Over the past few years, Emirates' own Skywards mileage program has emerged as the best way to book many Emirates flights using miles – especially first and business class. Thanks to transfer partnerships with all the major credit card companies, Emirates miles are incredibly easy to earn. And back in 2020, Emirates drastically slashed the amount of taxes and fees you'd pay on award tickets – by as much as 80%.
Well, it's two steps forward, two steps back for Emirates. Just last month, the airline started charging more miles for one-way business class awards. And now, One Mile at a Time reports that fees are on the rise again: You can now expect to pay $400 plus in taxes and fees – plus all those miles – for most premium cabin redemptions on Emirates… for just a one-way flight.
While the tax surcharge on business and first class tickets hasn't returned to the old days of paying $800 or more, this still hurts. Just last week, you could book a one-way business class flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB) for 131,250 miles and $181 and change. While a $181 tax bill is nothing to sneeze at, it was manageable.
Today, that same flight will cost you 131,250 Emirates miles … but more than $431 in taxes and fees. That's a 138% increase overnight, with no warning.
You'll see a similar amount of taxes on awards flying Emirates first class, too – on almost every route in their network. Ouch.
Why such an increase? Well, because fuel is getting more expensive. And when gas prices go up, airlines don't hesitate to pass some of that cost onto travelers in the form of higher fuel surcharges: YQ charges in the industry lingo. You can see that in this nifty fare breakdown from ITA Matrix.
If there's one silver lining here, it's that Emirates' fun fifth-freedom routes from the U.S. to Europe aren't getting hit nearly as hard with these fee hikes. Emirates flies from Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) as well as New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP) – a route now operated on Emirates' excellent Airbus A380. Last week, you could expect to pay about $158 on a roundtrip business class award ticket. That has only increased by about $20 or so, which seems reasonable.
Whether it's $5.60 on a one-way domestic flight or $1,000-plus on a British Airways first class redemption to London-Heathrow (LHR), paying some cash is an unavoidable part of the points and miles world. One of the biggest battles in using points and miles wisely is all about limiting those cash costs, using airline programs that don't pass on such substantial taxes and fees.
Unfortunately, Emirates has made that much, much harder. And seeing as the airline has limited the ability to book its flights through partner airlines by ending its partnership with Alaska Airlines, which was once the go-to way to book Emirates First Class – you might just have to stomach these higher cash costs if you're set on flying up front with the Dubai-based airline.
This hurts, Emirates. This really hurts.
Emirates Skywards have emerged as far and away the best way to book Emirates business and first class flights. But now taxes on these award tickets have increased by as much as 100% or more. And with fuel costs on the rise, this might not be the last time we see an airline drastically increase the cash costs even when using your miles.