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Want to fly best first-class seats on top airlines at dirt-cheap rates? Try this
Here’s what the airlines don’t want you to figure out: All it takes is a little points savvy to experience luxurious seats for pennies on the dollar. And thanks to powerful credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum, loyal flying may not be necessary. Here are the hacks that will get you into the five best cabins in the skies today.
Emirates’ new suites, which were announced in November, are impressive not just for luxuriousness but relative rarity. Emirates may not partner with the large airline alliances, but it does offer valuable points partnerships that are easy to leverage. Those include American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, whose points can be applied toward an award booking through the Emirates website. A first-class ticket between Dubai and Europe costs 85,000 miles each way.
/ Have a Chase Ultimate Rewards account? Transfer points from there to Korean Air’s Skypass program, which partners with Emirates, and your round-trip Dubai-to-Europe ticket will cost 120,000 miles. If you have Starwood Preferred Guest points to burn, try moving them to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, which charges just 100,000 miles for a round-trip between Dubai and Brussels, Geneva, or London.
The only miles currency that Singapore Airlines accepts for first-class bookings is its own KrisFlyer miles—a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest.
/Even a new KrisFlyer member can score the 75,000 miles it takes to fly one-way in a suite from Singapore to Sydney by rolling over the same number of points from one of these partner programs.
As one Air France flight attendant told me on a recent trip, “There are no upgrades to la Première.” The airline doesn’t make it easy to get it free by using miles, either, but it is possible. To do so, you can use only Air France’s Flying Blue miles—and solely if you have elite status with the airline.
/The good news is, you need only a basic level of elite status to be eligible, so frequent fliers can credit a few weeks or months of travel to Flying Blue and they will be set. Flying Blue also transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest, so it’s easy to pad your account with points from other programs.
Good news for U. S.-based fliers: Cathay is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, along with American Airlines Inc., so you can use AAdvantage miles for award tickets on the Asian carrier. That costs 110,000 miles each way from the airline’s hub in Hong Kong to the continental U. S., or 90,000 miles each way between Hong Kong and Europe.
/Have Alaska Airlines miles? You’re in even better luck. It costs only 70,000 Alaska miles for a one-way, first-class ticket between Asia and the U. S. or Europe. Pro tip: Cathay often opens up award seats at the last minute, so spontaneous travelers can be handsomely rewarded.
Transfer agreements with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest make it feasible to book even the Apartment as an award ticket. All you have to do is shuffle points into an Etihad Guest account and redeem directly through the airline’s website.
/ Redemption rates vary by destination, but a one-way award ticket from JFK to Abu Dhabi costs roughly 136,500 Guest miles, plus $275 in taxes and fees. A similar ticket between Abu Dhabi and London costs far less: about 88,000 miles, plus $235 in taxes and fees. Prefer to use AAdvantage miles? You can do that, too. A first-class award between Abu Dhabi and the U. S. costs 115,000 miles each way, and routes between Abu Dhabi and Europe come to about half that.
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