Booking Emirates Awards With Alaska Miles Got Easier

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
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.

Woohoo!

Emirates-A380-First-Class
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.

Emirates-Award-Availability-4

Emirates-Award-Availability-1

Emirates-Award-Availability-3

Emirates-Award-Availability-2

As a reminder, Alaska publishes an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Africa, India, and the Middle East:

Alaska-Emirates-Award-Chart-1

As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Asia:

Alaska-Emirates-Award-Chart-2

As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Europe:

Alaska-Emirates-Award-Chart-3

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.

Bottom line

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
Emirates A380 shower suite

For more on Emirates first class, check out my trip reports:

So, who plans on redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates A380 first class anytime soon?

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Comments

  1. I do! Thanks to what I’ve learned reading your blog, I’m traveling in EK F on the A380 in two weeks: HKG –> DXB –> DFW. First time using Alaska miles and first time traveling on EK in any class. Total scheduled travel time in the air is 24 hours…can’t wait!

  2. Hi,

    I’m interested in 3 F awards from Dubai to SEZ on June 15 (+/-) a day. I can’t figure out if those dates are available…

  3. Hi,

    I didn’t know how to search availability from DXB > SEZ next June 15 (+/- 1 day). I needed 3 F tickets. Do you know if those are available? Best!

  4. @jake

    i don’t think you can redeem Alaska miles for DXB-SEZ segment only… plus i don’t think they have F there anyway. may have to fly biz.

  5. Thanks, Lucky!

    Do you know if people still get hassled accessing the F lounge at DXB while traveling under an award ticket?

  6. @ choi — The sooner the better. It seems they’re releasing one seat per flight for travel in June, as a general rule of thumb.

  7. Hi Ben,

    What I’ve noticed is that only happens to flights until March. If you look all EK US routes for April, May and June you will notice that Alaska has no EK F award space open at all.

  8. This makes sense since these are new A380 routes for EK. I recall when LAX-DXB route started there were a lot of EK F space in the beginning, but later they seemed to dry up.

  9. Lucky,
    I’ve also been searching for june/july 2015 for USA to Dubai but all I see is BA flights, not a single EK flight. Am I missing something?

    Dino

  10. I actually found this out last week when I decided to change my CX F award on AS to EK F because my friend kept on sending me teaser shots of his trip on EK F JNB-DXB-LHR! 😀 So now I’m booked YVR-SEA-DFW-DXB-SIN all in F, and A380 from DFW-DXB (14.5 hours in A380 F! Woooo!) and I’m incredibly excited for this trip to happen in late November!

    I found quite a lot of space DFW-DXB as well as SEA-DXB in F, but it was harder to book ex-DXB.

    Ben, you should talk about the Emirates married segment logic which applies as well, as it can make it harder to change routings or class of service if you have to. For example, originally I couldn’t find any F space DXB-SIN to make it work, so I booked J instead. However, once I found F space the next day on EK352 (using ExpertFlyer – good to see that it’s actually more accurate now) the Alaska agents wouldn’t change me to that flight because they’d have to drop the DFW-DXB segments as well as the current DXB-SIN segments and they were afraid of me losing it all because it might not come back to inventory. It took me 4 tries and 4 agents until I found one who was either brave enough to do it or knew a way around the married segment logic. Just another downside to booking EK F with Alaska miles that I thought you should’ve pointed out.

  11. Ben,

    I have 100K Alaska miles. Can I use them to go LAX-DEL? Where could I stop on the way?

    Also, I have 200K AA miles and 80K United. So I also ask, how could I get home (LAX) using those miles?

    Thanks!

  12. @ Michael — You could redeem 90K miles for LAX-DXB-DEL with Emirates in first class, and do a stopover in Dubai. On the return you could redeem 90,000 American miles to fly Etihad first class via Abu Dhabi.

  13. Just booked LAX-DXB-HKG for 2 people for October!

    Hey Ben, I used miles from my account to book mine and from my brothers to book his. How do I combine the chauffeur booking into 1 car for both of us?

  14. Because I am a crazy advance planner, I am planning a trip to the Maldives and India for August of 2016. I am in the process of getting as many Alaska Airlines miles as I can so that we can fly Emirates first class one way. When is the ideal time to start searching for award tickets? I need to figure out how much time I have to get the amount of miles we need, and how many miles I can generate a month, etc. Hopefully there is still good availability when I start looking!

  15. @ Lauren Pagel — 11 months out is certainly ideal, as it gives you the most flexibility to plan. That being said, it’s anyone’s guess what award availability on Emirates looks like a year from now.

  16. @lucky – hmm just wondering, how do you book EK F from the US to EU? … for ex if you try to search LAX to LHR, it only gives you direct options and doesnt route you via DXB. you cant search segment by segment cause the 2nd leg (DXB to LHR) doesnt start or end in the US and AS doesnt like that/wont let you book it — even if it did, they’d consider it a separate award.

    so is the only way to get ‘reverse’ married segments by calling in and speaking to a phone agent? is there no way to do these sorta itineraries online?

  17. @ Adam — Two ways. One is Emirates’ flight between New York and Milan. But if you want to connect in Dubai you have to search segment by segment using multi-city. First find space from the US gateway to Dubai, and once you’ve found that, use multi-city to find flights between Dubai and Europe with award space.

  18. Hi Lucky –

    Is it possible to redeem a one-way award originating in the Middle East/India to the US using Alaska miles?

    Thanks!

  19. Lucky, saw this post and was thrilled because I’ve been waiting for some EK award space to open up. Unfortunately, my target dates are still unavailable but they are probably also peak demand season.

    I’m looking to fly from DXB to any US destination the weekend after New Years. I’ve had EF alerts set up for a couple weeks with no dice. Except one hit that I was too slow to jump on DXB-DFW.

    Any thoughts if that’s going to be a close-in opening, if at all?

  20. @ DXBtoAnywhere — If you wait until within two weeks of departure you may have a shot, though generally it’s such a peak travel period that it definitely won’t be easy.

  21. I’m actually hoarding SPG to convert 160k to 200k JAL then book 2FC HKG-BKK-SYD-AKL-BNE…….I’d love to use Alaska miles but that doesn’t seem to be an option……..but the availability far out on JAL seems pretty sweet indeed…………

  22. Ben, I am wondering if you know the award trends for the lounge other than the US.. since most of us will try to connect beyond USA-DXB to Asia and Africa mostly.

    I just booked the IAH-DXB-BKK in F and J, how much chance is DXB-BKK in F will open? I wouldn’t mind change the destination to other place in Asia.. but none except DXB-PEK is open in A380 F. It would be nice to know the chance that anything at all will open up in F. I usually turned into pumpkin when I fly J.

  23. Interesting development. I was searching for DXB-JFK/YYZ F space for the last few months for travel in February and found nothing. Today I found a solitary seat to JFK. Lots of space to IAH and SFO then too.

    Booked HKG-DXB-JFK with a 32 hour layover in DXB and I’m thrilled!

  24. @ concorde02 — The issue is that Emirates uses married segment logic on awards, so in order to change anything about an award there needs to be award availability on all segments. In other words, you couldn’t just change DXB-BKK — there would need to be availability IAH-DXB as well.

  25. @ whereisrahul — ExpertFlyer is ideal, if you have a membership. Otherwise Alaska’s website should do the trick for most searches.

  26. Hi Ben

    I used miles from my account to book mine and from my brothers to book his. How do I combine the chauffeur booking into 1 car for both of us?

  27. @ danny — You can call them and explain you’ll be driving together, but otherwise you should be fine just booking a car for one person and bringing along the second person.

  28. Ben,

    Is there still an obstacle with entering the First class lounge in Dubai when traveling on an Alaska Redemption??

    Thanks,

    Adam

  29. @ adam — Yes, many do still report issues with accessing the lounge, though usually after a few minutes they sort it out.

  30. Looking at EK rewards using Alaska miles for August 2015 for the honeymoon to MLE. Availability is zero, but when I look at April/May timeframe everyday is avail. It’s surprising because that’s peak season. How far in advance does EK reward availability start to generate? I don’t want to wait too long, yet I know it’s early.

    Looking at ORD, BOS, IAD, NYC all to DXB then on to MLE

  31. @ Neil — They’re somewhat sporadic in terms of how they release availability. For the most part they’re releasing space within nine months of departure, so I do think there’s a good chance more space will open up as the departure date approaches. Congrats on the upcoming honeymoon!

  32. @Adam – I had no issues this morning @DXB. One thing I did was add my Emirates rewards # to my booking on emirates website. I don’t know if that made a difference or not. Now, 16 hours of bliss to LAX…

  33. Alaska’s mixed segment change policy is frustrating. I have an F award to ICN but am flying J (777) to DXB and then F (A380) to ICN. F award space on the 777 is open now but the A380 flight only has J award space (I am in 1 of the 2 seats taken). Should I give up the award and hope my F seat gets released? Then I would have F the whole way. If the A380 F seat doesn’t go back into award inventory I lose the A380 shower experience…

  34. Lucky/All: I don’t understand…the cost of award on Emirates is double than other airlines, for example, in this example that Lucky gave, one way can cost 100k miles in F, while other airlines like AA, US Air, Cathay, SQ are charging half of that for one way in F…..so what makes people still redeem it in Emirates? do they realize they will burn more miles than if they redeem it for same first class in other airlines? or the shower thing in Emirates is what makes it worth it?

  35. @ John — Well, that’s not quite true. American to the Middle East is 90K, which is the same cost as Emirates. To Asia, US Airways would be the cheapest at 120K roundtrip to North Asia. Even then Emirates isn’t double the cost, and keep in mind they do allow a stopover on a one-way, which is pretty valuable.

    Beyond that, Emirates is an airline that’s otherwise pretty unattainable on miles, so there is some novelty factor to them, in my opinion.

  36. @Lucky: I see now….thank you so much for opening my eyes !
    So the stopover rules with Emirates is that they allow one stop over in one way flight? So round trip can have 2 stop overs in each way plus an open jaw?

  37. Ben,

    I can find both Z and D class award space on a DXB LAX flight in ExpertFlyer, but AS doesn’t show it.

    Is that normal?

  38. Hi. Can I use alaska miles also for flights only ex dubai? Meaning not coming from the US? I want to go from dubai to Cape Town in Feb. how many miles would I need for first class?

  39. @ Lucas — All travel on Emirates has to originate or terminate in the US, so you can’t use it solely between Dubai and South Africa.

  40. @ Edward — As long as you want. The only requirement is that all travel is completed within a year of the date the ticket is issued.

  41. Hi Lucky,
    How do you get alaska to hold award flights? I found one from JFK – SEZ and need to put on hold to transfer in miles.
    Can you help?
    Thanks!!!!!

  42. Excuse me in advance if the following isn’t clear!!

    How easy is it for an agent to “unmarry” (divorce??) segments to accommodate a stop over? In other words, does the married segment logic hinder award reservations agents from booking a stopover?

    For example, I want to do BKK-DXB(3-day stopover)-JFK.

    But on most (all?) of the dates I’m interested in, BKK-JFK is available, but if I search for just the BKK-DXB segment, it’s not showing as available for an award. And similarly, there are few dates with just DXB-JFK available as a standalone award flight.

    So could the agent reserve BKK-DXB-JFK on one day, then book another reservation 3 days later BKK-DXB-JFK, and then unmarry the DXB-JFK segment from the first reservation, and then unmarry the BKK-DXB segment from the second reservation, to allow the stopover??

    Or must the individual segments (ie BKK-DXB on the first date, and DXB-JFK 3 days later) be available as a standalone flight in order to accomplish a stopover.

    Hope that makes some semblance of sense!

  43. @ Jim Hock — Unfortunately there’s no way for them to “unmarry” segments. That being said, I’m a bit perplexed by this married segment space you’re seeing to begin with. Are you looking at first class “Z” space, and really seeing a difference on individual flights vs. “married” flights? If so, any date examples, so I can take a look? Because generally that shouldn’t be the case.

  44. @Lucky

    Looking at F award flights to either CPT/DXB from the USA about 6 months in advance here but generally flexible with my date and just for fun I have even checked last minute travel and the F space is easily available from the USA but absolutely nothing showing up online between DXB-South Africa every single day in F showing on the AS calendar online. Is there usually a discrepancy between online and what is actually available and my best bet to invest in an EF membership and call AS once I see the Z space for the South Africa portion of the trip?

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