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 the Emirates airline.
To many, Emirates 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, we’ll cover the best programs to use for all cabin classes, including the planes that Emirates uses at each airport. We’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 (YYZ).
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:
- Airbus A380-800
- Boeing 777-300ER
- Boeing 777-200LR
Until recently, the A380 had the best first class product on Emirates — 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, we 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|
|Boston (BOS) sometimes||San Francisco (SFO)|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||Toronto (YYZ)|
|New York City (JFK)||Washington, D.C. (IAD)|
|Airport Flying the New Emirates 777-200LR to Dubai|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL)|
|Airports Flying the Old Emirates 777-300ER to Dubai|
|Boston (BOS) sometimes||Dallas (DFW)|
|Chicago (ORD)||Seattle (SEA)|
Another thing to note is that if you fly from Fort Lauderdale or Orlando, 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. If you see a 2-2-2 configuration, you’re probably flying the new lie-flat business class seats — the older 2-3-2 configuration uses cramped, angled-flat seats (it may be easiest to do some investigating through ExpertFlyer).
Emirates doesn’t have a regular schedule for releasing award space to its partners. Though it is 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.
Hot Tip: As of April 1, 2021, Emirates no longer allows its first class awards to be booked with Alaska Airlines miles. Japan Airlines mileage redemptions are allowed until September 1, 2021, and Qantas and Korean Air redemptions are still allowed indefinitely.
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 card’s 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 business class, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is probably the go-to method for many travelers.
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 to 8,000 and 8,001 to 10,000-mile brackets.
For one-way flights, you’ll pay rates ranging from 45,000 to 47,000 miles in economy, 80,000 to 85,000 miles in business, and 130,000 to 135,000 miles in first.
For round-trip flights, award prices range from 55,000 to 70,000 miles in economy and 110,000 to 130,000 miles in business, and 165,000 to 190,000 miles in first.
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 its distance-based award chart and generous routing rules for multi-segmented routes that can exceed thousands of dollars 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.
- “1 city” can be included 3 times at maximum for the whole itinerary, however, a stopover at “1 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.
Here are some example routes you can book:
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 130,000 JAL miles and ~$7 in taxes and fees to fly Emirates’ lie-flat business class on the new 777; one-way costs 80,000 JAL miles
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 130,000 JAL miles and ~$7 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class; one-way costs 85,000 JAL miles
- Toronto (YYZ) – Dubai (DXB) non-stop round-trip for 110,000 JAL miles and $198 in taxes and fees to fly Emirates business class; one-way costs 80,000 JAL miles
Earning Japan Airlines Miles
Japan Airlines is a transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy 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.
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Hot Tip: Need help booking? See our step-by-step guide for booking Emirates business class. Don’t forget to check out other amazing redemptions with the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines is the go-to rewards program of choice for many travelers and credit cardholders. It has co-branded credit cards and is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner. A new member of the Oneworld alliance, it is 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!).
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan charges 82,500 Alaska miles for business one-way and 42,500 Alaska miles for economy one-way with ~$20 to $50 in taxes and fees. Remember, however, that you’ll be saving a bunch of money on fuel surcharges!
These award prices are on par with 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 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, 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 via Dubai, you’d pay 65,000 miles in economy or 120,000 in business! This is not a bad deal at all, considering you’re only adding 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 or 22,500 miles in business to fly another 7 to 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 to $50.
Here are some great example routes:
- New York City (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) one-way for 102,500 Alaska miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class
- San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Auckland (AKL) one-way for 120,000 Alaska miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class
- Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) one-way for 82,500 Alaska miles and $20 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class
Earning Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
Alaska miles can be earned by signing up for its 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 Bonvoy.
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 60% 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.
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 $320 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. Business flights are priced at 140,000 miles round-trip and economy flights are 70,000 miles round-trip with ~$198 in taxes and 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) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 140,000 SKYPASS miles and ~$198 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class
- New York City (JFK) – Milan (MXP) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 140,000 SKYPASS miles and ~$198 in taxes and fees to fly in Emirates business class; you are allowed a stop-over in Milan
Earning Korean Air SKYPASS Miles
You can earn Korean Air SKYPASS miles by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points.
Marriott Bonvoy credit cards are a great way to boost your balance of SKYPASS miles; on top of this, the generous sign-up bonuses that are offered make it a no-brainer!
If you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you will receive 20,000 SKYPASS miles plus 5,000 bonus miles.
Emirates Skywards Mileage Program
The Emirates Skywards Mileage Program used to be discounted as a booking option for many travelers due to its high fuel surcharges. Fortunately, Emirates is no longer passing on these high fuel surcharges, making a booking with Emirates Skywards miles a great option!
Emirates Skywards enjoys the most transfer partnerships of any Emirates booking method (5 partners in Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy) and will likely soon be the only miles currency you can use to book first class awards.
Emirates charges the following amounts for flights departing North America to Dubai:
|Cabin Class||Emirates Skywards Miles Cost (Round-Trip)||Taxes & Fees|
|Economy||72,500 to 82,500||~$161|
|Business||145,000 to 165,000||~$361|
|First||217,500 to 247,500||~$361|
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:
- Auckland (AKL) – Dubai (DXB) – Milan (MXP) – New York City (JFK) one-way in Emirates business class for 178,750 miles + $100 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 + $275 in taxes and fees with 2 stopovers in Athens and Dubai
- San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Johannesburg (JNB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 300,000 miles + $526 in taxes and fees with 1 stopover in Dubai
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
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. Amex points transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.
Recommended American Express Cards (Personal)
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The current welcome bonus is 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. For rates and fees of the Business Gold, click here.
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All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
If you’ve traveled on Emirates 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 rarely flies this route daily (the usual frequency is 3 to 5 times weekly), so you’ll have to plan for that in advance (and the schedule may vary due to COVID-19).
You can utilize ANA to book some of the best redemptions on Air Canada. Oddly enough, Air Canada’s Aeroplan loyalty program 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 to $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 Class||ANA Miles Cost (Round-Trip)||Taxes & Fees|
|Economy||65,000||~$50 to $100|
|Business (Signature Class)||104,000||~$50 to $100|
Book Awards With ANA
You can use United or Air Canada to search for award space here. United is probably the easiest to use, but less accurate than Air Canada. United Airlines can show phantom award space (award seats that aren’t actually bookable), and while Air Canada doesn’t struggle with this, connecting flights can cause it to error out sometimes.
Personally, we’d start by using United and confirm with Air Canada.
Once you’ve found availability on Air Canada 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 Bonvoy points transferred.
The last method we want to cover in-depth is LifeMiles, the loyalty program of Avianca.
Since Avianca is a Star Alliance partner, you’d be flying on Air Canada with this booking.
Also note that you can earn these miles through transfers from Amex, Capital One, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy or directly through Avianca’s co-branded credit cards.
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 it often offers huge bonuses on purchased miles, upwards of 125% to 150%.
This method, however, does involve spending more than $1,000 on miles, so we would not suggest it unless you have a specific redemption in mind.
Round-trip awards cost 85,000 LifeMiles in economy and 156,000 LifeMiles in business with ~$75 in 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 LifeMiles
As discussed above, LifeMiles is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Citi ThankYou is one of the least-discussed transferable points systems, 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 as a method for flying to Dubai.
Recommended Citi ThankYou Cards
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You can also earn LifeMiles by applying for the Banco Popular co-branded cards. There aren’t many other ways to snag lots of LifeMiles besides sign-up bonuses on credit cards.
The last resort would be to buy LifeMiles. There are often sales providing up to a 200% bonus, so be sure to take advantage of that.
Other Options To Fly to Dubai
Although there are only 2 airlines you can fly directly to Dubai, there are many different ways to book these flights using various loyalty programs.
You can look into Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, 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 nonstop flights from North America to Dubai:
- Air Canada (Toronto)
- Emirates (U.S. and Toronto)
To book Emirates, we’d first look at Japan Airlines. Alaska Airlines minimizes your out-of-pocket cost and its miles are competitive against other programs.
Next, we’d look to Emirates Skywards if you have lots of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex Membership Rewards points, or Capital One miles.
To book Air Canada, we’d examine ANA very closely. If you don’t have enough Amex or Marriott Bonvoy points but have a lot of Citi ThankYou Points, you can also check out Avianca, a Citi transfer partner.
Flying on Emirates is basically a requirement to be inducted into the luxury flyer club. It has 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 using points and miles.
The information regarding the Citi Prestige® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.