Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Redeem Emirates miles (or Amex points) for ultra low-tax JetBlue business class flights to New York

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Back in July 2021, we covered the expanded partnership between Emirates and US airline JetBlue. This allowed you to redeem Emirates Skywards miles for JetBlue business class flights for the first time, but only domestically.

The partnership has now been extended to JetBlue’s new routes from London Heathrow and Gatwick to New York and, from Summer 2022, Boston.

Taxes are VERY low, especially from the US. This is an EXCEPTIONAL opportunity to book a one-way flight from New York to London for minimal taxes, making a huge saving.

JetBlue tailfin

Do you know that taxes and charges are out of control if you fly FROM the US to London?

From time to time, you may have looked at the ludicrous bonuses offered on US credit cards (one card is currently offering $3,000 cash as a sign-up bonus) and been annoyed that you can’t hoover up Avios so quickly.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic get their revenge, however. Taxes and charges on redemption flights are SUBSTANTIALLY higher if you live in the US.

Here’s an example:

  • London – New York – London in BA Club World = £690 of taxes and charges
  • New York – London – New York in BA Club World = £1,329 of taxes and charges (this is not a typo, and I do mean £ and not $)
  • London – New York – London in Virgin Upper Class = £688 of taxes and charges
  • New York – London – New York in Virgin Upper Class = $1,788 (£1,313) of taxes and charges

Looking at one-way trips, a one-way ticket from New York to London in BA Club World costs, on a peak date, 60,000 Avios + £541 of taxes and charges.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could reduce that £541 figure to just £7?! Well, now you can – by using Emirates Skywards miles (or converting Amex points into Emirates Skywards miles) to fly JetBlue.

JetBlue A321LR Mint Studio

What business class seat is JetBlue flying to the UK?

In February 2021, JetBlue unveiled its new business class ‘Mint’ seat that would operate the London flights. This looks like an impressive product given the restrictions of a single aisle aircraft (JetBlue is using A321LR aircraft, the same planes that Aer Lingus is flying between Dublin and the US.)

JetBlue is not part of any airline alliance, unfortunately, so you can’t earn or redeem miles with either British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. It is a partner with Emirates but redemptions were only allowed for domestic business class seats.

This has now changed.

JetBlue A321LR Mint Studio seat 2

You can now redeem Emirates Skywards miles for transatlantic JetBlue business class seats

Here is the Emirates Skywards redemption page for JetBlue. You are looking for ‘Mint’ (business class) seats.

It is a distance based chart.

JetBlue ‘Mint’ business class from London to New York (or Boston, when it launches in Summer 2022) cost, based on a distance of around 3,200 to 3,400 miles, 64,000 Emirates Skywards miles each way.

The real value is in the low taxes

64,000 Emirates Skywards miles is not a bargain in itself. Remember that British Airways charges 50,000 or 60,000 Avios, depending on date, for a one-way business class flight between London and New York.

It gets VERY interesting when you look at the taxes though.

Here is what you pay from New York to London:

JetBlue redemptions with Emirates miles

Yes, just $10 one way! This is astounding value compared to £541 for a one-way BA redemption.

Here is what you pay from London to New York:

JetBlue redemptions on Emirates miles

This isn’t such a good deal, mainly because of Air Passenger Duty, but £208 still represents a substantial saving over British Airways or Virgin Atlantic.

A return flight, starting in London, would be 128,000 Emirates Skywards miles plus £216. This compares VERY favourably to 120,000 Avios plus £690. Even on an off-peak BA day, you are better off using 128,000 Emirates miles + £216 rather than 100,000 Avios + £690.

How to book JetBlue flights using Emirates Skywards miles

You can book JetBlue flights on the Emirates website by selecting ‘Book Classic Rewards Flight’ and ‘Search Partner Flights Only’ and unticking the ‘My dates are flexible’ box.

In terms of availability, it appears that any cash ticket being sold in I-class (the industry code for discounted business class) can be booked as a reward.

If you can use ITA Matrix or have ExpertFlyer, you can track down which flights have I-class for sale. If neither of these tools mean anything to you, it is easier to look at cash prices on the JetBlue website. The dates with the lowest cash fares should be bookable as rewards.

Emirates lets you check availability online even if you don’t have the miles in your account. You can see that the screenshots above from my account show ‘Insufficient Miles’ under the price.

Remember that Emirates Skywards is a 1:1 transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards. Even more impressively, points transfer instantly if your accounts are already linked.

Conclusion

If you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to either Avios or Virgin Flying Club to redeem for flights to New York or Boston, stop.

JetBlue – booked with Emirates Skyward miles – now offers substantially better value and, based on the feedback we’ve seen, a better product too.


How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards

How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (May 2022)

Emirates Skywards does not have a UK credit card.  However, you can earn Emirates Skywards miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Skywards miles, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

Cards earning Membership Rewards points include:

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles which is an attractive rate.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.

Comments (54)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Michael L Wright says:

    Hi Rob, I have just re-read your article of 6 September 2021, and my memory that “any I class availability” was wrong. It looks like at least 10 seats in I class and they release 8 for Avios Companion. I should have done this in the first place. Great work that you are doing and all for free – amazing. Best wishes, Michael

  • Jonathan says:

    If flying with Jet Blue can you earn Emirates Skywards on a cash booking ?

    • Rob says:

      Yes

      • Jonathan says:

        Good to know, thanks !

        Although Emirates Skywards isn’t exactly a HfP favourite, something’s better than nothing ! Unless Miles & More is the only reward option, but you’d otherwise never earn them, then it’s not worth bothering with since they’d automatically expire fairly quickly

  • Paul says:

    Just an exemplar of some better offers that are out there, though I must admit this is not something many people would be willing to do.
    in 2019 as a family of 4 we flew to Bali on Turkish Airlines. The ticket originated outside the UK but for less that £3,000 4 adults flew Business to DPS.
    The miles from that trip came to just over 90,000 Miles and Smiles points and this was enough for 2 people to travel 1 way from anywhere in the USA to LHR on TK, albeit on a discounted mileage ticket and via IST.
    We are travelling to the US in April and will fly home on TK via IST. Yes its longer, but its pretty much free, will be very comfortable, and the fees were around $330 in total.

    • meta says:

      That was 2019. It’s unlikely we’ll see such offers again for a while.

      • meta says:

        Though I was pricing £680 RT cash ticket in business per person from Madrid to Lima, Peru on LATAM the other day. However since it’s non-refundable (only changeable), I didn’t pull the trigger. I’m still reluctant to book anything that is not refundable unless I need a last-minute ticket.

  • Tarmohamed says:

    Rob, could you please do an article on VA redemptions. I took out the paid VA card last year, about to get our 2-4-1 What would be the best redemptions for a non status member? If we have 2 of the 2-4-1 vouchers, 2 adults and 2 kids flying. Happy to fly premium economy- Could also transfer some of my Amex points for business

  • Tom says:

    If you want low taxes on award travel, just fly any other US airline e.g. American, United or Delta? Why single out JetBlue?

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      JetBlue is arguably better than those. But importantly, it’s not difficult to redeem points for those big3. JetBlue is difficult as it’s not part of an alliance.

    • Rob says:

      Er …. AA and United are not Amex partners and it is exceptionally difficult to earn their miles in the UK. Bit pointless writing about stuff our readers can’t access ….

      Delta flights to the UK have substantial surcharges, unless the rest of Europe.

      • Tom says:

        Rob, UK residents can earn miles on AA, UA and DL if they travel regularly to the US. Or on their Star Alliance, Skyteam or OneWorld partners elsewhere.

        I didn’t know Delta had surcharges to and from the UK. But I have used award flights to the US on both UA and AA, and the fees were nominal. It is outrageous what BA and Virgin charge for “free” flights, so UA and AA are better value (but not better experiences).

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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