Bits and pieces: Amex capping airline MR transfers, Emirates crazy surcharges, Jumeirah via Amex MR

I was putting together our Easter holiday in Dubai for 2015 yesterday.  (We have family there which is why we go often, it is not a failure of imagination on our part!)

Three interesting things popped up whilst I was doing the necessary transfers:

American Express is imposing caps on Membership Rewards transfers into certain airline schemes from January

The Membership Rewards website is now saying that the UK scheme will cap transfers into the following airlines at 1 million points per calendar year:

  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Asia Miles

Oddly, transfers to Delta will not be capped – even though Delta is imposing a 1 million point cap in the US from January.

This will obviously only impact a very small number of people.  That said, if it will only impact a few people, why bother imposing a cap at all?  And whose idea was it, Amex or the airline?  It also sets a nasty precedent if the caps are reduced downwards in future years.

Emirates A380

Emirates Skywards ‘taxes and charges’ are getting insane

If you thought British Airways Executive Club had gone overboard with taxes and spurious charges, it has nothing on Emirates Skywards.

The tax per person for a business class redemption to Dubai is now £658.

It makes the BA figure of £517 look reasonable.

To put this in comparison though, I just booked an Etihad redemption to Abu Dhabi and the tax was just over £200 in business class.  Almost all of this was UK Air Passenger Duty.

The snag is that Etihad only ever makes TWO business class seats per flight open for redemption.  This means that, for our family holiday purposes, it is a non-starter.

Jumeirah beach

The Jumeirah hotel group remains an Amex International Currency Card partner

Jumeirah pulled out of the UK Membership Rewards programme last year.  This was a blow as, if you are heading to Dubai, Jumeirah operates three of the best beach resorts (five of the best if you treat Madinat Jumeirah as three hotels and not one).

Jumeirah remains a partner of the Amex International Currency Card Membership Rewards scheme.  I explained in this article how you can open an International Currency Card and transfer your Membership Rewards points from the UK scheme to the ICC scheme.

Jumeirah redemptions are an excellent use of MR points.  I just booked two nights in Abu Dhabi for 2,000 Jumeirah Sirius points.  This would require (20:1 conversion) 40,000 Membership Rewards points from the ICC Amex.

If you converted these points from the UK scheme at a $1.60 to £1 exchange rate, it would require (40,000 / 1.6) 25,000 UK Membership Rewards points.  My room would have cost £355 for cash for two nights, so I am getting almost 1.5p per UK Membership Rewards point – an excellent result.

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  1. Having a cap at 1 million MR points is a problem I would be very happy to have to deal with!

  2. Raffles

    Where else can you fly in April and October, 7 hours away, plenty of flights, good hotels and guaranteed sunshine?
    Answers on a postcard!

  3. Are you staying in the etihad towers in Abu Dhabi? We have stayed at about 5 of the jumeirah hotels in dubai and Abu Dhabi and loved them all. The ethical towers and the zabeel saray were my favourites.

    • Yes, currently booked into Etihad Towers. Get free brekky with my Jumeirah Silver card as well! To be honest I expected to drop from Gold to Basic but it seems they do soft landings via Silver.

  4. What is the absolutely cheapest way for a family of 4 to get to Dubai from London? Is it on Air Berlin via TXL or Duss and then taxi? or via an RFS to IST and then a LCC, or are there cheaper ways? thanks

    • Business? Almost certainly airberlin via TXL (NOT Dusseldorf as that is in the higher priced Avios band). 50k Avios return and £50 tax plus the cost of a RFS to Berlin. I have recently seen 4 business class seats on this route for redemption so it seems that the old ‘2 seats only’ rule may have been lifted. Remember you get the free chauffeur service from Abu Dhabi into Dubai as well.

      For economy travel, I would just buy a cheap sale ticket for cash from London. Qatar was offering them for £380 in the sale last week. Even airberlin, at 25,000 Avios + £50 + connecting flight to Berlin, looks like hard work in comparison.

  5. thanks, was thinking of economy as I could never see 4 seats in business but if they do exist then will keep my eyes peeled. Cheers

    • I didn’t think they existed either but I saw it recently. It may have been an error as I struggle to replicate it.

      I need Etihad to start offering 4 in J! I paid £2,600 yesterday in Emirates ‘taxes and charges’. If I booked on Etihad it would have been £800. When the kids are bigger we could do 2F, 2J but that is not practical at present.

  6. For splitting between F and J, I would get so many complaints if I did that!

  7. what would you recommend for a family of 3?. My daughter has just turned 1 so while for upcoming Xmas and Easter we are travelling in C with the baby on our lap (or better my wife’s lap 😉 for next year, my daughter will need next year a seat on her own.
    I am wondering what is the best way forward.
    Getting 3 rewards seats in C looks a challenge so I wanted to know whether I should start looking for availability 11 months ahead or try to grab 2 C award seats and one paid C ticket (which probably would be quite expensive as finding award tickets at the same time when there is a promotion would be equally difficult) or buying 3 tickets in Y (or Y+) and choose only day flights (or upgrade the overnight return leg)

  8. Once they’re old enough to sit in a different cabin and I’m paying for them using my miles or my cash then they’ll go in Y, regardless of what cabin I’m in.

    I don’t want them to be spoilt brats. I want them to learn that if they want something they need to work hard for it. (or they need to learn how to make the most of HfP!).

    • Unless you want to spoil them kids won’t have a problem flying Y anyway – they can’t have alcohol, they don’t know how to enjoy good food because their taste buds haven’t developed fully, and they are flexible (and if younger, smaller) so legroom/flat bed isn’t so important.

  9. Not sure you should all get Dubai hungry. Fair enough, Raffles has family out there. And it’s not so far.

    Personally, I hate the place (having lived there 6 months) plus all of the ME – but mostly on value terms. (OK also because the locals are mostly pretty patronising & unpleasant.)

    For a few quid more you could go to so many far better destinations for Winter sunshine, eg Thailand.

    At least the people there are lovely & welcoming, ‘our’ kind of people and the food is excellent.

    • Squills
      I hear what you say about Dubai and tbh most of the tourists are pretty rude as well, from certain countries, in Dubai.
      But when you are travelling during school holidays in apr and oct, the far East is too far and the time difference too much, for young children, when they are straight back to school when you return.
      However, as you point out, I do not get how the hotels can charge so much, but they are always fully booked when we go!!!!!