Redeeming Alaska Miles For Emirates First Class

While Emirates was added as an Alaska Mileage Plan partner back in 2012, initially the partnership only applied to being able to earn miles on the other carrier. It wasn’t until early 2013 that they began to allow reciprocal mileage redemptions. I was super excited about being able to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel in Emirates first class, especially since they allow one-way awards, and even allow stopovers on one-way awards.

Beyond that, this makes Alaska Mileage Plan the only US program through which you can redeem miles for an in-flight shower. 😉


Emirates A380 first class shower

Then in May of 2013 I wrote about how Emirates first class award space had sharply decreased. I don’t think there’s a single cause for this — more likely it’s a combination of added redemptions from Alaska, the economy recovering and therefore more demand for premium cabin seating, etc.

Anyway, I’ve received several emails the past few weeks about Emirates awards using Alaska Mileage Plan miles, so I figured I would clarify a few things:

Alaska doesn’t have access to all Emirates first class award space

I don’t know why, but in many cases Alaska has access to one fewer Emirates first class award seat than Emirates does directly.

For example, take the inaugural A380 flight from Dallas to Dubai, which shows one “Z” class seat on ExpertFlyer:

Alaska-Emirates-1

However, if you pull up the space on Alaska’s website you’ll see economy and business award space, though no first class award space:

Alaska-Emirates-2

Unfortunately this isn’t just a glitch with the website, but reservations agents over the phone don’t see the space either. Some report being able to get an agent to manual sell the space and then it will confirm, but in practice it’s very tough to find an agent willing to do that.

So to recap, it’s not always the case — sometimes the flight will be “Z2” and Alaska has access to both seats. I actually find that to be the case a lot. But also be prepared for a flight to be “Z2” but for Alaska to only have access to one of those seats.

Emirates uses married segments logic

This is a very important concept to understand in case you’re trying to progressively lock in a first class award.

Lets say you’re trying to book an award ticket from Los Angeles to Dubai to Singapore. Lets say there’s award space from Los Angeles to Dubai but not space from Dubai to Singapore. Naturally you’d want to lock in the Los Angeles to Dubai space as soon as possible.

However, the issue is that if Dubai to Singapore space opens up you can’t just add it to the award, but you actually have to start over, as there needs to still be space for the entire itinerary. And Emirates award space doesn’t always go back into award inventory when cancelled.

Similarly, say you can find space from Los Angeles to Dubai and Dubai to Singapore, but the Dubai to Singapore flight isn’t at your preferred time. If space later opens up on your preferred Dubai to Singapore flight, there would have to be award availability for the entire itinerary in order to make that change.

So it’s just an added wrinkle if you’re ever looking to lock in or make changes to Emirates award space.

Emirates still opens up some award space 14 days out

Last year when I wrote about Emirates award space having sharply decreased, I mentioned how Emirates was consistently releasing first class award space 14 days out. I don’t find that to consistently be the case anymore, though it still happens sometimes. So that’s something to keep in mind.

Los Angeles to Dubai is no longer a first class award gold mine

Last year Emirates launched A380 service to Los Angeles, which was exciting on many levels. For one, it’s the world’s longest A380 flight. But equally exciting was that Emirates was consistently releasing two first class award seats per flight. That was awesome, since there weren’t really any other US routes on which they were consistently releasing that much space.

Sadly that no longer seems to be the case, and now Los Angeles is one of the tougher routes on which to score first class award space. Oh well, guess I shouldn’t really be surprised.


Emirates A380 first class

Bottom line

It’s still perfectly possible to redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates, though it does require a bit more work than a year ago, especially if multiple passengers are traveling. That being said, it’s well worth it for the onboard shower, bar, Hennessy Paradis, and A380 First Class Lounge in Dubai. 😉

Comments

  1. The JW Blue + Polaroid Camera shots were the highlight of my EK F experience.

    After flying their a380, their a345 and 777s looked downright awful.

  2. I have booked 1 F ticket on LAX-DXB-AMS for August about a month ago. Availability for the LAX flight was higher than the JFK flight in my experience. Considering DFW is now being added as an A380 destination, maybe DFW will now become the F goldmine the LAX route was/is.

  3. Managed to get a one way trip booked on EK for 2. Biz CDG-DXB,overnight, DXB-LAX F. AS agent showed F available CDG-DXB but when she went to confirm with EK, no availability. Tried booking this online several times. AK system showed space available, but upon check out, seats disappeared. Agent said this is a common problem with them as well. Expert Flyer is how I found the Z space and luckily this time it was really there.

  4. I was told by Emirates (over the phone) that Alaska award redemption do *not* qualify for the free hotel room for long connections.

  5. @ Ben — “Similarly, say you can find space from Los Angeles to Dubai and Dubai to Singapore, but the Dubai to Singapore flight isn’t at your preferred time. If space later opens up on your preferred Dubai to Singapore flight, there would have to be award availability for the entire itinerary in order to make that change.”

    Would that include simply dropping the DXB-SIN segment?

    Does the married segment logic apply if you have a stopover in DXB?

  6. @ Ben — Looks like we will have to eat the extra 10,000 miles per person we paid for LAX-DXB-BKK over LAX-DXB. We are going to Dubai for New Years Eve fireworks, and we were hoping to change the DXB-BKK flight to a few days later so that we could spend the weekend in Bangkok. I guess that won’t be happening….

  7. Hi,

    If you have some miles with Alaska and some miles with Emirates, how do you book award ticket? e.g. 50K miles on Alaska Airlines and 40K miles on Emirates Skywards.
    Can you combine them and book ticket on Emirates for award flight?

    Thanks.

  8. Hi Lucky —

    Is it possible to redeem a one-way award on Emirates (or for that matter any other airline that partners with Alaska) using Alaska miles if the flight is from Asia to the U.S.?

    Thanks!!

  9. @ Tar_000 — Absolutely, you can redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates between Asia and the US, or vice versa.

  10. We recently booked two first class Beijing to Dubai to JFK award tickets through Alaska. We didn’t book more than a week in advance though and it was a little crazy.

    We also encountered some issues with lounge access. In Beijing the ticketing agent told us we didn’t have access to the lounge access because of our ticket type. When we got to the lounge though, the person working there just scanned our boarding passes and and let us in no problem.

    In Dubai, we were told we wouldn’t have access at ticketing but went to the lounge anyway just like we did in Beijing. The girl working the desk at the lounge in Dubai was more difficult to get past. She ended up making some calls though and we were allowed in anyway. Thank goodness too because I was pregnant, hungry, and exhausted. The lounge made things much better.

  11. Haven’t seen a single Z=2 recently… which means absolutely no availability through Alaska Airlines

  12. @ Erica — For whatever reason Emirates awards booked through Alaska are erroneously coded as staff tickets, so the “battle” is normal unfortunately. After a phone call or two you should always be admitted, though.

  13. @ Andy — You must not be looking very hard then (and I’ve seen plenty of instances where a flight is “Z1” and Alaska has access to the space).

  14. @ Erica – IIRC, this is because Alaska award tickets on Emirates somehow are coded as airline crew (or something like that).

  15. I misread the word many to mean all. I was saving up my AS miles for the wife and I from YVR (through LAX), but now that it seems like they pulled most of the available seats, should I just give up and fall back to Business Class? Or book one Z and hope the other shows up?

  16. @ Andy — There are still some dates with available seats, and otherwise there are dates out of Dallas or New York with two first class seats. I would still aim for first class, since there’s a big difference between Emirates first and business class.

  17. I booked NRT-DXB-LAX a few weeks ago and here are some things I’ve taken away:

    1) Lucky is correct when he points out that availability shown on ExpertFlyer will not match the Alaska website, but in my experience this is not true when calling in to book your award with an Alaska agent. You may have to play the call and hang up again game, BUT I’ve found several times that getting a supervisor involved they are able to access MORE than what a regular agent can access. The agent and supervisor cannot call and request anything from EK, but if ExpertFlyer is showing award seats available and Alaska’s website does not… You should definitely get a supervisor involved. I’ve been able for the supervisor to find these seats for NRT-DXB and HND-DXB when Experflyer showed there were seats and the Alaska website did not.

    2) Agents on the phone are able to do a better search for availability because they are able to look for individual segments. Whereas you or I can only plug things into the Alaska website if trip originates or ends in the USA. For example, you cannot do a search for HND-DXB, but can do a search for HND-DXB-LAX on the website.

  18. Lucky,

    If it wasn’t for you, I would know little about Alaska miles and their award program. Nor would I have been able to book Emirates First class. Thank you.

    P.S. How can we get Alaska and Emirates to work out this lounge issue? Maybe you have some pull on this.

  19. I recently flew NBO-DXB-LAX in EK F on an AS award. No lounge at NBO, but I did have refreshments and a mini-buffet at the gate. No problems getting that. At DXB, I did encounter the lounge entrance problem, but I indicated it was an Alaska award and allowed to enter with under a minute delay. The DXB-LAX boarding pass had “SSSSSS” printed along the top, is that what indicates the ineligibility to the lounge?

  20. @ Kevin — “SSSS” just means you were selected for additional security. When they scan it is when the problem pops up in the computer.

  21. “Some report being able to get an agent to manual sell the space and then it will confirm, but in practice it’s very tough to find an agent willing to do that.”

    Lucky, would you mind explaining what the process is for getting an agent to “manual sell” a seat where ExpertFlyer shows Z1? I’m not sure what that means, and I’m having exactly this issue for a flight from DXB-DFW. Thanks!

  22. Lucky, what about search method for stopover using Alaska Miles, Alaska engine doesnt allow any search from dbx-sin ?

  23. Hmmmm I see no fewer than seven business class seats available on their 5th freedom flight from SYD-AKL on expertflyer, but Alaska has nothing. Is that the issue you’re talking about, or does Alaska’s site just have problems with that route?

  24. You sure about the married sectors rule still applying, even with a stopover Lucky? I’m a TA, and have no issue booking two unmarried sectors with EK (retail booking), as long as there’s at least an overnight stopover.
    Emirates is the only airline I’ve really found that’s notoriously weird with its married sectors though.

  25. Thanks Lucky. I will keep my hopes up. Too bad I can’t use the award calendar on AS to force EK only, but I’ll keep plugging away.

    To answer other questions why flights don’t show – AS doesn’t allow EK flights to Australia at all as it’s not part of the award chart.

  26. I still think AS did a great job with negotiating this with EK since AS doesn’t offer first class in a 3-cabin plane and AS offers one-way awards, something EK doesn’t offer its skywards members (at least in the saver level.)

    I’ve only redeemed miles on EK using the skywards program and I didn’t know they used the married segments logic. If I were flying LAX-DXB-SIN and could not find space on DXB-SIN, I would find space on a route within the same zone that has space (i.e. DXB-KUL or DXB-HKG, for example) and when space opens up on DXB-SIN, I was able to change to that route with no issues.

    Regardless, this is very helpful, Lucky! Thank you for sharing and hopefully one day I’ll be able to fly EK again (using AS miles this time!)

    If you’re a oneworld emerald member, you’d have access to EK F lounge, correct? Or do you have to be on a EK/QF coded flight?

  27. @ Austin — You just have to ask the agent if they’d be willing to try and request the space and see if it comes back confirmed for Emirates. Agents are advised not to do this so I wouldn’t count on it working, but theoretically it’s possible.

  28. @ kite — You can only do it for regions they publish Emirates award charts for, all of which originate or terminate in North America.

  29. @ choi — Right, that’s a pain. That’s why I recommend using ExpertFlyer. If you don’t have it then you’re best off just calling to inquire about space for the individual sector.

  30. @ James K. — Nope, Alaska simply doesn’t publish an award chart for travel between Australia and New Zealand, so you can’t redeem Alaska miles for it.

  31. @ Jon — Yep, and to clarify, it’s not traditional married segment logic as you’d normally see with tickets, like what you’re referring to. And maybe married segments isn’t even the right term in this case. But the idea is that they can’t make changes to one part of an itinerary, they have to find space for the whole thing.

  32. @ Joey — Unfortunately only Qantas top tier elites have access to their first class lounges as far as I know. OneWorld Emerald on an Emirates flight doesn’t get you premium lounge access, unfortunately.

  33. When I booked JFK-DXB-PVG in F on points, their website showed availability from LAX. But when I was about to finalize the ticketing, it showed no seats. I tried it many times on different A380 routes, this problem was pretty common. Hope it gets resolved by now. Anyway, I had great time flying. My trip report plus video review can be found here: http://www.tprochina.com/?p=640

    I will post a separate review on the connection in A380 F from DXB-PVG.

  34. Lucky – Do you have any experience booking AS flights with skywards? I am looking to book a west coast to ogg flight but it looks like the only way to do it is submitting a request form on the skywards website. Any insight into how this process works and the timing of it is greatly appreciated. Thank you sir.

  35. @ Jeeb — The process is indeed a pain, unfortunately. You can find accurate award availability by looking at Alaska and American’s sites, but unfortunately you can’t book the space on Emirates’ website.

  36. Hey Lucky,

    Not sure if you heard but looks like Alaska is going to be the only feasible option to book emirates flights with low surcharges. JAL is now charging “a maximum US$1,372.70” for award tickets per their website.

  37. I think it really depends. I was able to redeem 2 F seats LAX-DXB-MLE in 2 weeks. Booked the tickets in December.

  38. @ Ian — No trick, you just have to explain you’re not on staff travel and that you booked through Alaska, and then let them sort it out.

  39. Hello,

    If I have a confirmed award for Emirates for LAX-DXB-LHR can I add a domestic Alaska segment without having to cancel the award flight?

    Thanks

  40. @lucky quick question for you…in the lounge in lax now for lax-dxb f with a stopover in dxb. Dxb-cmb in j and cmb-mle in F. Only reason for j for that leg is because f wasn’t available when I booked the Alaska award. With the stopover arriving in f and departing in j but connecting to another f flight can I access the first lounge in dxb when we go to depart?

  41. @ ian — This has come up a few times recently, and I’m not 100% sure. I would think yes, but it’s not a guarantee. Please let me know what ends up happening?

  42. @lucky
    All is well. When checking in at lax I had to ask for the lounge pass..she came back with the staff ticket and I told her it was an Alaska award, she called her supervisor over they did a bunch of clicking, confirmed and gave us the lounge pass. In Dubai turns out we were in J because the flight doesn’t have F. Even though our ticket is F the whole way they sent the volvo to pick us up from our hotel since his leg is inJ. I asked the check in agent about the lounge and he said we should have access but the system wasn’t showing it so he put a note I the record..he was a super nice by. He tried to switch us to the direct flight to male but it wouldn’t let him…When I booked we didn’t have an option for the non stop. When we got to the lounge I explained the situation to the agent and showed her all 3 boarding passes..no pushback from her at all and she let us in.

  43. Ben,

    I understand your examples about making changes to EK award tickets- whereby they use the “married segment logic. Does that apply if changing class of service on same flight. For instance, NYC –> BKK via DXB on an First class alaska award. However, I’m only seeing the segment DXB –> BKK avail in business. So if I book it while paying the First class milage award price (Jfk–> dxb is in first)
    And the deb–> bkk opens up in first a couple of days before departure does the “married segment” logic still apply???? If not can the change be made during the deb stopover as well????

    Thanks

  44. @ adam — As far as I know that would apply even if just making changes to the class of service on the same flight.

  45. AS shows multiple first seats, but could only book one , AS agent could only see one too. Says there is a glitch in the system where the Biz and F are counted together. I’m trying to go DXB-LAX on Oct 30. Can you see 2 seats or only one. Thanks

  46. Is this a case of “grab that seat and another will take it place in the future”? Or is it more than likely the only one.
    Thanks

  47. @ norman — They don’t “stagger” availability, so booking one seat doesn’t increase the chance of another opening up.

  48. Hi Ben

    I have a question regarding the alaska airlines CC. I have 2 currently and I am hoping to get 1 more to get enough miles for a First class ticket on emirates.

    1) how many days do you wait between each application?
    2) should I close my oldest card before applying for another one?

    thank you!

  49. @ danny — I haven’t closed any Alaska cards, so probably not needed, in my opinion. No set amount of time you have to wait — I usually give it 60 days, though.

  50. Hi Ben

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the advice you have given me over the last 2 years, it has been invaluable. Really appreciate the time you give to comments.

  51. HI Ben,

    thanks for your awesome website and sharing the tips with us!
    I’m currently planning my honeymoon for september 2015 and I’m thinking of buying the miles so I can use them on an award ticket from AMS-LAX 1 way, with long stopover in Dubai. So far no problem.

    However, I also have approx 70000 Air France KLM FLying blue miles and I simply can’t find the answer to my question: Can I Combine these miles on an award ticket?
    And maybe then make it a round trip instead of a 1 way?

    1 last question; I think I will try to buy a business class ticket which costs only 75k Miles; do you then think it’s possible to upgrade to First in the end? So at checkin, at the gate or in the plane maybe by using the emirates Skywards miles I also have?

    Thanks Ben!!!

  52. @ Ivo — Congrats on the honeymoon! There’s no way to combine Alaska and Air France miles, unfortunately. And nope, there’s no way to upgrade a business class award booking on Emirates. You’d be better off buying the extra miles and outright booking first class, if available.

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