Redeeming Miles For Emirates’ Flights From New York To Milan & Athens

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While Emirates operates an extensive global route network, they have two routes to Europe that are especially popular with New Yorkers. I get questions all the time about the best way to redeem miles on these flights, so I’ll address that in this post.

Emirates’ flights from New York to Milan and Athens

Emirates operates two fifth freedom flights from the US to Europe. In other words, the flight is technically from the US to the UAE, but they stop in Europe, and they have pick-up rights, meaning passengers can fly between the US and the intermediate point.

Specifically, Emirates operates flights from New York JFK to Milan, and Newark to Athens.

The New York to Milan flight is operated by an A380 with the following schedule:

EK206 New York JFK to Milan departing 10:20PM arriving 12:15PM (+1 day)
EK205 Milan to New York JFK departing 4:10PM arriving 7:00PM


Emirates’ A380 onboard bar

The Newark to Athens flight is operated by a 777-300ER with the following schedule:

EK210 Newark to Athens departing 11:55PM arriving 4:05PM (+1 day)
EK209 Athens to Newark departing 5:30PM arriving 9:30PM


Emirates’ 777 first class cabin

Redeeming Emirates Skywards miles for these flights

Emirates Skywards is transfer partners with both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so a lot of people have access to these points. The catch is that Skywards isn’t a particularly compelling program, and redemption rates and surcharges are high. However, redemption rates between the US and Europe aren’t that bad, especially when you consider that award space is typically pretty readily available in advance.

On top of that, a lot of New Yorkers value the convenience of flying nonstop to Italy and Greece, rather than connecting through another hub.


Emirates’ New York to Milan flight is a great way to get to Lake Como

So, how expensive are these flights when booked through Emirates Skywards?

  • A one-way ticket on either route will cost 62,500 miles in business class, or 85,000 miles in first class
  • Regardless of whether you’re flying first or business class, taxes and carrier imposed surcharges total ~550USD for the flight from the US to Europe, and ~300USD for the flight from Europe to the US
  • If you are booking a roundtrip ticket from the US to Europe on Emirates, book it as two one-ways, rather than a roundtrip; the fees for a roundtrip are ~1,150USD, so you save ~300USD by booking it as two one-ways

Here are just a few screenshots that are examples of the award costs:

Alaska miles aren’t the best option for booking these flights

It used to be that Alaska Mileage Plan miles were the best value for booking Emirates first class tickets. In spring of last year, Alaska Mileage Plan hugely devalued redemption rates on Emirates. However, even back in the day, redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates first and business class between the US and Europe wasn’t a great deal.

They used to charge 100,000 miles for a one-way first class ticket from the US to Europe, while now they charge 180,000 miles. They used to charge 75,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Europe, while now they charge 105,000 miles.

Part of the reason the redemption is so expensive is because they let you fly via the MIddle East. After all, when you’re flying in Emirates first class, why would you just fly from New York to Milan, when you could fly from New York to Dubai to Milan for the same price? 😉


Emirates’ A380 onboard shower

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is still the best deal

The best value for booking Emirates first & business class awards is the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program. The catch is that the only partner points currency it has is Starwood Preferred Guest. You can convert Starpoints into Japan Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. That means you’re getting 1.25 Japan Airlines miles per dollar spent. If your goal is to earn Japan Airlines miles, the best credit card to use is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

However, JAL isn’t partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou.

So if you were booking through JAL, on either route you’d pay 65,000 miles for roundtrip business class, or 100,000 miles for roundtrip first class.

Generally they don’t add carrier imposed surcharges, so as far as I know you should just be paying the standard taxes and fees on the ticket.

JAL-Emirates-Award-Chart

This is a phenomenal value, though do keep in mind the challenges with this method:

  • Points won’t transfer instantly from Starwood Preferred Guest to Japan Airlines
  • You need to book by phone

Searching Emirates award availability

You can search Emirates award availability directly on Emirates’ website, though you need to be a Skywards member. I find the interface to be a bit cumbersome, so my preference is to search through ExpertFlyer, which requires a membership. Award availability on these flights tends to be solid.

Bottom line

While the best value for booking Emirates’ flights to Milan and Athens is to transfer Starpoints to Japan Airlines, the process can be a bit cumbersome, and also not all that many people have huge balances of Starpoints.

Booking directly through Emirates Skywards isn’t actually that bad of a value if you have a big stash of Amex points, at 62,500 miles one-way in business class, or 85,000 miles one-way in first class. You can transfer over Amex Membership Rewards and book online easily. While the surcharges are high, many people will still find this worthwhile for the ability to fly nonstop to Milan or Athens.

For many this may even end up being a better value, given the accelerated rate at which you can earn Membership Rewards points on cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressThe Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American ExpressThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American ExpressThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, etc.

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Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure JAL also has a “you can only book for yourself and immediate family” rule like Korean does, don’t they? I could be wrong but I have definitely heard that before.

  2. @Bgriff – I believe you’re thinking of the other Japanese carrier, ANA, as they have the yourself or family rule. However, I’ve read it’s not enforced all that strictly, like Korean’s is. JAL doesn’t have that rule that I’m aware of.

  3. Or, purchase an economy fare and upgrade to business using miles. The fare is often less than the taxes and charges on the redemption and will cost you about half the miles. Note that whether you can upgrade, and what it costs in miles to upgrade, can depend on which economy fare class you book. It’s often better to pay $50 in the base fare to reduce the number of miles for the upgrade.

  4. LarryInNYC is correct. I did that for my flight from EWR to ATH next year when fares were going for $599. I bought an Economy flex ticket on Emirates and then transferred over SPG pts to upgrade. Cost 37k miles one way.

  5. Note that this is not a good deal for one-way tickets. Flight distance is 3,995 miles between New York (JFK) and Milan (MXP), so a one-way ticket *should* cost 65,000 miles in First Class. However, just like British Airways “fudges” their award chart to push BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus into the next band, so too does JAL “fudge” theirs by recording the flight distance between these two cities at just over 4,000 miles, so a one way ticket in First Class costs 90,000 miles.

    I learned this the hard way when I went to book 🙁

  6. I flew JFK to MXP in F this summer with my family and it was amazing. I converted Amex MR to Emirates Skywards to pay for it because there doesn’t seem to be availability on Alaska and I just don’t have a good way to earn JAL Miles. The flight was amazing and I believe Emirates is the best.

    While Skywards has the surcharges, it has great availability. Business class seemed to be pretty much wide open for two travelers. I found two F tickets for the flight over but none for the return. I found two J for the return from MXP to JFK. I signed up for text awards for upgrade availability from J to F for the return leg and got the text saying there was availability a couple of days before but decided not to upgrade to conserve MR and to try J on EK as I had never done so before. J was really nice. Obviously, F is better but it wasn’t a tremendous step down to J. I still had plenty of space and could relax. I’m tall.

    Milan was amazing. Several friends said to skip Milan and see the rest of Italy but they were wrong! The Last Supper was absolutely worth it. The Duomo was really cool. The shopping and food was amazing.

    Now I’m stacking MR so I can go to ATH on EK. I went to Greece about 20 years ago and it was great. Now it’s time to go back. It seems like the availability is largely limited to J with some occasional availability in F, mostly on Mondays. Has anybody had any luck upgrading from J to F on EK from EWR to ATH?

  7. @ Ethan — It’s very annoying indeed, though in the case of JAL, it’s not quite as malicious as the BOS-DUB situation. JAL uses city pairs rather than airport pairs to determine distance, and NYC-MIL is slightly over 4,000 miles, while JFK-MXP isn’t. Still annoying.

  8. What about Korean skypass? I know you can redeem for emirates awards generally, can you do so on this route and how many points? Also, I’ve never read any reports of folks successfully using Korean miles on emirates, so wonder how easy it is to do in practice. Can you redeem for one way or only roundtrip?

  9. Hello Lucky, you said “booking through JAL, on either route you’d pay 65,000 miles for roundtrip business class, or 100,000 miles for roundtrip first class”.

    Per the chart, just want to verify if its really true??

  10. If you book Emirates via Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, would you be charged the “United States to Middle East” price if you booked either the Milan or Athens flights, have a stopover, then continue onward from either Milan or Athens to Dubai? Would be a way to get around flying to Europe being more expensive than flying to the Middle East if it worked…

  11. @Euro

    You can only do a stopover in the carriers hub on a Alaska award, for Emirates that is DXB.

    Further more you can only get an award ticket if Alaska publish an award price on a route, NYC to Milan or Athens is not a award ticket you can book on Alaska last time I checked.

    So you can book NYC-DXB-ATH with an stopover in DXB, but not the direct routes to Europe.

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