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.
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.
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 ……