,700

Hot Tip: One way award flights cost more than half of a round trip flight. However, these bookings are typically Flex Plus bookings, which allows up to 2 complimentary stopovers, so it might still be worth it to leverage one way award bookings in lieu of round trips. 

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Johannesburg (JNB) round-trip in Emirates First Class for 300,000 miles + $1,750 in taxes and fees with one stopover in Dubai
  • Auckland (AKL) – Dubai (DXB) – Milan (MXP) – New York City (JFK) one-way in Emirates Business Class for 178,750 miles + $70 in taxes and fees with 2 stopovers in Milan and Dubai
  • Newark (EWR) – Athens (ATH) – Dubai (DXB) – Male (MLE) one-way in Emirates First Class for 160,000 miles + $500 in taxes and fees with 2 stopovers in Athens and Dubai

You can book Emirates awards completely online. Follow these steps to book your Emirates flight:

  1. Go to Emirates’ website
  2. Log into your Emirates Skywards account
  3. On the top banner, click Loyalty and click Spend Miles. 
  4. Scroll down and press Book Classic Rewards Now
  5. Click Classic Rewards
  6. Select your travel dates, departure and arrival airports, quantity, and class
  7. Run the search and book the Classic Rewards flight

Earning Emirates Skywards Miles

Emirates Skywards is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One 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.

Amex has a number of personal and business cards to choose from that earn Membership Rewards points, making it easy to accumulate the points necessary for a booking.

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 $2,700+ 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). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 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 - Right now, there's a HUGE welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 after you spend an additional $15,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks. This excludes getting one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork, up to $2,700 in value.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. 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 simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

Bottom Line: Because of Emirates’ transfer partner relationships, using Skywards miles is getting more and more attractive. You’ll be on the hook for fuel surcharges, but the ability to add 2 stopovers on one way, Flex Plus flights or 1 stopover on round-trip Flex flights will certainly add value to your redemption.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

Air Canada Signature Business Class
Enjoy exclusivity in Air Canada’s business class “executive pods.” Image Credit: Shutterstock

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 or 1 open-jaw 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 ClassANA Miles Cost (Round-trip)Taxes & Fees
Economy65,000~$50-$100
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-trip for 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.

Amex has a number of personal and business cards to choose from that earn Membership Rewards points, making it easy to accumulate a ton of points.

In addition, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Bottom Line: When booking Air Canada, be sure to give ANA Mileage Club the most consideration — it’s going to cost the fewest miles, and fuel surcharges will not be imposed on you. Be sure to utilize the stopover allowance, even if you’re just headed to Dubai. You can book a positioning flight to Toronto via Star Alliance, if nothing else! 

Avianca LifeMiles

Air Canada 777 Business Class
Air Canada Business Class. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This decision by Citi precipitated Avianca LifeMiles to become one of the easiest points to earn, thanks to the addition of Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Since Avianca Vuela is a Star Alliance partner, you’d be flying on Air Canada with this booking.

Also note that you can only earn these miles through Citi ThankYou cards, their co-branded credit card, and Marriott transfers.

Another advantage is that you can purchase LifeMiles! In fact, it’s often easier to just buy the miles and book with them. The reason why is because they often offer huge bonuses on purchased miles, upwards of 125-150%.

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 round-trip award chart for the flights we’re looking at:

Cabin ClassAvianca Vuela LifeMiles CostFees
Economy85,000~$75
Business156,000~$75

Hot Tip: Like ANA, LifeMiles does not pass on any fuel surcharges for this route! 

To book, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Avianca Vuela website
  2. Click on “LifeMiles” in the bottom right corner of Avianca’s homepage
  3. Once you’re on the LifeMiles page, hover over “Use” and click on “Airlines”
  4. 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
  5. Select your flight

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

As discussed above, LifeMiles is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

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.

Bottom Line: Citi cardholders, rejoice — all hope is not lost! You can fly to Dubai by transferring your ThankYou points to Avianca Vuela. You’ll use more points, but at least you won’t need to pay surcharges! 

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.

Final Thoughts

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. Alaska Airlines minimizes your out-of-pocket cost, but it does require more miles.

Lastly, I’d look to Emirates if you have lots of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex points, or Capital One miles.

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 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.


FAQ

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to Dubai?

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, Korean Air, and Emirates Skywards all impose fuel surcharges on Emirates flights.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to Dubai?

Technically, you can book an Emirates round-trip economy ticket on JAL for 55,000 miles, or Korean Air for 70,000 miles (but you’ll still be paying $500-$700 in fuel surcharges). I’d look at ANA for round-trip economy tickets for 65,000 miles and no fuel surcharges on Air Canada.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly business class to Dubai?

You can book Emirates business class for 110,000-130,000 JAL miles round-trip plus $500-$1,700 in surcharges. You can also book Air Canada business class for 104,000 ANA miles roundtrip and ~$50-$100 in taxes and fees.

What is the fewest number miles required to fly first class to Dubai?

You can book Emirates first class for 165,000-190,000 JAL miles round-trip plus $500-$1,700 in surcharges, or one-way for 120,000-130,000 JAL miles plus $250-$850 in surcharges.

The second fewest miles is Korean Air at 210,000 miles round-trip plus $500-$1,700 in surcharges.

If you want a no-surcharge way to fly Emirates, you’ll want to look at Alaska Airlines. For one-way flights, they charge 42,500 miles in economy, 82,500 miles in business, and 150,000 miles in first class.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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14 comments

  1. Tigri23 · August 29, 2018 · Reply

    You need to update your post; Chase & KE are no longer transfer partners.

  2. We are going to Dubai in December and are flying virgin atlantic from Newark, NJ to Dubai, with a 10 hour stop on London. We used 85,000 delta miles to book this. On the way back, we used Amex MR points transferred to emirates to fly first from Dubai to JFK… which also provided us with car transfers in Dubai and NYC, and lounge access.

  3. What about flights not connected to North America? In 2020 I’ll be flying from MLE (Male, Maldives) to Zurich or another location in Germany or Switzerland if it makes the booking easier), and on to MSP (Minneapolis).

    I’m looking to spend 2-3 nights in Dubai on the way to Europe, where I want to spend 4-5 nights before flying home to MSP. I want to avoid flying from MLE back to Hong Kong or through Colombo so I’m looking at Emirates since they fly a direct flight MLE-DXB.

    What’s the most efficient way to work this itinerary as far as stopovers are concerned. I’d hate to book each leg individually if stopovers could make it more points-efficient. Thoughts?

    • Stephen Au · March 19, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Ross,

      Thanks for reading. We appreciate your support. If you’ve got your sights dead-set on flying with Emirates, your only options that allow stopovers is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. Alaska Airlines also doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges. However, the mileage cost is a lot higher.

      Check out these two options!

      • George · March 24, 2019 · Reply

        Mileage plan does not allow Middle East to Europe routing.. any other ideas? same boat as Ross and cannot find point efficient way to achieve this.

        Thank you!

        • Stephen Au · March 25, 2019 · Reply

          The best way to accomplish this would be using Japan Airlines miles transferred from Marriott. Unfortunately, they use a distance-based award chart, so you’ll want to book a total distance at the upper end of a distance bracket. Thanks for reading.

  4. LeChelle Kwenette Ford · May 20, 2019 · Reply

    I want to book a round trip to Dubai using delta skymiles leaving from JFK. What is the best way to book maximizing the delta skymiles & money.

    • Stephen Au · May 21, 2019 · Reply

      Hey LeChelle,

      Delta’s search engine is pretty robust. Just visit delta.com and perform a search. Be sure to choose spending with miles instead of cash or money. Thanks for reading.

  5. SANIL THOMAS · May 21, 2019 · Reply

    i have 130,000 AA miles and 80,000 amex UR points
    I want to travel with my wife from chicago to dubai in a business class round trip
    Is it possible to travel with that many points in september ?
    what should be my best way to redeem those points
    thanks in advance

    • Stephen Au · May 22, 2019 · Reply

      Sanil,

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like you’ll have enough miles and points for a round-trip. It’s probably enough for one-way travel, but not for a round-trip. Thanks for reading.

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