Booking Our Outbound Flight to Dubai and The Maldives

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We’re planning a two-week trip to Dubai and the Maldives.    For the outbound flight we decided to fly Emirate.  Emirate operates a non-stop flight from LAX to Dubai on their A380.  We booked an award ticket that included a one week layover.  We would fly from Los Angeles to Dubai, stay in Dubai for a week, and then continue on from Dubai to the Maldives.  Both of these flights are allowed on a single award booking.

When it comes to booking award flights on Emirates, there are several points and miles options.  The most straightforward approach is to use Emirates Skyward miles to book the flight.  This was indeed an option we could consider. We had a stockpile of American Express Membership Reward points, and these points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Emirates.  One option was to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Emirates and book directly with Emirates. The cost for two, one-way business class tickets was 247,500 Emirates Skyward Miles and $1750 in taxes in fees.

We opted instead to book the flight using Alaska Air Mileage Plan miles.

Why Book An Emirates Flight Through Alaska?  

The word “Alaska” doesn’t evoke images of either the desert of Dubai, or overwater bungalows in the Maldives, but Alaska has a partnership that allows members of its Mileage Plan loyalty program to book Emirates flight using Alaska miles.  The cost for two one-way business class tickets was 165,000 Alaska miles and a total of $104.40 dollars in taxes. We would be flying on the same Emirates flights, and as you’ll see, the total cost was less expensive.

Getting Alaska Miles

Once we decided on booking through the Alaska Mileage Plan, we needed a total of 165,000 Alaska miles for the two business class tickets.   This was going to talk some work, we had a  starting balance of less than 10k in our existing Alaska Mileage account.  Here’s how we made up the difference:

We Transferred Marriott Points  – Marriott points can be transferred to Alaska Airlines at a rate of 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 Alaska Miles.  We transferred 240,000 Marriott points to Alaska, which resulted in 100,000 more Alaska miles.

We bought 58,000 Alaska Airline Points – We normally avoid buying points and miles, but as you’ll see below, it made sense given our situation.

Can Buying Miles Make Sense?

Buying miles is not part of our normal strategy for award flights, but in this case, it seemed to make sense.  We created a spreadsheet with several options and decided on buying the Alaska Miles. In the aftermath, we did further cost analysis and discovered we came out more ahead than initially thought.  Below is the math for both booking via Emirates and booking through Alaska. For purposes of calculation we’re using the following point valuations.

  • We’re valuing American Express Membership Reward points at 1.5 cents a piece.
  • We’re valuing Marriott Bonvoy points at .7 cents a piece.

Here’s how the math works out.

Scenario #1 – Transfer 247,500 American Express Membership Reward Points to Emirates Skywards Program and then book the flight directly through Emirates website.

1) Value of 247,500 Membership Reward Points which are transfered (247,500 x .015) = $3712.50

2) Taxes and fees charged by Emirates for two business class tickets = $1750

Total cost for Scenario # 1 is $5462.50

Scenario #2 – Transfer 240,000 Marriott points to Alaska Air and buy the remaining points.

1) Value of 240,000 Marriott points which are transferred (240,000 x .07) =  $1680

2) Taxes and fees charged by Alaska Air for two business class tickets = $104.40

3) Cost for purchasing 58,000 Alaska points = $1714.63

Total cost for Scenario # 2 is $3499.03

In both cases, the out of pocket expenses were similar, around $1700 dollars, but we used a less valuable points currency, namely, our Marriott points.  Buying points is usually something we avoid, but this time it made sense.

Conclusion – We now have the outbound flight for our trip. Next we need to figure a way to get back from the Maldives.

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