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Etihad Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways, the big 3 Gulf carriers, are known for exceptional amenities in all classes of service, from onboard bars and showers to the biggest screens for seatback entertainment.
And if you’re trying to travel to the Middle East, India, Africa, Southeast Asia, or Australia, they can often have the most convenient flights available.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® doesn’t let you transfer points into Etihad, Qatar, or Emirates mileage accounts.
But there are ways to snag award flights on all three by utilizing other Chase transfer partners, and some are actually pretty reasonable options. We’ll walk through how to book, how much awards cost, and where to find space for each of the big 3.
Etihad’s hub is in Abu Dhabi and it’s a partner with Korean SkyPass, which is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards. So you can easily transfer points to Korean and then book Etihad flights via your Korean SkyPass account.
Unfortunately Korean has a couple of strict rules when it comes to booking Etihad award flights:
- You can only book round trip awards, no one ways are allowed
- You pay separately for each flight segment you take. So if your trip has a connection, like Washington – Abu Dhabi – Delhi, you’ll pay for the Washington – Abu Dhabi price plus the Abu Dhabi – Delhi price. Unless you’re planning to end your trip in Abu Dhabi, just about every Etihad trip involves a connection.
Korean keeps a full award chart for Etihad flights on its site, though it doesn’t do the math for connecting prices, so we did that in the chart below for trips from the U.S. to popular Etihad destinations. The numbers below are in thousands, so ’70’ means you need 70,000 miles for a roundtrip flight:
You’ll see that Abu Dhabi and North India are really the only destinations that are decent deals price wise. The good news is carrier surcharges on Etihad flights are often pretty reasonable, so flights to Abu Dhabi and Northern India are decent values for your Chase points if you can find award space. Generally they run $50 per segment for Economy, $100 for Business, and $150 for First.
210,000 points for a flight sounds steep, but if you can snag the ultra luxe Etihad Apartment from New York JFK to Abu Dhabi you’re in for a private treat like no other in the sky.
Where to find award space: You have to book over the phone by calling Skypass on 1-800-438-5000, but searching for space is easy. Just head to the Etihad website to do an award search, and any flights that display as having ‘Guest’ seats available should be bookable by Korean Skypass agents. Even better, Korean agents will put an award on hold for you before you decide to transfer your miles.
Qatar Airways, with a hub in Doha, is the only of the big 3 Gulf carriers to be a full fledged member of a major airline alliance, and is a member of OneWorld.
That means it’s a partner with British Airways, and you can use British Airways Avios, a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, to book Qatar Airways flights.
British Airways Avios come with some caveats:
- You pay fuel surcharges on awards, which for flights from the U.S. to Doha range from about $400 roundtrip for Economy Class to nearly $800 for Business Class.
- You pay separately for each flight segment you take. So if you’re flying Washington – Doha – Johannesburg, you’ll pay separately for each leg, and the price is based on the distance of your flight. Longer flights cost more points.
You can see the Avios award chart based on the distance of your flight below.
Awards from the U.S. to Doha fall in Zone 8 or 9, at just below or just above 7,000 miles one way. So you can expect to pay 70,000 – 100,000 points roundtrip for Economy Class and 210,000 – 300,000 points roundtrip in Business class.
Where to find award space: You can search for Qatar Airways awards by logging on to BA.com and doing an Avios award search.
Emirates is the grand daddy of the Gulf airlines, and like Etihad, it’s a partner with Korean Skypass, so you can transfer Chase points to Korean to book awards on Emirates flights.
Rules to keep in mind when booking Emirates flights with Korean miles:
- You will pay fuel surcharges. And they can be enormous, ranging from about $500 roundtrip in Economy Class to over $1,400 in Business Class or First Class for Emirates flights.
- You can only book round trip awards, no one ways are allowed.
- You pay separately for each flight segment you take. So if your trip has a connection, like Washington – Dubai – Delhi, you’ll pay for the Washington – Dubai price plus the Dubai- Delhi price. Unless you’re planning to end your trip in Dubai, just about every Emirates trip involves a connection.
The award prices are identical to those for Etihad flights with Korean miles, and here are the prices for popular destinations from the U.S., factoring in the fact you pay extra miles for connecting flights. Prices are roundtrip, in thousands.
When you factor in fuel surcharges there aren’t many cases when using Korean Skypass to book Emirates flights makes a lot of sense, unless you’re really bent on sitting in Emirates First Class and are willing to pay the fuel surcharges. 210,000 miles plus $1,450 sounds like a lot, but compared to the nearly $31,000 a cash ticket costs in Emirates First Class to Dubai, it’s a deal.
Where to find award space: The best place to search for Emirates award space is on the Alaska Airlines website. Alaska is a partner with Emirates and you can find award seats using the Alaska Airlines award search tool. With no fuel surcharges, Alaska miles really are the best if Emirates flights are in your plans, but they’re harder to earn than Ultimate Rewards points if you’re not creative with strategies.
The backup option
Finally, you can always use your Chase points to buy tickets on Etihad, Qatar, or Emirates via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when you do this, so for example an $800 flight would cost 64,000 points. And if you don’t have enough points, you can use as few as 1,000 at a time to reduce the price of your ticket, and pay the rest in cash.
It’s not our favorite use of Chase points, but with the Gulf carriers regularly offering big fare sales from the U.S., your best bet is often to use your points this way if their flights are the most convenient.