In theory the past year or so has been exciting on the Emirates first class award redemption front. Back in October 2012, Japan Airlines actually improved their partner award chart to the point that award redemptions on Emirates became more lucrative. Then earlier this year Alaska Airlines published their award chart for travel on Emirates. So in theory things have been looking up as far as redeeming miles for travel on Emirates goes, though unfortunately that’s not the case, because Emirates has been progressively releasing less and less award space.
When I make posts like this I try to study the award availability trends so I can draw some conclusions. For example, Lufthansa doesn’t release first class award space to partner airlines more than 15 days out, and I think that’s a useful data point.
But unfortunately I’m struggling with drawing conclusions about what Emirates is doing, other than saying that first class award availability has gotten a lot worse. In the past it wasn’t too difficult to get two first class award seats on “prime” A380 flights. First class award seats on other aircraft was a near guarantee — for example, when Emirates launched service to Seattle, they had two first class award seats on almost every flight.
Anyway, that’s not the case anymore. There aren’t many conclusive statements I can make about Emirates first class award availability, though there are a few things I generally find to be true:
- Emirates is releasing a lot less first class award space across the board than before
- Emirates is almost never releasing more than one A380 first class award space more than 30 days out
- Emirates seems to sometimes be releasing an extra award seat about four weeks out
- Emirates seems to sometimes be releasing two award seats about two weeks out
For example, two weeks out there are exactly two first class seats between Seattle and Dubai and also between Dubai and Seattle.
However, looking at award space for all of next year as far as the schedule is released, there’s not a single first class award seat from Dubai to Seattle the entire year, while there are less than a dozen dates with a single first class award seat between Seattle and Dubai.
But unfortunately the situation is even worse than that when redeeming Alaska miles, according to this FlyerTalk post. Basically Alaska can’t piece together an itinerary if a one-way involves more than one segment, but rather has to use married segments.
Let me explain in the form of an example — say you want to fly from Seattle to Dubai to Tokyo on Emirates. Say two weeks out Emirates opens up first class award space on Seattle to Dubai, but has nothing from Dubai to Tokyo, so you just lock in your award as far as Dubai. Then say a few days later first class award space opens up on Dubai to Tokyo. You can’t just add that segment in first class to the itinerary, but rather first class award space has to be available on both segments in order to make that change. This makes booking a multi-segment Emirates award extremely difficult, especially for two people.
So anyway, given that Emirates first class is for the most part no longer bookable on ex-CMB fares (at least under the “EK” code), RIP Emirates first class for cheap (for the most part). They’re certainly going the way of Lufthansa in terms of only releasing space close to departure, though unlike Lufthansa they’re screwing over their own members and their partner airlines’ members.
Now here’s to hoping Alaska makes one-way awards on Emirates possible soon, which will at least make this a little bit easier.