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Middle East mileage/points strategy for 2018 business travel

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by VictorFlyer, Dec 26, 2017.

  1. VictorFlyer

    VictorFlyer Reader

    Hi Lucky and OMAAT team,

    I am a relatively new reader of your blog and follower of various miles and points strategies. I enjoy reading and appreciate all the tips and advice on your site; keep up the good work!

    My professional life has taken me to many countries and in 2017 I did most of my business travel to the Middle East, flying approximately 130,000 miles over the course of the year. With some downtime over the winter festive season, I wanted to do some research and devise a mileage and points strategy for 2018 as I expect to be travelling between my home base of New York and the Middle East fairly regularly again.

    As being formerly London-based, I have had British Airways Executive Club Gold status since 2015 and know that Avios can be a valuable mileage currency (and I recently reaped the rewards of lots of business travel by redeeming Avios on Cathay Pacific for a two week vacation to Asia). Until June 2017, I had been doing most of my JFK to Middle East flights on Qatar Airways, banking miles to Avios and paying for flights with my Chase Sapphire card, requalifying for BAEC Gold along the way.

    Qatar Airways is no longer an option for me after the diplomatic issues that occurred at the beginning of the summer. I switched my flying to Emirates as it offered me the next best alternative in terms of flight times and connections via Dubai to my final destinations. I banked these miles to a EK Skywards account and enrolled in the partnership programme Emirates has with Starwood SPG since I find Starwood to offer the best accommodations options for my trips to the region. I continued to use my Chase Sapphire card to purchase flights and my SPG Amex card for Starwood hotel stays. By October, I had reached SPG Platinum and Emirates Gold status.

    Had I done some research on the Skywards programme before hastily jumping to Emirates after I could no longer fly Qatar Airways, I would have picked up the general sentiment that I think OMMAT contributors and readers tend to have about it: good award availability, but very high fees and not easy to use on JetBlue or other Skywards partners. I understand that I could accrue JetBlue and Alaska Airlines miles for flying Emirates, which may be more valuable mileage currencies compared to Skywards, but any US domestic travel I do is primarily between New York and Chicago, a route that JetBlue flies infrequently and Alaska does not fly.

    I am wondering whether it makes sense to nonetheless bank the high mileage Middle Eastern trips from JFK to one of JetBlue or Alaska, notwithstanding the fact that I hold neither of their credit cards and would not likely fly their metal. While in the second half of 2017 I tried flying from JFK on Etihad via Abu Dhabi (banking miles to American Airlines), Lufthansa via Frankfurt (banking to my Singapore Airlines Krisflyer account from a few years ago when I used to be based in Singapore) and even British Airways via London, none of those airlines offer me the flexible flight options that Emirates can so I will likely fly another 80-100,000 miles on Emirates metal next year.

    It seems that there might be a better mileage currency to bank my 2018 trips to the Middle East rather than continuing to add to my Skywards account (even though it is nice to have Skywards Gold and receive extra Skywards miles for my Starwood hotel stays) and would appreciate your advice as I devise a plan to maximise my 2018 business trip mileage.

    Many thanks,
  2. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

    Likes Received:
    Hi @Victor, I think most people (as you mention) would recommend banking with AS for the variety of partners and potentially high earning if you can take a few AS flights and get status. However, with as much flying as you are doing you'll have to figure out how much you value status. If you move all your mileage earning to AS, your status with EK will take a hit and the little benefits you get, especially when traveling in Y will no longer be available. If you book J or F, then obviously it's not that big a deal.