Awful: JAL Adds MASSIVE Surcharges To Emirates Awards

Well this isn’t fun…

Emirates has one of my favorite first class products in the world, and that’s not even taking into consideration their brand new first class product, which looks spectacular.


Emirates A380 first class

Up until last March, my favorite way to redeem for Emirates first class was to book through Alaska Mileage Plan. Unfortunately overnight they jacked up the rates by 67-100%. As far as I’m concerned Mileage Plan is no longer an attractive way to book first class awards on Emirates.

Nowadays the best way to redeem miles for Emirates is through the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program, which is transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest. While that’s one of the tougher points currencies to accrue, there are some incredible values to be had. They have a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates, as follows:

Just to give an example of how spectacular of a value that is, flying 14,001-20,000 miles in first class will cost you 155,000 miles. Within that mileage range you could fly from New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York in Emirates first class, with stopovers in each city.

Historically Japan Airlines hasn’t even added carrier imposed surcharges to award travel on Emirates, assuming the ticket originates in the US (they did add fuel surcharges out of some regions, like Australia). Unfortunately that has changed. As of November 22, 2017, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is charging massive fuel surcharges for travel on Emirates.

The bottom of Japan Airlines’ award chart lists the maximum fees for all regions. In the past it said the following for Emirates:

EMIRATES (EK): U.S. to U.A.E round-trip: maximum US$78.20

And now it says the following:

EMIRATES (EK): U.S.(JFK) to Dubai round-trip: maximum US$1,716.09 (as of November 22, 2017)

So in the past you’d pay under $100 roundtrip for Emirates first class, and now you’re paying over $1,700 roundtrip. Awful!

You should be able to estimate the surcharges you’d pay for all Emirates award tickets booked through Japan Airlines using ITA Matrix. Just pretend you’re making a revenue booking for the flights you want, and then on the results page the fees listed should reflect what you’ll have to pay.

For example, here are the results for a roundtrip ticket from New York to Dubai in first class:

So you’d have to pay everything except the $24,938 base fare, so you’re on the hook for an extra $1,624 in fees. The fees are identical in business class. Meanwhile in economy if you redeemed miles you’d pay everything except the $140 base fare, meaning you’d pay $510 more than before:

Those same fees should apply for all Emirates flights from the US to Dubai. If you want to fly Emirates from New York to Milan or Newark to Athens in first or business class you can expect to pay $1,040 more than you paid before:

This is an awful development for what was one of the best mileage values out there. Ugh…

(Tip of the hat to Colin and Gaurav)

Comments

  1. is the massive fuel surcharges only from bookings departing from the US? What if you redeem a one way award ticket dep from DXB to Australia?

  2. Phew, just as I was about to pull the trigger on moving about 200k SPG points to JAL to book SIN-DXB-LAX for the wife and I!!

  3. So after JAL and Alaska, what would be the 3rd best way to redeem for Emirates?

    Can you still do New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York in Emirates first class, with stopovers in each City Plus $1,700+ surcharges? I guess that wouldn’t be too bad for a few hundred per segment.

  4. @ Ever — I’m afraid that JAL is probably still the best option, even with these changes. Nothing really within range that’s otherwise great.

  5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Eventually all airlines will stick these surcharges onto award travel. BA gets all the hostility about that but maybe they were just the first.

    Enjoy “free” award travel while you can.

  6. @ The Traveling Millennial — I could be mistaken, but last I checked JAL only allows a single partner airline per award when booking a non-oneworld partner, so I don’t think you could do what you’re proposing.

  7. @ Anthong — You’d still pay whatever the going surcharge is. For example, a one-way Dubai to Sydney flight in first class seems to come with $435 in surcharges.

  8. @ Love that A380 — You pay whatever the surcharges are, so a roundtrip Dubai to New York award would come with $870 in surcharges, which is significantly less, but still a lot.

  9. Just tried a couple of combinations on ITA, and it seems that there’s very little (talking about ~$10) to no YQ for EK flights departing from HKG and TYO to pretty much anywhere in the EK network, and regardless of class of service.

  10. Looks like you’d be better off booking a *cheap* EK F fare, like JNB-NYC for <$5K or JNB-LAX for <$5,400. Some decent fares out there, which, when factoring in the value of SPG and the YQ, makes it pretty equal, except you'd earn on the purchased fares.

  11. This is awful. I’m now on the hook for 465K SPG points I transferred to get F seats on Emirates. Truly terrible.

  12. @Mr WD

    I just xfered points to JAL to book via emirates too ….. this is redic. Some kind of a notification should be nice rather than find out the hard way when you book it that they have changed it….. absurd.

  13. It looks like if you’re willing to originate outside the U.S., there’s several interesting starting points that charge very little if any fuel surcharges on the way to the U.S. – Male, Melbourne, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Seoul ($193 one way), Tokyo, just to name a few. Singapore, KUL, BKK, HKT, SGN, CPT, JNB all had pretty steep charges ($400+ one way). I mostly checked the places I’m most interested in, but I’m sure they’ll be someone who’ll come up with a nice table of most of the locations.

    I know originating somewhere else isn’t the most convenient thing exactly, but seems like there’s still some options on the table to get a pretty great deal using JAL miles for F seats on Emirates.

  14. I guess JL has seen a surge of bookings since March, with people no longer using Alaska. At the end of the day, they’re only passing on the airline’s YQ!

  15. @usr22
    The HKG departure is easy to explain. It is illegal. Brasil is also knkwn to be a place where surcharges are not allowed

  16. Out of curiosity, what is driving the change? Did JAL eat this surcharge historically and was losing $$$ because it wasn’t their revenue passengers that were making redemptions, but rather people transferring miles in? Or, did their contract with EK change such that this is a new cost imposed on JAL that they are passing through? Or, does EK not impose the surcharge on JAL but they are still imposing on customers? I suspect it is one of the first two- but thought I’d ask.

  17. Lucky correctly avoids using the term “fuel” surcharge, which tends to give a veneer of respectability to this ripoff, “We’re charging you more because we can” junk fee. Let’s be careful in our terminology – the YQ has virtually nothing at all to do with fuel; and we shouldn’t give it that fig leaf.

  18. @Lucky, does the surcharge apply if you’re originating from Hong Kong where fuel surcharges have been abolished. Last time I checked you use EK skyward rewards and fly one way without surcharges from HKG, but it will cost the flex amount of miles.

  19. I’m confused why you’re saying JAL is adding the YQ/YR, since clearly EK is the one who charges the YQ/YR. JAL is just passing along carrier fees to the customer. AA does the same thing when you book a flight on BA metal. Just passing along the insane YQ from BA.

  20. It’s very interesting result because the price of surcharge from Tokyo to Dubai is only less than 150USD (both way) even in First class.
    It takes 9-10hour so I am wondering why there is such a big difference.

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