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Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Emirates are the three major Middle Eastern carriers that have made large ripples in terms of their superior flight experience over the last few years.
If you’re traveling to the Middle East, India, Asia, or Africa, oftentimes they will even offer the most convenient schedules making flying these airlines a no-brainer.
Logically, it makes sense to explore options for using points to book flights on these airlines, and you’re in luck because American Express Membership Rewards® points give you quite a few options.
Below, we’ll walk through how to book, how much awards cost, and where to find space for each of the Middle Eastern 3.
In this article
Etihad’s hub is in Abu Dhabi and of the ME3 is the most straightforward to book, though not necessarily the best value, with your American Express Membership Rewards® points.
Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards®. Transfers from American Express generally take around three business days.
Etihad doesn’t have a fixed award chart for it’s own flights. Instead, you’ll have to use Etihad’s GuestSeat Mileage Calculator.
Etihad’s website doesn’t handle itineraries with connections overly well, so if you plan on making a connection you should search for your award segment-by-segment.
We checked a variety of popular routes to give you an idea of the number of miles required in each class of service. Mileage prices are listed for one way flights.
|New York JFK – Abu Dhabi||46,765||88,391||117,560|
|Abu Dhabi – Johannesburg||35,563||75,620||100,574|
|Abu Dhabi – Tokyo||45,709||80,996||107,725|
|Abu Dhabi – Mumbai||11,257||23,936||31,835|
|Abu Dhabi – Sydney||51,228||96,827||128,780|
|Abu Dhabi – Paris||29,584||62,907||83,666|
The prices listed above are the lowest prices available when flying Etihad between the city pairs listed. Note that award space will not always be available at that price.
As a general rule, you’ll get much more value out of your Etihad miles by redeeming for flights on their partner airlines, but if you are set on flying Etihad, their own miles are definitely an option.
In addition to miles, you’ll have to pay some fees, but the fees are pretty reasonable. Generally, they run about $50 per segment in Economy, $100 in Business, and $150 in First.
Where to find award space
In order to search for award space, just head on over to Etihad’s website and do an award search. If the itinerary you are interested in is coming up, all you have to do is click through and book online!
If you have a connection and the itinerary you want is not showing up, first search segment-by-segment. If you see availability for the segments that you want to book, give Etihad a call at 1-877-690-0767 to get your ticket booked!
Qatar Airways has their hub in Doha and is the only carrier of the Middle Eastern 3 to be a full member of a major airline alliance. They are a member of OneWorld.
You can use your American Express Membership Rewards® points to book a flight on Qatar Airways through Asia Miles or British Airways Avios.
American Express Membership Rewards® transfer to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio and British Airways at a 1,000:800 ratio. Asia Miles are a little harder to use because transfers can take a few days, but it’s often the cheapest way to book Qatar flights with American Express Membership Rewards® points.
Asia Miles charges based on the distance of your trip, and most flights from the U.S. to Doha are between 7,000 and 8,000 miles each way.
That places them in Zone D or E of the Asia Miles chart, which costs 60,000 – 90,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, or 120,000 – 145,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class.
Here is the price chart for trips that are all on one airline, like Qatar. The distances in this chart are *one way*.
|Distance in actual miles||0 - 600||601 - 1,200||1,201 - 2,500||2,501 - 5,000||5001 - 7,500||7,501 - 10,000||10,001 or above|
|One-way Economy Class||10,000||15,000||20,000||25,000||40,000||55,000||70,000|
|One-way Premium Economy Class||12,000||18,000||24,000||30,000||48,000||66,000||84,000|
|Premium Economy Class||18,000||24,000||36,000||54,000||72,000||108,000||132,000|
|One-way Business Class||20,000||25,000||30,000||45,000||70,000||85,000||110,000|
|One-way First Class||25,000||30,000||40,000||70,000||105,000||130,000||160,000|
And here is the price for trips that involve more than one airline, like one where you fly American to connect to a Qatar flight. The distances in this chart are *roundtrip*.
|Award Zone||Distance in actual miles||Asia Miles required to claim award/ award type|
|Economy Class||Business Class||First Class|
|1||0 - 1,000||30,000||55,000||70,000|
|2||1,001 - 1,500||30,000||60,000||80,000|
|3||1,501 - 2,000||35,000||65,000||90,000|
|4||2,001 - 4,000||35,000||70,000||95,000|
|5||4,001 - 7,500||60,000||80,000||105,000|
|6||7,501 - 9,000||60,000||85,000||115,000|
|7||9,001 - 10,000||65,000||95,000||130,000|
|8||10,001 - 14,000||85,000||115,000||155,000|
|9||14,001 - 18,000||90,000||135,000||190,000|
|10||18,001 - 20,000||95,000||140,000||205,000|
|11||20,001 - 25,000||110,000||160,000||235,000|
|12||25,001 - 35,000||130,000||190,000||275,000|
|13||35,001 - 50,000||150,000||220,000||335,000|
You’ll need to pay fuel surcharges on the awards you book. A flight from the U.S. to Doha will have fuel surcharges amounting to approximately $400 roundtrip in Economy Class or $800 in Business Class. Awards can be booked online at the Asia Miles website, but beware that you should set up a free account with Asia Miles about a week before you plan to transfer, as their system can take some time to register new accounts.
If you prefer British Airways Avios for an instant transfer, or lower prices for some shorter flights, you can see the Avios award chart based on the distance of your flight below. You’ll need to increase these prices by 25% to get the number of Amex points you’ll need to transfer. And all Qatar flights are priced at the ‘Peak’ price level.
Awards from the U.S. to Doha fall into Zone 8 or Zone 9 – either just below or just above 7,000 miles one way, depending on where you are flying from. You should expect to pay between 70,000 and 100,000 Avios roundtrip for Economy Class and 210,000 to 300,000 Avios roundtrip for Business Class.
Where to find award space
You can search for Qatar Airways award space by logging into the Asia Miles website.
Emirates is perhaps the most well known of the Middle Eastern carriers and has amazing business and first class products. You can also book Emirates flights with American Express Membership Rewards® points by utilizing transfer partners.
American Express Membership Rewards® transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.
There are a few things to keep in mind when booking with Emirates miles. First, you will pay fuel surcharges – and they can be significant. You’ll see fuel surcharges costing around $500 for roundtrip Economy flights all the way up to $1,400 roundtrip for Business Class flights.
Emirates also does not publish an award chart, so you’ll need to use their Miles Calculator to calculate the price for your flight. Below we have listed a few popular routes so you can have an idea of the prices Emirates charges.
|New York JFK – Dubai||62,500||100,000||136,250|
|Dubai – Johannesburg||41,250||66,250||90,000|
|Dubai – Tokyo||53,750||86,250||117,500|
|Dubai – Mumbai||23,750||38,750||52,500|
|Dubai – Sydney||62,500||100,000||136,250|
|Dubai – Paris||38,750||62,500||85,000|
Emirates charges pretty ridiculously high prices for flights booked with miles. If you’re looking for a way to save miles, we recommend looking into using Alaska Airlines miles for flights on Emirates.
If you want to use Emirates miles via a transfer from American Express, using them to upgrade flights is often a better deal than a regular award ticket.
Where to find award space
You can search for and book award space directly through Emirates.com or you can call Emirates at 1-800-777-3999. It may be easier to find award space through Emirates’ partner Alaska Airlines, but you will still need to book directly with Emirates.
The Backup Option
Assuming none of the above options are giving you the ability to book the flights you want on the days you want, you can always redeem your American Express Membership Rewards® points for one cent each toward travel purchases through American Express Travel.
Or if you have The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you can get 30% of your points back when you book Business or First Class airfare using your American Express Membership Rewards® points through American Express Travel.
While this isn’t the most valuable use of your points, it will give you the ability to book any flight that a seat is available for, and you will also earn redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles for those flights. If you can hop on one of the fare sales for flights from the U.S. it may actually cost less points to redeem through American Express Travel than directly with the airlines.