Emirates, fuel surcharges, and why the right redemption is ALWAYS a good redemption

Over half term in October, we will be down in Dubai again visiting family. I had managed to get 4 Club World seats down to Abu Dhabi, which I felt was a good result given it was half term. (Abu Dhabi is a 90 minute drive from Dubai.)

The return flight was more troublesome. I had managed to get us seats, which in itself was quite an achievement. However, the routing – Dubai to Amman (two in Business, two in Economy) on Royal Jordanian, connecting to a British Airways flight in Amman, was not ideal.

The timings were good, but changing planes with small children is best avoided if possible. More importantly, BA has been swapping the old BMI mid-haul planes that serve Amman with bog-standard A320’s recently – which means no flat bed, just a usual short-haul Club Europe seat!

So, I was looking for an alternative. And, as it happens, Emirates had availability for four people in Business Class.

Emirates A380

These flights were not going to be cheap, because I would be using ‘Flex’ reward seats which are expensive (62,500 miles per person, one way) but at the same time a lot easier to find.

My Emirates Skywards account was empty. However, I did have some Starwood Preferred Guest points, partly as a result of referring readers for the Starwood Amex card last month (thank you!).

Now, a lot of people will consider this a poor deal, but I transferred 200,000 SPG points over to Emirates, giving me 250,000 Emirates Skywards miles. I then used these miles to book four business class seats on an A380 from Dubai to Heathrow.

Could I have got better value for those Starwood points with a hotel stay? Almost certainly, since I only got about 1p per point of value transferring to Emirates. A smart redeemer could get 2p per point with a Starwood hotel redemption.

However … look at it my way. I wanted 4 seats, in business class, on a very busy route, on a particular Saturday (with no real flexibility due to school restarting) AND on a day flight (most of the flights on this route leave during the night).

Emirates Skywards offered me all that, and with an A380 to boot. I also get the chauffeur car in Dubai and Heathrow thrown in, which is an extra bonus. For me, this was a great redemption, delivering exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it. And, at the end of the day, that is what its all about.

EK and fuel surcharges

This story has a coda. Once upon a time, I think, Emirates didn’t bother with fuel surcharges. Then they added some fairly minor ones.

However, in March, Emirates and Qantas launched their joint venture between Europe and Australasia. This means that the two airlines now operate as one, to all intents and purposes, on these routes.

Members of either frequent flyer scheme can redeem on either airline. However, anyone who collected and redeemed from an Emirates account paid minimal surcharges. Anyone redeeming via a Qantas account was charged.

A few months ago the two airlines therefore agreed, with absolutely no announcement, to jack up fuel surcharges on Emirates redemptions via Skywards to a comparable level.

For comparison, my four business class seats from Dubai to London came with total taxes of £184 each, one-way. British Airways charges £176, so roughly the same. Oddly, if you fly Dubai-Amman-London (with Amman-London on BA and the connection on Royal Jordanian) the fuel surcharge is only £126!

Emirates doesn’t even reveal these figures on its website. When you book, it shows Dubai to London at 62,500 miles plus taxes of c £60. These are the ‘real’ taxes, ie airport charges. Only when you have selected a flight do you see the full total, which is 300% of what you were expecting, and with no explanation for the extra cost ……

Registration open for Hyatt's 'Discover The Possibilities' promotion
British Airways launches a new route to Austin, Texas (and other long-haul schedule changes)
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. dannyrado says:

    I wondered why I couldn’t find the article again when I searched, I was one of those that received it prematurely.

    Out of interest how many points is the lowest priced business class seat from say DXB-MAN or visa-versa? Did I read correctly, that these lower priced redemptions are only available as returns?

    Also, are 3 seats fairly easy to come by?

    • No idea how easy it is to get normal level awards – even if they were there for October half term at one point, they wouldn’t have been now.

      3 at Flex level is very easy, albeit at 125k per person return it is not surprising.

      You can search availability with a zero points balance so you can have a peek around.

      And, yes, base level redemptions are return flights only.

  2. 40 SPG referrals! I’d say the blog running costs are definitely being off-set 😉

  3. Mr Chiggles says:

    Couldn’t have said it better, short haul redemptions are often poo pooed as poor value for money on BA but when you need to take the family away for holiday at the last minute and connect through a regional airport it is the right redemption, even if it would have been better used to upgrade a long haul flight.

  4. Us you saved a stash of avios you would otherwise have lost which now have potential to be enhanced with 241 or a future BA redemption sale. If events play out right for you then you could yet get value lost on spg back on BA.

    • Not sure I follow… 200,000 SPG points could be converted to 312,500 Avios with current 25% bonus. Not suggesting that would gave been better in this case, though if the availability had been there 4x Club one way from Dubai would be 160,000 Avios, not much more than half.

      Availability, or lack thereof can clearly make a big difference to the value of your points & miles stash.

      • I am guessing you a) do not have 2 kids and b) have never tried to get 4 business class seats on BA to any family destination during a one week half term or Easter holiday :-). (Summer is easier.)

        Technically, Avios have a zero value if you cannot get seats at the times you need them!

        I can usually pull it off, but you end up paying games. This time it would have been going home via Amman, which I am delighted to avoid. For next Easter I have had to book the return in First which I really do not want to do with a 2 year old. We will, seriously, probably end up going into Club and trying to find a group of 4 in the centre block who want a free upgrade.

        If BA suddenly opens up some Club World seats at short notice, I will probably cancel the Emirates seats and hold the miles back for the next time we are struggling. I doubt it, though.

        • Absolutely, though for those of us without that many points/miles to hand a cash economy fare would probably end up being the answer in such cases… :-(

          I was merely questioning the point that it saved a stash of avios.

          • I am doing everything I can at the moment to spend points and retain cash! It was a tough one at Easter when I cancelled Avios tickets and paid £4,000 for cash tickets in a BA sale, but it massively improved our flight times so I did it. I am trying to avoid this going forward, though. Given Qatar’s entry into oneworld, I might try to persuade my wife that taking the kids to Doha – given their new museum building programme – would be an interesting beach and culture holiday!

        • What's the Point says:

          There is a new airport at Amman now, its not so bad for a lay over.
          Agree if your comments were referring to the old airport (dump!)

  5. Exitcontrol says:

    Total sense here, as always. Miles are there to be used, not to be hoarded. There’s always going to be a better way that they can be used or a more ‘miles efficient’ way, however let’s not lose sight of why we collect them !

  6. Mrtibbs1999 says:

    Totally agree with you Raffles. Miles are for using. You got from where you were to where you wanted for as little fuss as possible. Anyone who disagrees, clearly has never travelled with infants.

  7. Agree entirely – best value is different for everyone depending on their personal circumstances. What you might consider bad value I might consider excellent value and vice versa.

  8. How long to SPG transfers take? I did one to BA Exec last week and the points still haven’t arrived. First time I’ve done it so I’m a bit worried I’ve done something wrong.

    I also did a transfer of MR points to BA Exec and they haven’t arrived either.

    • SPG can be slow.

      I did a Lufthansa transfer earlier in the year and it took A MONTH. Emirates were better – those transfers go across every Saturday, so it takes 1 day if you do it on Friday and 6 days if you do it on Sunday! Not sure about BA.

  9. Raffles – would be interested on your thoughts on Emirates Biz Class product compared to BA’s.

    I’ve flown a few times with Emirates on the A380 (clever seating arrangement) and 777 (3 rows in middle), so when i look at BA Club World with the backwards facing seats and small TV screens I have some doubts as to how it compares.

    • I’ve done it once and rate it highly. However, the downside (for a family) is that you cannot – because of the way the seats are lined up – take a line of 4 and easily control the kids in the middle.

      I have therefore booked 2 x middle blocks behind each other and we will do 2 x parent / child combos. As the middle seats have direct aisle access, this is workable as the kids won’t be climbing over strangers to get out (as they clearly will once they realise the bar is down the back!). My main concern is the 2-year old disappearing down the massive flight of stairs to the lower deck.

  10. I like this. Points are to be used! It’s not all about maximizing value per point. If you have a family (like I do) sometimes convenience wins out.

  11. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    How did using SPG points to buy tickets directly stack up?

    • I could theoretically have used SPG Flights to book cash tickets on Swiss at £1550 per person, return. However, I don’t have the SPG points required to do that. And no decent airline is selling a one-way back at £750.

      SPG Flights comes out at a 0.8p-0.9p per SPG point, depending on where you fall in the pricing band. I got around 1p per SPG with the EK redemption, but won’t earn any miles back. Valuation probably about equal on that basis, with the benefit on EK of a direct flight (massively valuable with kids) and the chauffeur.

  12. Lady London says:

    Thank you Raffles. You are an oasis of common sense about miles and points. And unlike some other blogs, you always strive to be transparent. Your arrival as a blogger with HFP has been much appreciated. Particularly to those of us in the UK market.