The Best Ways To Fly to the Middle East and North Africa With Points and Miles

Egypt

We may be compensated when you click on links from one or more of our advertising partners. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone. Terms apply to offers below. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the world’s most exotic places. And while there are a few countries ridden with internal strife there, this area is truly one of the most culturally significant and historic in the world.

Known for expansive deserts and ancient Arabian history, the Middle East and North Africa comprise of unique countries that should definitely be on your radar.

What’s more, plane tickets from the U.S. to the Middle East or North Africa are often incredibly expensive.

So that’s why we’ll be showing you the best ways to use your points and miles to fly to the Middle East and North Africa! We’ll highlight the best ways to fly here with all 3 alliances, as well as some of the best non-alliance options, like Emirates.

Let’s get started!

Nonstop Flights Between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa

Numerous airlines offer nonstop flights to the Middle East and North Africa. We’ve broken them down by airline; in total, 12 airlines offer nonstop flights to MENA.

Here are the foreign airlines operating nonstop flights to the Middle East:

  • EL AL
    • Los Angeles (LAX) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • Miami (MIA) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • New York (JFK) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • Emirates
    • Boston (BOS) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Chicago (ORD) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Dallas (DFW) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Houston (IAH) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB)
    • New York (JFK) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Orlando (MCO) – Dubai (DXB)
    • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Seattle (SEA) – Dubai (DXB)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB)

  • Etihad Airways
    • Chicago (ORD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
    • New York (JFK) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH)
  • Kuwait Airways
    • New York (JFK) – Kuwait City (KWI)
  • Qatar Airways
    • Atlanta (ATL) – Doha (DOH)
    • Boston (BOS) – Doha (DOH)
    • Chicago (ORD) – Doha (DOH)
    • Dallas (DFW) – Doha (DOH)
    • Houston (IAH) – Doha (DOH)
    • Los Angeles (LAX) – Doha (DOH)
    • New York (JFK) – Doha (DOH)
    • Miami (MIA) – Doha (DOH)
    • Philadelphia (PHL) – Doha (DOH)
    • San Francisco (SFO) – Doha (DOH)
    • Seattle (SEA) – Doha (DOH)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Doha (DOH)

  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
    • Chicago (ORD) – Amman (AMM)
    • Detroit (DTW) – Amman (AMM)
    • New York (JFK) – Amman (AMM)
  • Saudia
    • New York (JFK) – Riyadh (RUH)
    • New York (JFK) – Jeddah (JED)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Riyadh (RUH)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Jeddah (JED)

Here are the U.S. airlines operating nonstop flights to the Middle East:

  • American Airlines
    • Dallas (DFW) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • New York (JFK) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • Delta Air Lines
    • New York (JFK) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • United Airlines
    • Chicago (ORD) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • Newark (EWR) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • San Francisco (SFO) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Tel Aviv (TLV)

Here are the airlines operating nonstop flights to North Africa:

  • Egyptair
    • New York (JFK) – Cairo (CAI)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Cairo (CAI)
  • Royal Air Maroc
    • New York (JFK) – Casablanca (CMN)
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Casablanca (CMN)

As you can see, there are plenty of options you can book. The general rule of thumb should be to fly on the most direct route to the final destination. So for example, if you want to fly to Morocco, it’s probably a good idea to figure out the best ways to redeem points on Royal Air Maroc.

If there are no nonstop flights to your final destination from the U.S., there are plenty of connecting flight options, including on airlines like Air France, KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, and much more.

There are nearly 50 nonstop routes you can book from the U.S. to the Middle East or North Africa, but the number of 1-stop connecting flights is almost uncountable.

Best Programs To Use To Book Flights to the Middle East and North Africa

Let’s go through all of our favorite ways to use points and miles for flights to the Middle East and North Africa, starting with ANA Mileage Club!

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 9 Business Class Seat 8A
Turkish Airlines business class. Image Credit: Greg Stone

ANA Mileage Club is an incredible frequent flyer program that offers amazing round-trip pricing on Star Alliance flights, particularly in business class.

This means that you’ll probably redeem the fewest points to fly to MENA with ANA Mileage Club, though there are 2 caveats:

  • You must book a round-trip flight (no one-ways)
  • Almost all fuel surcharges are passed on

You should avoid all of the European airline partners, including Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian Airlines — otherwise, you’ll need to spend an additional $800+ each way out-of-pocket!

Not to worry, as both Turkish Airlines and LOT Polish boast lower fuel surcharges than their partners. Follow this award chart to book your round-trip flights from North America:

Cabin ClassANA Miles Cost (Round-Trip)Turkish Airlines Taxes and FeesLOT Polish Taxes and FeesEgyptair Taxes and Fees
Economy65,000~$571~$488~$563
Business104,000~$747~$713~$581

ANA also categorizes Morocco as part of Europe and Russia 2 (Zone 7), which means you can follow this award chart:

Cabin ClassANA Miles Cost (Round-Trip)Turkish Airlines Taxes and FeesLOT Polish Taxes and FeesEgyptair Taxes and Fees
Economy55,000~$571~$488~$563
Business88,000~$747~$713~$581

As you can tell, it’s pretty difficult to avoid fuel surcharges entirely — and even the taxes and fees in economy are egregious, which is why you’d want to leverage ANA Mileage Club for business class only.

Here are a few example redemptions you can make:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Istanbul (IST) – Marrakesh (RAK) round-trip in Turkish Airlines business class for 88,000 ANA miles + ~$747 in taxes and fees
  • Chicago (ORD) – Warsaw (WAW) – Tel Aviv (TLV) round-trip in LOT Polish business class for 104,000 ANA miles + ~$713 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Warsaw (WAW) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in LOT Polish business class for 104,000 ANA miles + ~$713 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Istanbul (IST) – Muscat (MCT) round-trip in Turkish Airlines business class for 88,000 ANA miles + ~$747 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Cairo (CAI) round-trip in Egyptair business class for 104,000 ANA miles + ~$581 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Cairo (CAI) round-trip in Egyptair business class for 104,000 ANA miles + ~$581 in taxes and fees

You can book all of these flights directly online; while we wouldn’t recommend searching for availability on ANA’s website, you can perform the search on a partner site like united.com and then navigate to ANA’s website when you’ve located availability.

Here are the steps:

  1. Find availability on united.com.
  2. Write down the flight information you’d like to book.
  3. Visit ANA’s website.
  4. Click on ANA Mileage Club on the top-right side of the website.
  5. Under the Flight Awards section on the left-hand side, click International, followed by Award Reservation.
  6. Enter your ANA Mileage Club login information.
  7. Enter the flight information and click Search.
  8. Transfer your points to ANA Mileage Club after confirming availability.
  9. After receiving the transferred points, complete the reservation by paying for taxes and fees using a credit card.

Earning ANA Mileage Club Miles

ANA Mileage Club is transfer partners with 2 transferrable rewards programs: Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex transfers at a 1:1 ratio and takes around 3 business days, while Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points and takes around 7 business days.

Hot Tip: Your mileage may vary, but you may be able to hold an award reservation while your points are being transferred by calling 800-235-9262.

Recommended American Express Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a new welcome bonus offer of 60,000 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide, including Priority Pass (enrollment required). We leverage ~$4,900+ in benefits and perks from the card every year. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - This card has a new welcome bonus of 35,000 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

We love using this card as it earns 4X Membership Rewards Points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earns 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly; and you'll have access to many benefits and perks. Terms apply and for rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.

Recommended American Express Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a new welcome bonus of 85,000 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

See how we get $4,000+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks, including access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - one of our favorite Amex business cards because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month, such as Facebook or Google ads. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. After that, you earn 1x.

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. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Business Gold, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - A super simple, no-annual-fee card that earns you 2x points on everyday business purchases, up to $50,000 in purchases per year. After that, earn 1x. Right now, you can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

Emirates Skywards

Emirates first class
Emirates first class is magical. Image Credit: Stephen Au

If you’re looking to travel in style and want to book a first class ticket from start to finish, then Emirates is one of the only airlines that offer this!

Simply put, Emirates first class is out of this world! Between the ornate gold suites, the motorized minibar at your suite, plush bedding, and award-winning service, there’s no reason not to book Emirates first class if cost isn’t an obstacle.

Normally, these tickets are sold for $15,000+ round-trip; but with points, you can reduce that to around $200 in each direction!

Best of all, Emirates uses first-class equipped aircraft even on short routes between Dubai and the rest of the Middle East, as well as Africa.

That means you can book a 100% first class journey using points. But the drawback is the number of points you’ll have to pay — this world-famous first class ticket comes at a handsome premium compared to its inferior peers.

Lastly, you can add a stopover for no additional cost; all you need to do is find availability!

  • Houston (IAH) – Dubai (DXB) – Cairo (CAI) one-way in Emirates first class for 160,000 Emirates miles + ~$262 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) – Muscat (MCT) one-way in Emirates first class for 160,000 Emirates miles + ~$262 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) – Casablanca (CMN) one-way in Emirates first class for 178,750 Emirates miles + ~$262 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Algiers (ALG) one-way in Emirates first class for 187,500 Emirates miles + ~$262 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) – Bahrain (BAH) one-way in Emirates first class for 141,250 Emirates miles + ~$262 in taxes and fees

Booking Emirates first class is super easy; follow these steps to get this dream ticket reserved!

  1. Visit Emirates’s website.
  2. On the homepage, you’ll see a search box.
  3. Check off the box that says Classic rewards.
  4. Enter your travel information.
  5. Click Search flights.
  6. Confirm the flight you wish to book.
  7. Redeem your miles and use a credit card for taxes and fees.

Earning Emirates Skywards Miles

Despite having such an exclusive first class product, Emirates has a frequent flyer program that is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy!

Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, and Brex all transfer almost instantaneously at a 1:1 ratio.

Lastly, Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring 60,000 points. Transfers from Marriott usually take around 3 business days.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.

Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card - A solid, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then earn 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.

Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Qatar QSuites A350 Seat View
Qatar Airways QSuites is possibly the best business class in the world. Image Credit: Alex Miller

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention American Airlines AAdvantage for 1 reason: Qatar Airways QSuites.

If you didn’t already know, Qatar Airways’s flagship business class seat is known as QSuites, and it consists of lie-flat seats with sliding doors, double beds in the middle seats, and 5-star amenities.

Normally, Qatar Airways levies huge fuel surcharges in excess of $600 in each direction, but if you have American Airlines miles, you can dodge these huge fees!

For our purposes, all of Qatar Airways’s flights will go through Doha (DOH). So if your final destination is Doha, then you can book nonstop flights! Otherwise, you’ll have a brief connection before proceeding to your final destination.

Here’s how much it’ll cost for one-way flights between the U.S. and the Middle East:

Cabin ClassAAdvantage Miles Cost (One-Way)Qatar Airways Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000~$8
Business70,000~$8

And here’s how much it’ll cost for one-way flights between the U.S. and Africa:

Cabin ClassAAdvantage Miles Cost (One-Way)Qatar Airways Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000~$8
Business75,000~$8

Here are the countries that fall into each region:

Middle EastAfrica
Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab EmiratesAlgeria, Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Melilla, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Given all of this information, here are a few fantastic redemptions you can make:

  • Boston (BOS) – Doha (DOH) – Alexandria (HBE) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Doha (DOH) – Khartoum (KRT) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 75,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Doha (DOH) – Cairo (CAI) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Doha (DOH) – Tunis (TUN) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 75,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees
  • Seattle (SEA) – Doha (DOH) – Salalah (SLL) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Doha (DOH) – Casablanca (CMN) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 75,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$8 in taxes and fees

And if you are considering different partner airlines like Royal Jordanian or Iberia, here are a few options you can book:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Amman (AMM) one-way in Royal Jordanian business class for 70,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Detroit (DTW) – Amman (AMM) – Cairo (CAI) one-way in Royal Jordanian business class for 70,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Madrid (MAD) – Algiers (ALG) one-way in British Airways business class for 75,000 AAdvantage miles + ~$487 in taxes and fees

These bookings can be made directly on American Airlines’s website:

  1. Visit American Airlines’s homepage.
  2. You’ll see a search box in the middle of the screen.
  3. Check off the box that says Redeem miles.
  4. Toggle One way or Round trip.
  5. Enter your city pairs, number of passengers, and travel dates. Click Search.
  6. Select the flight that matches your needs, redeem your AAdvantage miles, and use a credit card for taxes and fees.

Earning American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be earned from credit cards in 2 main ways:

American Airlines’s sole transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy, which transfers at a 3:1 ratio with an additional 5,000-mile bonus after transferring 60,000 points.

Transfers from Marriott to American Airlines take around 2 business days to complete.

Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $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. Plus, earn up to 17x total Bovoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card at at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2x Bonvoy points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn up to 14x total Bonvoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Bold card at over 7,000 participating in Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x on all other eligible purchases. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Etihad Guest

Royal Air Maroc business class
Royal Air Maroc’s business class. Image Credit: Royal Air Maroc

One of the sweet spots of North African travel is aboard Royal Air Maroc, which is the flag carrier of Morocco.

Specifically, Etihad Guest offers some astonishing award redemption prices for nonstop flights between the U.S. and Morocco!

On any nonstop flight aboard Royal Air Maroc that’s longer than 2,000 miles in distance, you’ll redeem just 44,000 Etihad Guest miles in business and 22,000 miles in economy!

These are for one-way flights, and Etihad Guest prices these flights on a per-segment basis. Here are a couple of fantastic example routes you can book:

  • New York (JFK) – Casablanca (CMN) one-way in Royal Air Maroc business class for 44,000 Etihad Guest miles + ~$201 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Casablanca (CMN) one-way in Royal Air Maroc business class for 44,000 Etihad Guest miles + ~$201 in taxes and fees

To book these tickets, you’ll want to find award space on American Airlines’s website, then call Etihad Guest to confirm the ticket.

  1. Visit American Airlines’s homepage.
  2. On the homepage’s search box, toggle the checkbox that says Redeem miles.
  3. Enter your travel information and click Search.
  4. Then, a series of flight options should appear. Sort the options to look for nonstop flights only (Royal Air Maroc is the only airline operating these nonstop routes) and write down the flight you’d like to book.
  5. Call Etihad Guest at 877-690-0767 to confirm the reservation and pay for taxes and fees with a credit card.

Earning Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad Guest miles are surprisingly easy to earn — this frequent flyer program is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex and Citi transfer at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly. Capital One transfers at a 1:1 ratio but may take up to 36 hours to process.

Lastly, Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points. Additionally, Marriott takes around 3 business days to transfer to Etihad Guest.

Recommended Citi Cards

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Citi Premier® Card

Citi Premier Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
  • Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels.
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $95
$1,280
Citi Rewards+® Card

Citi Rewards+® Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
  • For a limited time, earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer and on purchases from date of account opening. After that, 13.49% - 23.49% variable APR. Balance transfer fee will apply.
  • Earn 2x ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49% variable. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Avianca LifeMiles

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Cabin - Cherag Dubash
Lufthansa first class is a glorious way to fly in style to your destination. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

One of our favorite airline loyalty programs of all time is Avianca LifeMiles.

Sure, its online award booking capabilities are incredibly inconsistent, but it is actually one of the most underrated programs and serves a critical purpose: booking Star Alliance premium cabin flights without fuel surcharges.

Avianca LifeMiles has a few things going for it:

  • LifeMiles are incredibly easy to earn
  • The redemption chart is reasonable
  • There are absolutely no fuel surcharges that get passed on

If we put all of these factors together, LifeMiles is one of the best ways you can book Lufthansa first class, SWISS business class, and other premium cabin products on European airlines.

Hot Tip: Keep in mind that Lufthansa first class is mostly only bookable up to 15 days before departure, so you’ll need to be a last-minute traveler to book this coveted first class product.

Cabin ClassAvianca LifeMiles Cost (One-Way)Taxes and Fees (One-Way)
Economy42,500~$38
Business78,000~$38
First105,000~$38

If you happen to be booking a mixed-cabin itinerary, your mileage price will actually be a bit cheaper, due to the fact that the pricing is based on the percentage of the whole itinerary you’re flying in each cabin.

As you can also tell, there are no fuel surcharges passed on — there’s usually a small award booking fee, but this is included in the $38 amount above.

Here are a few example bookings you can make:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Djerba (DJE) one-way in Lufthansa first class and business class for 99,500 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Denver (DEN) – Munich (MUC) – Marrakesh (RAK) one-way in Lufthansa business class for 78,000 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Beirut (BEY) one-way in SAS business class for 78,000 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Zurich (ZRH) – Cairo (CAI) one-way in SWISS business class for 78,000 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Vienna (VIE) – Tel Aviv (TLV) one-way in Austrian Airlines business class for 78,000 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Hurghada (HRG) one-way in Lufthansa first class and business class for 97,800 LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees

Hot Tip: One of the biggest complaints about LifeMiles is that the search engine doesn’t always display all the bookable options that another website like united.com might. Unfortunately, the customer service hotline isn’t very helpful, either.

Here’s how you can book your ticket on LifeMiles:

  1. Visit LifeMiles’s website.
  2. In the top-right corner, click the flag icon to change the site language to English.
  3. On the English homepage, click Log in in the top-right corner.
  4. Enter your login details.
  5. On the redirected page, you’ll see a ribbon at the top of the page. Click the button that says Travel.
  6. You’ll see a search box. Enter your trip details, and click Find Flights.
  7. After searching, click on the travel dates you’d like to search.
  8. After completing the search, choose the flight options you’d like to book.
  9. Complete the booking and use a credit card to pay for taxes and fees.

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles, as we mentioned earlier, are very easy to earn.

Currently, LifeMiles has transfer partnerships with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou RewardsCapital One Miles, Marriott Bonvoy, and Brex Rewards.

Amex, Citi, Capital One, and Brex transfer at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly. Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred and takes around 1 business day to complete.

Also, Avianca offers a couple of co-branded credit cards to help you earn miles directly — and lastly, you can often purchase LifeMiles with huge bonuses, making your cost per purchased mile around 1.0 to 1.4 cents each!

Recommended Capital One Cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card - This card is packed with lots of benefits and perks. Earn 60,000 mile sign up bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. We recommend this as a no-brainer card if you even semi-regularly stay at hotels since this card earns unlimited 2x miles on every purchase.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card - This is an excellent card for those looking to earn 1.25x miles per $1 on every purchase. With a 20,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $200 toward travel) after spending $500 within the first 3 months and no annual fee, it's a strong choice.

United Airlines MileagePlus

SWISS Air business throne seat
SWISS offers lavish throne seats in business class. Image Credit: SWISS

United Airlines’s MileagePlus program has been devalued many times over the years. However, in spite of all these devaluations, it’s still an attractive program to keep in the back of your pocket.

That’s because United Airlines offers an easy booking process, no fuel surcharges on almost all flights, ease of accruing points, and access to Star Alliance’s vast route network.

Although we touched on a few ways to redeem points for Star Alliance flights above (i.e. ANA Mileage Club and Avianca LifeMiles), there are quirks with these programs, namely the passage of fuel surcharges and absence of all possible flights during the search process.

So if you’re willing to spend more points and are looking for a seamless, headache-free frequent flyer program, United MileagePlus will be your best bet. This is particularly true for Chase credit cardholders.

United uses a dynamic award pricing scheme, which means that your plane ticket will be priced according to a range of numbers, not a set value.

Specifically, United’s lowest-priced awards are called Saver awards, and they’re priced as follows on flights between the U.S. and the Middle East:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles Cost for United FlightsUnited Miles Cost for Partner Flights
Economy42,500 to 100,00046,750
Business75,000 to 180,00093,500
FirstN/AN/A

Here’s what MileagePlus award tickets look like on flights between the U.S. and North Africa:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles Cost for United FlightsUnited Miles Cost for Partner Flights
Economy40,000 to 100,00040,000
Business80,000 to 200,00080,000
FirstN/A143,000

Here are some great example redemptions you can make:

  • Miami (MIA) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Dammam (DMM) one-way in Lufthansa first class and business class for 143,000 United miles + ~$5.60 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Brussels (BRU) – Nador (NDR) one-way in Brussels Airlines business class and Egyptair business class for 93,500 United miles + ~$5.60 in taxes and fees
  • Newark (EWR) – Tel Aviv (TLV) one-way in United Polaris business class from 75,000 United miles + ~$5.60 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Tel Aviv (TLV) one-way in United Polaris business class from 75,000 United miles + ~$5.60 in taxes and fees

To book your flight using United MileagePlus miles, simply follow these steps:

  1. Go to United Airlines’ homepage.
  2. In the search box, check off the box that says Book with miles.
  3. Enter your flight details.
  4. Click Find flights.
  5. Choose the flight you wish to book.
  6. Enter the traveler information, redeem your miles, and pay for any taxes and fees.

Earning United MileagePlus Miles

United miles are some of the most popular in the U.S. and Chase and United’s co-branded credit card offerings allow you to earn United miles directly.

However, perhaps a better way to earn United miles is through Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards, whose points you can transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United.

Simply put, Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards offer better bonus categories like dining and travel, which you can maximize and then transfer to United MileagePlus.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers instantaneously to United at a 1:1 ratio. Another transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy, which transfers at a 3:1.1 ratio with a 5,500-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

37 British Airways Boeing 747 Club World Business Class Main Deck Middle Seats
British Airways business class comes with great award availability but high taxes and fees. Image Credit: Greg Stone

One of the most valuable Oneworld frequent flyer programs is Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles. With decent award redemptions and clutch transfer partnerships, we’ll show you why you should never disregard Asia Miles.

Cathay Pacific is a Oneworld partner, which means your redemptions will be limited to Oneworld airlines for the most part, unless there’s a specific non-alliance partner airline that Asia Miles works with.

The main partner airlines that are relevant to the Middle East and North Africa are Qatar Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, and Royal Jordanian.

Asia Miles passes on fuel surcharges, which isn’t pleasant, particularly for British Airways, American Airlines, and Qatar Airways flights.

Still, if you’re looking to book Qatar Airways QSuites and don’t have hundreds of thousands of American Airlines miles or Marriott points sitting around, Asia Miles will be your best bet.

Since Asia Miles uses a distance-based award chart and doesn’t readily publish it, your best bet to figure out how much your trip will cost in miles is to visit the Asia Miles flight awards site and price it out from there.

It can cost anywhere from 61,000 to 90,000 miles in business class, depending on what flight you book. Here are a few example redemptions you can make:

  • Boston (BOS) – London-Heathrow (LHR) – Marrakesh (RAK) one-way in British Airways business class for 61,000 Asia Miles + ~$760 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Madrid (MAD) – Casablanca (CMN) round-trip in Iberia business class for 150,000 Asia Miles + ~$974 in taxes and fees (Asia Miles doesn’t permit one-way award bookings on Iberia)
  • New York (JFK) – Amman (AMM) one-way in Royal Jordanian business class for 75,000 Asia Miles + ~$212 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Amman (AMM) – Kuwait City (KWI) one-way in Royal Jordanian business class for 75,000 Asia Miles + ~$284 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Tel Aviv (TLV) one-way in American Airlines business class for 75,000 Asia Miles + ~$680 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Doha (DOH) – Jeddah (JED) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 90,000 Asia Miles + ~$513 in taxes and fees

To book Asia Miles awards, you’ll want to first search for award space on a partner airline’s website, such as American Airlines or British Airways.

  1. Visit American Airlines’s website.
  2. On the homepage, check off the box that says Redeem miles within the search box in the middle of the screen.
  3. Choose One way or Round trip.
  4. Enter your city pairs, number of passengers, and travel dates. Click Search.
  5. Find a flight itinerary with availability that you’d like to book. Write down the flight details.
  6. Visit Asia Miles’s flight redemption website.
  7. You’ll see a search box. Fill in the search box. Click Search.
  8. Enter the travel dates and number of passengers.
  9. Complete the booking, redeem your Asia Miles, and pay for taxes and fees.

Earning Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Earning Asia Miles is easy — this frequent flyer program has transfer partners in Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Miles, Brex Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex, Citi, Capital One, and Brex all transfer to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy transfers to Asia Miles at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus after transferring 60,000 points.

Amex is generally the fastest, with transfers processing within a few hours most of the time. Brex and Citi take around 1 business day, Capital Ones take around 36 hours, and Marriott Bonvoy takes the longest at 5 business days.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Air France business class
Air France business class is chic and luxurious. Image Credit: Air France

The very last loyalty program we’ll talk about is Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

As the sole SkyTeam program in this guide, we’ll be leaning on this program heavily to book business class awards to little-known cities and countries, particularly in Northern Africa.

Flying Blue generally follows a region-based award chart for partner flights, passes on all fuel surcharges, and has access to SkyTeam airline partners like Air France, KLM, Saudia, and more. For flights on Air France or KLM, you’ll notice a dynamic award pricing scheme.

You can price out an award ticket by visiting this link, scrolling down to the Miles Price Estimator, and filling out the calculator.

Here are a few example redemptions you can make:

  • Houston (IAH) – Amsterdam (AMS) – Bahrain (BAH) one-way in KLM business class for 96,500 Flying Blue miles + ~$418 in taxes and fees
  • Las Vegas (LAS) – Amsterdam (AMS) –  Cairo (CAI) one-way in KLM business class for 85,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$418 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Amsterdam (AMS) – Dubai (DXB) one-way in KLM business class for 85,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$418 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Paris (CDG) – Monastir (MIR) one-way in Air France business class for 53,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$252 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Paris (CDG) – Agadir (AGA) one-way in Air France business class for 53,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$252 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Paris (CDG) – Tangier (TNG) one-way in Air France business class for 53,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$252 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Paris (CDG) – Oran (ORN) one-way in Air France business class for 53,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$252 in taxes and fees

Here are a few nonstop flight redemptions you can book aboard Saudia:

  • New York (JFK) – Jeddah (JED) one-way in Saudia business class for 115,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$41 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Riyadh (RUH) one-way in Saudia business class for 115,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$41 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Jeddah (JED) one-way in Saudia business class for 115,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$41 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Riyadh (RUH) one-way in Saudia business class for 115,000 Flying Blue miles + ~$41 in taxes and fees

Once you’re ready to book your Flying Blue ticket, follow these instructions:

  1. Visit Air France’s U.S. site.
  2. In the top-right corner, click Log in and enter your account credentials.
  3. You’ll be redirected back to the homepage. Click the Book with Miles button at the top left of the search box.
  4. Choose Round trip or One-way from the dropdown box.
  5. Enter your departure and arrival airports.
    • For certain minor cities like Agadir, you may need to call Flying Blue to book your award ticket at 800-375-8723.
  6. Choose your travel dates, number of passengers, and cabin class.
  7. Click Search flights.
  8. Find the flight option you like, redeem your miles, enter your traveler information, and book the ticket.

Earning Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles

Flying Blue miles are among the easiest to accumulate.

This frequent flyer program is transfer partners with every major transferable currency, including Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate RewardsCiti ThankYou Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Brex transfer almost instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus after transferring 60,000 Marriott points.

Final Thoughts

Whew! There’s a lot to take away from this guide, but the biggest takeaway is that there’s no “one size fits all” frequent flyer program to help you fly to the Middle East or North Africa using points.

Ultimately, it’ll depend on which airline you prefer to fly, what route you’re taking, what type of flexible points you earn, and what level of luxury you’d prefer to take.

Emirates Skywards is simply unbeatable with first class itineraries all the way to your final destination, while ANA Mileage Club has best-in-class business class tickets when booking round-trip, as long as you can avoid fuel surcharges.

Hopefully, you found this complete guide useful in helping you plan your next trip to MENA!


The information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, Citi Prestige® Card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

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.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.


Frequently asked questions

What is the best airline to fly to Africa?

Our favorite luxury airline to fly to Africa if cost and price aren’t prohibitive is Emirates! Of course, you can redeem around 150,000 points for a one-way flight in first class, too! From Dubai, the airline flies to North Africa destinations like Cairo, Tunis, Algiers, and Casablanca, as well as cities in Western, Central, and South Africa.

Are there any direct flights to the Middle East or North Africa?

Yes, there are plenty!

Currently, these foreign carriers offer nonstop routes:

  • EL AL flies to Tel Aviv from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York
  • Emirates flies to Dubai from 10 cities
  • Etihad Airways flies to Abu Dhabi from Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
  • Kuwait Airways flies to Kuwait City from New York City
  • Qatar Airways flies to Doha from 12 cities
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines to Amman from Chicago, Detroit, and New York
  • Saudia flies to Jeddah and Riyadh from New York and Washington, D.C.

As far as U.S. carriers go, American Airlines flies to Tel Aviv from Dallas and New York. Delta flies to Tel Aviv from New York. United Airlines flies to Tel Aviv from Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

Lastly, Egyptair and Royal Air Maroc operate nonstop flights to Cairo and Casablanca, respectively, from New York and Washington D.C.

How do you get to the Middle East or North Africa from the U.S.?

You can either fly nonstop or book a connecting flight. Either way, you have tons of options.

You can fly nonstop on Emirates to Dubai, on Etihad to Abu Dhabi, on Qatar Airways to Doha, on Kuwait Airways to Kuwait City, on Saudia to Saudi Arabia, on Royal Jordanian Airlines to Amman, on EL AL to Tel Aviv, or on any of the Big 3 U.S. carriers to Tel Aviv.

You can also fly nonstop on Egyptair and Royal Air Maroc to Cairo and Casablanca, respectively.

And if you’re booking a connecting flight, you can fly on Air France, Lufthansa, SWISS, British Airways, and many more via their respective hubs.

How long is a flight to the Middle East?

A flight from the U.S. West Coast to the Middle East can be as long as 16.5 hours in length. A flight from the U.S. East Coast to the Middle East is usually around 12 to 14 hours long, depending on where you’re exactly you’re flying to.

What are the best ways to fly to the Middle East or North Africa with points and miles?

The best ways to fly to the Middle East are aboard Emirates first class booked with Emirates miles, Turkish Airlines business class booked with ANA miles, Lufthansa first and business class booked with Avianca LifeMiles, Royal Air Maroc business class booked with Etihad Guest miles, Qatar Airways QSuites booked with American Airlines AAdvantage miles, British Airways business class booked with Asia Miles, or Air France/KLM business class booked with Flying Blue miles.

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.

Travel prices are about to surge from pent-up demand.

Use this points strategy to lock in pennies-on-the-dollar pricing in 2021, all without being a frequent flyer...

How do I only pay $30 to go to Hawaii, $200 for business class to Asia or just $150 to Europe?

Discover the real-life strategies that anyone can use to enjoy limitless travel (even on a limited budget!)

Just sign up below and I’ll send you the Limitless Travel Playbook instantly:

We respect your privacy. Please view our privacy policy here.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written by experts who know these products inside out, and what we recommend is what we would (or already) use ourselves. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. Click here to see a list of advertisers that we work with.