There are lots of posts out there on how to get to the Maldives using miles (I assume people are fascinated with the Maldives because of the overwater bungalows). But there are plenty of other exotic destinations out there (though if you live there, the destination is considerably less exotic). For today, I thought I’d look at how you can book an award ticket to Seychelles, an island group 1,100 miles east of Tanzania, using miles.
The airport in the Maldives is practically JFK compared to the limited service to the Seychelles. International flights land at Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) near the city of Victoria on Mahe Island. (I always recommend looking up the airport on Wikipedia to find a list of airlines serving the airport and their destinations. SEZ is only served by Air Seychelles; Condor; Emirates; Ethiopian; Etihad; Kenya Airways and Qatar Airways (though this service ends at the end of August).
This leaves pretty limited options from the US, but we’re not entirely out of luck. You have 3 legitimate options as I see it:
– EMIRATES. They fly 12x/week from Dubai with not-great (6 hr+) connections from the US. Emirates charges 72,500 miles for an Economy ticket from the US; 145,000 miles in business; and a ridiculous 217,500 in First. You can avoid that nonsense by transferring miles from Starwood to JAL, where they have a mileage-based chart that can be used on Emirates without ridiculous fuel surcharges. From New York, a coach ticket will cost you 60,000 JAL miles; 100,000 milesfor business; or 145,000 for First Class. That business class award is a really good deal. Remember that JAL is the best option for Emirates redemptions — JFK-Dubai is only 85,000 JAL miles roundtrip in business class.
– ETIHAD. They fly twice a day from Abu Dhabi, again with pretty rough (6 hours+ or overnight) connections at Abu Dhabi. Etihad has a pretty ridiculous award chart, especially for premium travel – it’s 100,000 miles in coach; 200,000 in Business; 300,000 in First. You can transfer in via Starwood. ANA allows you to redeem on Etihad but they charge absurd fuel surcharges. You can redeem your American Airlines AAdvantage miles on Etihad with no crazy fuel surcharges. HOWEVER, AA doesn’t allow you to route a flight to Seychelles (which they consider to be Africa) via the Middle East (you can only book flights to Africa via Europe), so you would have to book 2 separate awards: a US-Abu Dhabi award (90k/135k/180k) PLUS an Abu Dhabi-Seychelles award (60k/90k). Let’s sum that up: There are no particularly good options on Etihad.
– ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES. They fly with good connections from their North American gateways in Toronto and Washington DC to Seychelles via Addis Ababa 4x per week. ANA has a good redemption option, but they charge ridiculous fuel surcharges on Ethiopian. Your best bet would be to use US Airways miles (70k/110k) or United miles (80k/120k).
– KENYA AIRWAYS. They fly 5 days/week from Nairobi. Unfortunately that means 2-stops from the US (as there are no nonstops to Nairobi from the United States). Plus, add in the ridiculous fuel surcharges whether you redeem with Delta or Flying Blue miles, and I’d consider this a last option.
Anything I’m missing?