Redeeming Emirates Skywards Miles for JetBlue Flights

Jul 24, 2017

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Emirates Skywards is a loyalty program I’ve researched a handful of times but otherwise mostly ignored. The program requires a very high amount of miles and often charges absurd taxes and fees to book award flights. However, a colleague approached me and said they’d collected a rather large amount of Skywards miles from past business trips before they knew to credit the flights to other loyalty programs. They asked for help redeeming the miles with Emirates partner JetBlue. Here’s what you need to know about using Emirates miles for JetBlue flights, and when it could make sense to do this.

Cost

Emirates has a city pair partner award chart for JetBlue, with one-way flights starting at 7,500 miles for short hauls and topping out at 20,000 miles for a New York-St. Lucia one-way flight. At face value, those are pretty reasonable prices, with some transcon routes like New York-Seattle and New York-Los Angeles only costing 17,500 miles. There are a few problems:

  • The chart hasn’t been updated in a while and does not cover any new, or relatively new, JetBlue routes. You can call the Emirates Skywards number to price out new routes not on the chart.
  • There is no mention of redeeming miles for Mint seats, and phone agents I spoke with said it was not possible.
  • The chart lists routes JetBlue does not fly, e.g. Dulles-Cancun (IAD-CUN) and pricing in the charts is only reflective of nonstop flights. Even though the chart says IAD-CUN is 17,500 miles, you would have to pay for two awards like IAD-JFK and JFK-CUN costing 25,000 miles — more than the listed 17,500 miles list on the chart for IAD-CUN.
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Emirates miles required for JetBlue flights from New York JFK. One way and then round trip.

Taxes and fees for domestic JetBlue flights are minimal but can be up to $100 for international flights. Award tickets for adults and children cost the same.

Finding Availability

You have to call the Emirates Skywards desk (1-800-777-3999) to redeem miles on JetBlue. This alone can be a bit challenging if you get unlucky and find an ill-informed agent. Sometimes I called and fortunately got an agent knew exactly what I wanted to do and made the process pretty seamless.

You can find available flights yourself by using ExpertFlyer and finding JetBlue flights that have fare class “U” available. You can then feed the Emirates agent that flight date and number and you should be able to book it with your Emirates miles.

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After dozens of searches, you are only going to find U fare class available on dates when JetBlue is charging the cheapest or near the cheapest revenue fare (and therefore lowest amount of JetBlue points) for a flight.

When Does it Make Sense?

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to both Emirates and JetBlue. What’s interesting is the transfer ratio to Emirates is 1:1 while transferring to JetBlue is 5:4. That means even though Emirates is asking for more miles than JetBlue is asking points for a flight, it could be close when deciding which program to receive the points. JetBlue is asking 5,800 points for Washington, D.C. to Charleston in October — the same flight would cost 9,000 Emirates Skywards miles (not on the Emirates chart; call for pricing).

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That means you could transfer 9,000 Amex points to Emirates or 7,250 Amex points to JetBlue. If you have a couple thousand Skyward miles lying around from past flights, top off your account and book the flight via Skywards. Let’s look at another example:

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On November 8, New York – San Francisco on JetBlue would cost 13,400 JetBlue points, requiring 16,750 Amex points. The same flight would cost 17,500 Skywards miles — or almost the same amount of Amex points as booking through JetBlue. I confirmed on ExpertFlyer there is U fare availability for this date on this flight.

JFK-SFO on JetBlue would cost 17,500 Emirates miles.
JFK-SFO on JetBlue would cost 17,500 Emirates miles.

After several comparisons, booking JetBlue via Skywards is most likely only going to make sense if you have collected Emirates Skywards miles and are looking for a great way to redeem them. There may be an example out there on a particularly expensive JetBlue route where transferring Amex points to Skywards could be cheaper for an award flight, but I couldn’t find one myself. This is all because you are only going to find availability on JetBlue when flights are cheap, and therefore require the fewest amount of JetBlue points.

Bottom Line

Collecting Skywards miles to try and use on Emirates is a losing strategy; round-trip Orlando to Dubai on economy is 72,500 miles and $580.

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If you happen to have collected Skywards miles and are looking for a way to redeem them, or if you have a few thousand from a single flight and want to know what to do with them, transferring Amex points over to redeem on a JetBlue flight is a great use of these often ignored miles.

Have you redeem Emirates miles on partner airlines?

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