Are Emirates First Class Redemptions Using Alaska Miles Going Away?

A couple of years back, Alaska Airlines announced a partnership with Emirates. To me that was really exciting, especially when they announced Mileage Plan miles could be redeemed for travel on Emirates.

I’m all about aspirational award redemptions, and there’s nothing like taking the Greyhound bus Alaska up and down the coast and being rewarded with a shower on a plane.

Emirates-A380-Shower
Emirates A380 shower suite

So one of the best uses of Alaska miles the past couple of years has been for travel on Emirates.

Alaska allows stopovers on one way awards, and being able to redeem 100,000 Mileage Plan miles for something like Los Angeles to Dubai, then having a stopover, and then Dubai to Singapore, as I did on my recent trip with my dad, is pretty tough to beat.

However, as I pointed out a few weeks back, for whatever reason Alaska Mileage Plan isn’t displaying any Emirates first class award space for travel after March 28, 2015.

I’ve reached out to Alaska’s PR manager, though they’re as confused by the situation as I am. They claimed that availability should match, and are now investigating further.

Total conjecture on my part, but I’m going to make a prediction I feel quite confident about – Alaska not showing Emirates first class award space isn’t a coincidence.

Emirates is unique in that they have exactly one partner airline with miles that are both easy to accrue and outrageously good redemption rates.

For example, an Emirates first class booking between Dallas and Dubai through Alaska costs 90,000 miles plus $20 in taxes:

Emirates-Award-1

Meanwhile that same award through Emirates’ own program would cost 155,000 miles plus $750+ in taxes and carrier imposes charges:

Emirates-Award-2

And that doesn’t even account for the fact that those with Emirates miles are at least loyal to Emirates in some way.

And if we’re being honest, that partner doesn’t add all that much value to Emirates’ bottom line. It’s not like Emirates is partnering with American or Delta, but rather Alaska — a small airline that’s mostly just useful for providing feed at one airport. Which isn’t to say I’d be happy about the change (I’d be borderline devastated, actually!), but I can see their perspective. Members of what to them is a small frequent flyer program are likely redeeming for thousands of their first class seats, especially between the US and Middle East

And even if that partnership were to continue, first class redemptions don’t have to be part of that arrangement, and I suspect neither Alaska nor Emirates would be butt hurt.

I certainly could be wrong, though I feel quite strongly that this isn’t a coincidence, and I wouldn’t count on being able to redeem Alaska miles for Emirates first class after March of this year.

So if you’ve been eying Emirates first class and want to be able to shower your sorrows away one last time, I’d book sooner rather than later…

Emirates-A380-First-Class-001
Emirates A380 first class cabin

On the plus side, Emirates first class is no longer the only place to economically redeem miles for a mile high shower.

Etihad has a shower on their A380, and you can redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel in their First Apartment between Abu Dhabi and London and between Abu Dhabi and Sydney.

Etihad-A380-First-Apartment-21

What do you think about the Alaska/Emirates situation? Do you agree with me, or do you think it’s an “honest glitch?”

Comments

  1. I honestly think that emriates will drop Alaska because in reallity, try get no benefit from the airline. Alaska is not that big of an airline.

  2. I agree with you. Would not be surprised if it went away. To much discrepancy between miles redemption and therefore hard for Emirates to justify to their own frequent flyers. I am not able to use Alaska Miles, but am a frequent flyer with Emirates. Used to drool over the redemption you were getting on Emirates with Alaska miles. Still, wish it would not stop as I benefited indirectly through your great reports.

  3. it definitely will go away after overentitled imbeciles harass Alaska that they didn’t get an Emirates chauffeur.

  4. I hope that they will at least honor all flights already ticked. Do you see any chance that EK will do with tickets what they did with the chauffer drive?

  5. @ Dale R — It’s anyone’s guess. As of now they’ve just blocked first class redemptions. It could be that they just block first class permanently, or it could be that the partnership is discontinued altogether.

  6. Ben, in the past I’ve had issues booking Emirates through Alaska. The usual error of Emirates showing two and Alaska only seeing one. I was planning on buying miles on the next promo, hopefully for a March flight. Is there a sure fire way of knowing the ticket will actually book before I buy the miles? It usually craps out on the Alaska agent at the very last minute, can they do this same check if I have no miles in my account?

  7. @ Ben — Through March 28 I haven’t seen cases where they don’t have at least one fewer first class award seats than shows on ExpertFlyer. So if it’s “Z2” you should be good for at least one seat.

  8. Alaska provides feed for LAX as well as Seattle.

    Often times JAL redemption rates are better than Alaska’s rates. And of course Alaska doesn’t publish charts for all of Emirates’ flights.

    Emirates tried to hook up with American, before American tied in with Etihad. Emirates used to partner with United, of course. It seems like Delta would be a good match, they really don’t overlap much in the markets they serve, but Delta is notoriously tough bargaining in partnerships.

    There’s no real reason for Emirates to drop Alaska, Alaska on the other hand could be burning more cahs than they would like on theese awards..

  9. Ben, you could try searching for award space on the Alaska Airlines website. If it shows on the website, you shouldn’t have much trouble ticketing

  10. Guess this ruins my plans to fly Emirates next year. Would love a post on other nice first or business class redemptions using Alaska miles.

  11. Lucky,

    I signed up for an Alaska card a couple of years ago due to the sign up bonus and the unique value of the points. I have kept the card and credited most of my Delta flying to Alaska this year. I have about 100K Alaska Miles now (I plan on using them on Cathay at some point).

    1) Long term, how do you see Alaska’s mileage program trending? I can only see the value decreasing from now. As you point out it doesn’t make sense for Emirates to really give first class seats to Alaska miles holders. I also see the Delta relationship ending soon (not sure about AA).

    2) Given some of the improvements with Delta recently (one-way rewards booking in particular), does it make sense to focus on earning SkyMiles more? I am based in NYC and have flown Alaska metal only once.

  12. Wife and I are hoping to get on DFW-DBX-SEZ (with stop in Dubai) next summer, so hope this doesn’t go away before we get a chance to try it out.

  13. I think it will go away. Also what I am seeing is a massive display of BA awards for international travel awards with AS, very few others and of them few business. I am looking at fall travel to be fair. And I am still waiting for AS to answer my query to them regarding this. One issue as a AS FF no real partnerships

    Frankly having flown EK FC on AS points I will impressed but as my wife said next let’s go business.

  14. Also, another issue with Alaska FF redemptions is that they are not yet letting you book one way awards on Delta for the correct price (for example, I can’t book any business class flights on Delta to Europe at 62.5K, they are all showing at 125K online).

  15. @Anthony: that is the correct price. Alaska would need to renegotiate the contract to offer one-ways at one way prices. Given they’re in a death struggle over Seattle, I doubt they’ll be renegotiating anything. Far more likely that the partnership ends altogether.

  16. Can’t say I’m surprised.

    Based on the responses to call up and hassle Alaska in the “Emirates Not Honoring Chauffeur Service On Previously Made Bookings” post, if I was Alaska I’d want to drop Emirates.

    Thanks guys!

    Attitudes like THIS are why nice things go away:

    “Yes, I am serious about contacting Alaska.

    This has real value to me (about $600). Alaska abides by the same laws that other businesses do. We had an agreement on what I was purchasing, I had confirmation of said agreement, and then Alaska’s subcontracted carrier did not abide by a portion of the agreement.

    I did not ask Alaska Airlines for a favor, I am a paying customer, this is business, and they are not complying with our agreement.”

  17. Your post implies that EK must be blocking award space to AS, but could it be the other way? After a lot of huaca, I was able to book a F award flying on april. After getting the same answer that there was no F available (even though in EF Z=2), the magic sentence was to ask if the search could be made on the old system and voilà, space was found. If EK was really blocking the space, AS wouldn´t have found it in any way. May be this is like US blocking LH or UA blocking SQ.

  18. How funny will it be if they drop Alaska to be partners with Delta? That could be a good slap and add fire to their housewives of Seattle drana… Btw when is that partnership set to expire? It’s been quiet lately Ben.

  19. @Apu – I´m not really sure, but it seems that AS has a new system to book flights (I don´t know if this applies to all carriers or just EK). The new system displays exactly what you can find on AS website (which means zero F availability after March 28th). It seems (at least was my case) like it´s still possible to book flights if the agent use the old system. Not all of them will say this is allowed, but huaca and you will find one that will be able to book what you can find on EF.

  20. I believe the whole partnership with Alaska stemmed from the fact Canada denied Emirates gates at YVR, (probably cuz of Air Canada)…. so they came back and slapped a huge visa charge to Canadians entering UAE, and they started courting an alternative Northwest market –in this case, SEA, which of course is AS hub….another case of Bedouins Gone Wild I guess 🙂

  21. Bob – huaca – hang up and call again
    Carlos – thanks, is there any other place to look up other than EF, I do not currently have a paid subscription to them…?

  22. @ Apu – You can create a free new account on EF or you can create a Qantas account and search there on classic awards option.

  23. don’t see much comments about the JAL mile bank option. is that equally viable as alaska when one could redeem F?
    Also could you name one airline program which can only be gotten through amex MR as I am thinking about switching amex spend entirely to spg. thx

  24. How about using Korean Air miles on EK? I know it’s round-trip and high fee but Chase points are much easier to get and may be another option to redeem if AS miles are no longer applied for EK.

  25. There is something weird going on. I am checking for Business class flights from India to SFO (DEL/HYD/BOM). From April 1st , For emirates, the first leg from India to DXB is showing up only in economy no matter the date. The leg from DXB to SFO is showingup in business class. I wonder why emirates or alaska is blocking all business class space from India to DXB!!!

  26. I booked an Emirates First ticket today with Alaska for travel in June. I had to call them and at first they said only business was available. When I told her it showed available, she looked at something else and told me her other system shows availability and she booked it for me and waived the phone booking fee since I couldn’t do it online.

  27. Also booked EK F for June travel today. EF showed Z = 2 for both segments, got them to book it after a few calls. It’s doable but who knows how long before they close this loophole.

  28. @ Gary Leff — Sure, JAL has decent redemption rates in some cases, but their miles aren’t as readily available as Alaska’s. I’d be willing to bet that Alaska members are redeeming exponentially more miles for Emirates first class than JAL members.

  29. @ Anthony — I don’t think the value of the program will decrease, personally. They’re a small program and have some great partnerships, and I would expect them to stay roughly the same over the coming years. They’ll no doubt lose some partners and gain some partners, but I don’t see any major changes happening.

    With Delta it’s a real toughie, and I think it’s a function of how much you fly and how expensive your tickets are. If you’re booking expensive tickets than Delta’s new program is great, while if you’re booking discounted tickets you may still come ahead with Alaska.

  30. @ Sergio — If I’m not mistaken the contract runs through some points in this year, and we’ll see from there…

  31. @ marcus — Yes, JAL is a great program, but their only transfer partner is SPG, so points are somewhat tough to come by.

    SPG has most of the same transfer partners as Membership Rewards. The big benefit of the latter, in my opinion, is that they offer big category bonuses, so it’s possible to earn a lot more than one mile per dollar.

  32. @ AC — That should still work, though as you point out rates are higher, there are fuel surcharges, and only roundtrip redemptions are allowed.

  33. @ Raj — Have you used another site to maybe look up availability in business class on that segment? Maybe another connection option would have more availability.

  34. great comment string – why i enjoy this hobby – that & looking out the window @ 38K feet using miles Glad I’ve done my SYD-DUB-JFK in EK 1st already although I did just get me 1st AS CC w/ evil BofAm

  35. Well then Diner’s at the pharmacist to convert to SPG to JAL and then we’re set…………why all the fuss…..

  36. Do you think they are more likely to assist with the availability in F after March over the phone if the passenger/account is MVPG75?

  37. Also, forgot to ask: If I see only one seat in Z available [looking in EF], is Alaska likely to see it as well?

    Or do I need to find a day with Z2 in order to get one seat?

  38. @ James Ukich — Status shouldn’t make a difference. As far as Z1 vs. Z2 goes, sometimes they can see all the seats Emirates shows and sometimes they can’t.

  39. AS system has been busted for a long time now. They refuse to acknowledge an issue. Let’s say it’s correct that AS does not have the same availability as all the other EK partners. The AS site will show flight available but errors out during purchase it’s been happening for 2 years. It’s obvious to me it’s an AS issue and not a lack of availability.

    Regarding the old system (where they do manual sell (CX and LA are still booked in old system) I was told the reps are not allowed to be use it to book any partners which is why it went from 2x HUCA to people doing 20+ HUCAs. I’m scared for the day CX and LA go online. That point the old system will be phased out and even more awards will get screwed up like EK

  40. @raj @lucky, there is virtually no J or F space out of India into DXB ever. Not sure why since EY and QR have decent availability from India to their hubs, but EK space simply doesn’t exist out of India. Fortunately CX space from India to HKG seems pretty good in J. Any idea on the lack of space Lucky?

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