Alaska Mileage Plan is among my favorite mileage currencies. While they don’t belong to one of the three big alliances, they have some useful partners, some extremely lucrative redemption opportunities, and even allow stopovers on one-way awards. Now, there are definitely some downsides to Alaska miles, including:
- You can’t mix partner airlines on an award ticket — you can fly Alaska to the international gateway city, and then can only fly one of their partner airlines for the rest of the trip
- You can’t redeem Alaska miles in all markets — Alaska only publishes award charts in select regions, so you’re out of luck if you want to redeem miles in different markets
One of Alaska’s cooler airline partners is Emirates — since early 2013 it has been possible to redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates. However, Emirates has become increasingly stingy when it comes to releasing award space, and for that matter Alaska hasn’t had access to all Emirates award space.
Emirates A380 at London Heathrow
Not only is Emirates now releasing more award space on select routes, but I’m noticing something else that’s really exciting.
Alaska seems to have access to more Emirates award space
Emirates’ first class award inventory is the “Z” bucket. That means if a flight is “Z1” there’s one first class award seat, if a flight is “Z2” there are two first class award seats, etc.
For a long time, though, Alaska hasn’t had access to all Emirates award space. As a general rule of thumb, Alaska has had access to one less award seat than Emirates makes available to their own members. In other words, if a flight is “Z1” then Alaska would typically not have access to any seats, while if a flight is “Z2,” Alaska would typically have access to one seat.
It wasn’t the case 100% of the time, but was definitely the case more often than not.
That was extremely frustrating, since Emirates typically makes at most two first class award seats available per flight in advance, so Emirates first class was more or less impossible to book using Alaska miles if you were hoping to travel with someone.
But it looks like Alaska now has improved access to Emirates availability. Here’s what I’m noticing:
- If an Emirates flight is “Z1” (meaning there’s one first class award seat), Alaska sometimes has access to it
- If a flight is at least “Z2” (meaning there are at least two first class award seats), Alaska always has access to it
That’s really exciting news. In practice this means that if Emirates is releasing two first class award seats, Alaska actually has access to both of them without exception. At least that’s what I’ve found to be the case for the dozens of searches I’ve just done. It could just be a coincidence/good luck… I sure hope not.
Emirates A380 first class
Emirates is releasing first class award space to Houston and San Francisco
Emirates will be launching daily A380 service to Houston and San Francisco as of early December, and on a vast majority of flights they’re making two first class award seats available. Unlike before, Alaska actually seems to have access to all of those dates with two seats as well! I noticed all this award space a couple of weeks ago, though at the time Alaska seems to consistently be blocking one of those seats.
As a reminder, Alaska publishes an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Africa, India, and the Middle East:
As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Asia:
As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Europe:
Emirates has generally been pretty stingy with releasing award space lately, so seeing so much space is awesome, especially since it’s during winter, when it’s nicest in the Middle East.
If you’ve been hoping to redeem miles for Emirates first class, this is as good as it gets. Keep in mind that in general you’ll get much more value redeeming Alaska miles for travel on Emirates beyond Dubai. For example, they charge 90,000 miles for one-way first class between the US and Middle East, while for an extra 10,000 miles you can continue all the way to Africa, Asia, or Europe.
Emirates A380 shower suite
For more on Emirates first class, check out my trip reports:
- Emirates First Class A380 Dubai to London
- Emirates First Class A380 Singapore to Dubai
- Emirates First Class A380 London to Dubai
So, who plans on redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates A380 first class anytime soon?
(Tip of the hat to Gary)