On Monday I wrote about Emirates’ new fifth freedom route between New York Milan, which will be launching this October. At the time the flights hadn’t actually been loaded in the GDS yet, though now they have, so I figured I’d provide a quick update.
First of all, award availability on the flights is phenomenal. As far as I can tell every single flight has two first class award seats and at least seven business class award seats (the highest number of seats they’ll show at any given time):
Award space can be searched on ExpertFlyer most easily, for what it’s worth.
As I’ve written about before, one of the very best ways to book Emirates award is through Japan Airlines, which is a Starwood transfer partner. Unlike some foreign carriers (Turkish, LOT, US Airways… oh wait) I actually find their call center to be pretty decent.
I decided to call up Japan Airlines to do a “dummy” booking through their call center. I did this for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to confirm that their availability and pricing matched what I was expecting. Second of all, I wanted to see if they were imposing fuel surcharges on these redemptions. Emirates began imposing fuel surcharges for all redemptions booked through their Skywards program as of March 31, 2013, so I was curious to see if these were being passed on to those booking through Japan Airlines as well.
When I first wrote the post I pointed out that the award should fall in the category of being 6,001-8,000 miles roundtrip, which would have cost 39,000 miles in coach, 63,000 miles in business class, or 100,000 miles in first class. Great Circle Mapper says the distance is 3,995 each way, or 7,990 roundtrip:
ITA Matrix says the roundtrip distance is 7,964 miles:
However, for whatever reason Japan Airlines claims the one-way distance is 4,013 miles. Just as I’ll never be able to “prove” geography to a US Airways agent, I don’t expect to ever be able to “prove” distance to a Japan Airlines agent. So that bumps this award into the 8,001-10,000 mile category on the award chart.
The good news is that it’s only marginally more expensive — an extra 1,000 miles in coach, 2,000 miles in business class, and the same price in first class.
Best of all there were no fuel surcharges and the taxes on the ticket totaled $87, which roughly aligns with what ITA Matrix says they should be:
The downside to booking through Japan Airlines is that you can’t combine any other partners on the same award, so this is most practical if you’re actually traveling between New York and Italy, and not looking to book this as part of a larger award involving other carriers.
Both the business and first class prices are the lowest in the markets. Of course the main issue is that the easiest way to rack up Japan Airlines miles is through Starwood points transfers, and there’s no easy way to rack up Starwood points. The easiest way to rack them up is through the Starwood Personal American Express and Starwood Business American Express (affiliate links) both of which offer 25,000 point sign-up bonuses after spending $5,000 within six months. The bonus never gets substantially higher, unfortunately. Around Labor Day they’ll often run a promotion for a 30,000 point sign-up bonus, but that’s as high as it gets. That being said if you pick up both the personal and business cards and complete the minimum spend you’re looking at 60,000 points, already more than enough for a roundtrip business class award (when you factor in the 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).
Also keep in mind that Starwood allows household transfers for those living at the same address, so that’s a good way to pool points from multiple people towards a single award.