Aviation geeks and flyers in premium cabins all dread the same two words: equipment swap. A sudden change to which aircraft is operating your flight can often mean a serious downgrade.
But this time, it's a big win on one of the coolest ways to fly to Europe. Starting March 1, Emirates is bringing its massive Airbus A380s back on its route between New York City (JFK) and Milan (MXP), according to currently published schedules. That's an upgrade from nose-to-tail: roomier seats in economy, lie-flat seats and an onboard bar for business class passengers, and Emirates' vaunted showers in the sky if you're flying first class.
It's the first time in years we've seen Emirates deploy its biggest jets on one of these fifth-freedom routes, which run between two countries that aren't an airline's home hub. Unfortunately, Emirates'other U.S. fifth-freedom route from Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) is still scheduled with a Boeing 777 through the end of the year.
Best of all, we recently found gobs of award space to fly both of these Emirates routes to Europe in Emirates business class for just 90,000 Emirates miles roundtrip. Thrifty Traveler Premium members got an award alert earlier this week for a chance to book seats for two (or more!) passengers to both Milan and Athens from spring 2022 through the fall.
Get award alerts like this one sent to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium, along with cheap domestic and international cash fares!
That's a heck of a deal considering most airlines charge 70,000 miles or more for a one-way flight to Europe in business class. Plus, Emirates miles are incredibly easy to earn as you can transfer them from Chase, Amex, Capital One, and Citi. With just the bonus on the new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, you've got enough miles for roundtrip flights to Europe in business class … with plenty of miles to spare!
Emirates tacks on a reasonable $160 or so in fees on these roundtrip business class redemptions.
With the Airbus A380 flying to Milan come March, you're in for a treat even in business class. The seats are incredibly private and comfortable – and unlike the inferior seats onboard most of the airline's 777s, these recline completely flat into bed mode. While Emirates has shut down the onboard bar as COVID-19 cases spiked, we expect that unique feature to resume in the coming months.
You can also try to fly Emirates First Class on this route, though it will require a lot of flexibility and patience: Award space is much harder to track down. If you can make it work, it will run you 85,000 miles each way. If you're set on securing a shower at 35,000 feet, you can try to upgrade a business class award to first class at the airport check-in desk for 30,000 additional Emirates miles.
Both Italy and Greece are open to American travelers … but not without significant hurdles.
In Italy, you'll need proof of full vaccination as well as a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival – or just 24 hours before entry with a rapid antigen test. Heading for Athens or the Greek isles means you'll need to meet those same testing requirements, though there's no requirement for proof of vaccination.
If you need to cancel, Emirates will do you a solid: The airline is currently allowing free cancellation to get your miles (and taxes and fees) back on all award tickets.
We love this news. At long last, you can fly one of Emirates' best jets on one of the best, quirky ways to get to Europe.
And thanks to a Thrifty Traveler Premium award alert, it's easy to book business class seats for two (or more) on this route to Milan all spring, summer, and fall for just 90,000 miles roundtrip!