Here’s How You Should Book Emirates First Class Awards Going Forward

Earlier I posted about the huge devaluation that Alaska made to Emirates first class award travel overnight, where we saw the cost of some first class awards increase by 100%. To me this destroys a lot of my trust in the Alaska Mileage Plan program, because trying to catch members off guard with changes undermines the very point of a loyalty program.

Alaska-Award-Emirates-1

So is this the end of Emirates first class redemptions for me? Nope, at least for as long as the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program stays the same. I’ve written about how to redeem Japan Airlines miles on Emirates in the past, though figured I’d recap it again, given the drastic change which happened today.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-01
Emirates A380

How good of a deal are Emirates first class awards through JAL?

Japan Airlines has a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates, as follows:

JAL-Emirates-Award-Chart

The basic rules of these redemptions are as follows:

  • You can travel either one way or roundtrip
  • You can fly up to six segments per itinerary
  • You can make up to two stopovers per itinerary
  • Mileage required is based on the total cumulative distance flown on all sectors

Best of all, there should be no fuel surcharges when redeeming Japan Airlines miles on Emirates, at least for flights between the US and UAE. Japan Airlines publishes the maximum amount they charge in fees for travel on partner airlines; for Emirates that figure is as follows:

EMIRATES (EK): U.S. to U.A.E round-trip: maximum US$78.20.

In the past JAL has gone back and forth as to whether or not they impose fuel surcharges on Emirates, as it seems to be based on where you’re flying to/from. So I can’t make any guarantees, but they do officially publish the above regarding travel between the US and UAE, which suggests there shouldn’t be fuel surcharges. I’d research this more, but JAL will only quote the taxes and fees on a ticket if you have enough miles in your account and are ready to book, which isn’t a situation I’ve been in up until now.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-020
Emirates first class goodies

As I explained in a previous post, here are a few examples of possible redemption values:

  • A roundtrip A380 first class award between New York and Milan would cost you 100,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 business class award between New York and Milan would cost you 65,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 first class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 135,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 business class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 85,000 miles
  • An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Dubai) would cost you 135,000 miles
  • An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Bangkok) would cost you 155,000 miles

Emirates-Award
Book all of this in Emirates A380 first class for 155,000 miles

The best part is that Japan Airlines miles can be acquired at the same cost as Alaska Airlines miles… though it may require a bit more effort.

How to buy Japan Airlines miles for 2.1 cents each

Japan Airlines is a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, so you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

SPG often offers a 25% discount when purchasing points (including at the moment, through April 15), bringing down the cost per purchased Starpoint to 2.625 cents.

Starpoints-Discount

Since 20,000 Starpoints convert into 25,000 airline miles, that means you’re paying 2.1 cents per airline mile.

When Alaska sells miles directly, the lowest price with a 40% bonus is typically ~2.11 cents per mile, so it’s actually even marginally cheaper to go through Starwood.

The catch is that you can purchase a maximum of 30,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year.

How to get around the annual Starpoint purchase limit

One way to get around the limit of only being able to purchase 30,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year is to make a household points transfer. Starwood allows members registered at the same address to transfer Starpoints between accounts. This means if you have four people at your address with Starwood accounts, you can all purchase Starpoints through this promotion and you could then transfer the points to one account.

Starwood-Points-Transfer

Bottom line

There’s rarely just one good program for a particular mileage redemption, and that’s also true for Emirates first class. While Alaska doubled their first class redemption rates on Emirates in many markets, Japan Airlines still has very reasonable redemption rates. Admittedly purchasing those miles is a bit more challenging than with Alaska, but the price ends up being the same (or even marginally cheaper).

Emirates-A380-First-Class-051
Emirates first class caviar service

The other good thing is that you can always keep the points in your SPG account, and only transfer them when you’re ready to book, so you don’t lock yourself into one specific mileage currency, with the risk of a devaluation (a realization many woke up to this morning with Alaska Mileage Plan).

I’d add two other caveats:

  • Japan Airlines could also devalue award redemptions on Emirates (especially if it’s Emirates prompting it), so I’m sharing this simply so everyone knows of their options; personally I don’t think they’ll change their system too soon given how few people redeem Emirates awards through JAL rather than through Alaska; over time that could change
  • There aren’t too many data points on Emirates redemptions through Japan Airlines, so I’m not sure of the competency of the agents, what kind of fees are charged in practice, if availability matches what Emirates makes available to their own members, etc.; hopefully we can share some data points and start figuring that out

With the above out of the way, there are plenty of fantastic values to be had for Emirates first class through JAL’s program, and in many cases they’re better than anything Alaska ever charged. On the most basic level, a roundtrip New York to Dubai first class award will cost you 135,000 miles plus ~$80 in taxes. That’s under $3,000 roundtrip for Emirates first class between the US and Middle East

Anyone else planning on earning/buying JAL miles for the purposes of Emirates first class redemptions, or are you concerned the redemption will be devalued shortly?

Comments

  1. So you’re just casually throwing out there the buy miles option for thousands of dollars, forgetting that the name of the miles game is to get miles not by spending an obscene amount of money.

    If I’m spending about $3000 already plus taxes and fees, why limit yourself to some restricted schedule – at that level of cash, you can buy a reasonably comfortable flight with cash itself, and its no longer about miles.

  2. @ J — Of course I am, because I don’t think there’s just one version of the “miles game.” Some people prefer to spend as few miles as possible, and don’t care whether they’re in economy or first class. Meanwhile others are thrilled when they can purchase a $25,000 seat for a tiny fraction of the price. Just throwing it out there, and everyone can make of this information what they’d like.

  3. From reading the previous post, redemptions through Korean may be an option as well for those who have a lot of UR points.

  4. I have way, way more airline miles than hotel points, don’t you?

    I use my SPG points as soon as I earn them, and use them on great hotels.

  5. I realize that all of this is technically within the rules, but I can’t help but feel like this is ignoring the spirit under which all of the rules were put in place. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    I mean…go for it–keep going for it. But there is a fundamental issue with all of this (to me). People are expecting/demanding/becoming accustomed to things that aren’t supposed to be for them. It’s relatively straightforward in my head: if you can afford to pay for first class on Emirates (which few can) you get to fly first class on Emirates. If you can’t, you don’t.

    I agree with you that it’s super shitty to make a change like this overnight. I just feel like people are losing sight of a lot of things. In my world your job should be impossible without the sponsorship of the airlines and hotels. I’m glad you can do it though because I love the blog. 🙂

    (and just to be super clear I’m not one of those people who can afford to pay cash to fly Emirates first. I am someone who can–on occasion–pay for long-haul business, but that’s about it)

  6. “people are expecting things that aren’t supposed to be for them”

    Wow.

    So, only people who are able to pay cash for an F or J seat should be allowed to redeem for them? That’s non-sensical.

  7. How does the same household transfer work for SPG? If I registered & managed my parents SPG accounts & registered them to my address, would that work? Do you ever have to provide proof of address? Thanks.

  8. doestn’t korean air skypass also allow redemptions on emirates? what are the rates like for that?

  9. JAL DOES charge fuel surcharges these days, and they go for $500-$600 each way, so for round trip tickets, it ranges somewhere between $1,000 and $1,300.
    The ages of cheap EK F tickets are officially over.

  10. Doesn’t JAL have the same “redemptions only for relatives” restriction that KE has? That’s important for people to know.

    If one is getting all their JAL miles from SPG, you can get around it by household-transferring points to multiple SPG accounts and then from there into multiple JAL accounts, but you may lose out on some 5K bonus per 20K transferred efficiency, and you also run the risk that you book one ticket through one account when there appear to be two seats available, but then the act of booking one causes the other one to disappear. (I believe this has sometimes happened to people looking to book 2 EK tickets through 2 separate AS accounts, so it may well happen with JAL too.)

    It requires a greater number of miles, but for those with a lot of Citi TY points there’s always QF Frequent Flyer.

  11. Taxes on JL redemption on EK originating in the US can’t be over $78.20. Please check the JAL website and you’ll see it.

  12. Data points here.

    I frequently transfer SPG to JAL to redeem for EK F.

    Availability is terrible from YYZ. Availability via the US is far better.

    The JAL call center is in California and I have found their agents to be competent. They do not charge fuel surcharges. If you find seats on ExpertFlyer, they can usually see them too.

    EK does not allow chauffeur pick-up/drop off on partner award tickets. Other than that, you have all the other benefits of a revenue paying F passenger (without earning miles of course).

    Although someone above posted that JAL charged $500-600 for EK F fuel surcharges, I find that as of right now, they do not. I redeemed 3 tickets this week and I was not charged any fuel surcharges. 2 years ago, I was charged around $600 each way per ticket, but it seems they removed that (for now).

  13. – “An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Bangkok) would cost you 155,000 miles”

    Wouldn’t Bangkok be the destination? Do you mean with stopovers in Milan and Dubai?

  14. I have tweeted Alaska a few moments ago about my recent purchase of miles and they offered to refund me. I am still waiting for this to slowly work out on the refund.

  15. I just started collecting Alaska miles with the goal to check out Emirates FC. The change really sucks, but it would have sucked even more for me had they done this in 6 months.

    Question: I seems now that JAL will be the way to get the Emirates experience. My wife is flying to Asia for business on Cathay. Can she credit those miles to JAL. That would give us a little jump start to building up JAL miles.

  16. how do i find rewards through JAL for emirates, it doesn’t allow me to search for one way awards and it isnt showing any availability or do you recommend calling them to book or check for availability

  17. I can add one data point.
    Transferred SPG to JAL in Jan 2015. Transfer took 4 days to complete.
    Booked DFW – DXB – DFW in EK First for 155,000 miles and $45.60. So definitely no fuel surcharges.

    Thanks, Lucky, if it wasn’t for your blog I would have never known to transfer SPG to JAL in order to fly EK.

  18. Lucky,
    Please check again if one way is possible. On the JAL site of partner awards, they say “One-way trip is not permitted”

  19. @Ryan
    Use qantas.com to search for Emirates award space, the account is free and you can search inventory with zero Qantas miles.

  20. Even before Alaska partnered with Emirates three years ago the JAL option was there yet it was never that popular for some reason.

  21. can you mix partner awards on JAL’s program? For example, could I fly LA > JFK on AA and JFK > MXP on EK on the same award?

    Also, how many miles for first class from LAX to DXB?

  22. Just wait for Emirates to shut the JAL door pretty soon. Emirates clearly does not want a bunch of non revenue passengers throwing a frat party in their premium classes. It won’t take long for them to only allow elite members of their own loyalty program to redeem miles for their premium classes. You bought miles or is transferring from a partner program? We welcome you to redeem your miles in the cattle class.

  23. Emirates have recorded 27 years of consecutive profit with 2015 hitting 1.5 billion dollars.
    Makes all this devaluation even more indigestible.
    Give us a break EK!

  24. According to the SPG Web site, the 25% discount on buying award points ends on April, 30, 2016 (not 4/15 stated in this post).

  25. Is it just me or are there a lot of people who seem to read this blog out of spite; just to get angry that people are redeeming miles. LOL.

    Chris

  26. Can you hold award tickets and if so for how long? Don’t want to be stuck in a situation similar to Alaska where they suddenly devalue after SPG points have been transferred to JAL account.

  27. how would you go about booking with JAL from US to Europe?! I thought you had to go through Japan?

  28. @Lady Carnavon von villy – “Emirates have recorded 27 years of consecutive profit with 2015 hitting 1.5 billion dollars. Makes all this devaluation even more indigestible. Give us a break EK!”

    If those figures are accurate, they really don’t need to give us (or anyone) a break.

  29. On the topic of booking EK awards with JAL miles, I have a related question:

    Suppose I book an EK award with JAL miles that consists of A->B->C->D. However the EK flight from B->C is not at a convenient time for me and I would prefer to book a different B->C flight with cash. But since I am already using up my 1 open jaw by starting in A and returning to D (same country don’t worry), I can’t use another open jaw from B to C. I would have to actually include the EK B->C flight in my itinerary that I don’t intend on taking.

    The question is: If I book the itinerary in this way, can I then call JAL before the B->C flight, cancel that segment, and leave the rest of my itinerary intact? If so, what fees would be incurred for this? I’m having a hard time deducing this info from the JAL website. Would it make a difference what class the B->C flight was booked in, as hinted by this chart: https://www.ar.jal.com/arl/region/en/flight_planning/condition/ar.html#yl

  30. I’ve been trying to get the JAL website to work for me to look at international partner award availability. Ever since the Alaska/Emirates devaluation, JAL has been my go to. I just can’t seem to get the site to work now. I’ve tried all the work arounds including setting up a Japan based JAL account, no luck.

    I even installed an IP spoofer to make the website think I am actually physically sitting in tokyo right now. No luck.

    Can someone please check if they can gain access to the JAL search tool that works? I am at stop right now.

  31. Just booked a few minutes ago JFK – DXB – MXP – JFK on EK F. Taxes and Fees came to $89.36 and 135,000 JAL miles per passenger. The JAL rep couldn’t see the same availability as what was showing on Qantas for the EK flight. They didn’t see some dates the Qantas website showed but had other dates available. Didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the availability. I booked 11 months in advance. Also, it seems I can book a chauffeur car on a few of the stops as well.

  32. @Phil Any idea why you got chauffeur option on some legs but not all? I booked JFK-DXB-IAD and I the EK site is showing me chauffeur available for both terminals of DXB-IAD but not for JFK-DXB. I was under the impression that chauffeur was discontinued for all of F so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

  33. Has anyone tried to do this on Emirates with JAL miles with a lap infant? JAL’s site seems to say it’s the same number of miles as an adult ticket, which is a deal breaker, but I’ve read elsewhere that lap infant tickets with awards are controlled and price by the operating carrier, so I’d have to ask Emirates directly. Any insights?

  34. @Max – Thanks, I had already seen that link prior to posting here, which is why I wasn’t sure what the rules are. The award chart posted by JAL would dictate the miles needed for redemptions using JAL miles (either on JAL metal or partners). In that case, do JAL’s rules apply, or do the operating carrier’s rules apply (10% of adult fare). I believe Tiffany answered my question here: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/09/17/infant-award-travel/#comment-3536247 – it looks like I would just have to call Emirates to add a lap infant at 10% of the ticket adult fare (so it looks like the operating carrier’s rule applies).

  35. @Lucky
    3 questions that would be a huge help if would address:
    1. Bumping earlier question that is outstanding:
    – “An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Bangkok) would cost you 155,000 miles”
    Wouldn’t Bangkok be the destination? Do you mean with stopovers in Milan and Dubai?

    2. Would JFK – DXB – (COK, stopover) – DXB – JFK be a valid single award ticket or would it require booking a RT?

    3. What is EK (& JAL?) policy on stopovers – one year max? no backtracking at all or based on available routing (ie. only way to get to ACC on EK is via DXB…which is backtracking)

    THANKS!

  36. Hi.. great blog.

    I am trying to book a one way BKK-DXB-JFK. Using JAL miles which according to chart is 50K FIrst Class each way..does it make sense.

  37. Hi Ben –

    I’m not sure if this post was already sent, so please excuse if it is duplicative.

    As always, thank you for the info and the fun.

    This post raised a few quick questions for me:

    How is the JAL program for getting domestic Australia and/or international business class award seats on QANTAS?

    Can you mix/match EK and QF segments on the same award?

    With gratitude,

  38. Tom,
    I called JAL (US office) today and was informed that a ticket with Emirates can not contain any other airline. Not even JAL.

    Lucky, can you confirm this? I know your post ONLY mentioned EK flights which makes me assume the above is accurate.

  39. Here’s a datapoint for a recent trip:

    Researched Emirates First Class award: BKK – DXB – JFK one way with a stopover in DXB using ExpertFlyer web site. I tried using the Alaska site but it showed too many false positive flights so switched and found ExpertFlyer exactly matched JAL’s availabilty. I called JAL and confirmed the award needed 100k points for the one way ticket. The first agent told me that it was 115k so I hung up and called again. I had pre-calculated the flown miles using the air miles calculator on the FlyerTalk web site and used the chart above to calculate JAL points required for the distance.

    Transferred miles from Starwood to JAL in two transactions since you are limited to 79999 miles maximum transfer in a 24 hour period. One transaction was Thursday and the second on Saturday. Both appeared in my JAL account on Monday. It seems that Sunday night is the weekly cutoff for transfer requests to JAL accounts.

    The flights were booked and confirmed. I paid only taxes of about $54.

    Be warned that JAL hold times are incredibly long. Average 30 minutes waiting talk to a representative.

  40. FYI…

    Booked the BKK-DXB-MXP (stopover)-JFK (stopover)-DXB (stopover)-BKK award in business class for 100K JAL miles, via 80K Starpoints.

    My SPG points transfers to JAL Mileage Bank were processed in 3 days.

    Called the Los Angeles JAL call center in the morning morning at 6:15am PST (was on hold 20 minutes) and the agent was very helpful, but unfortunately their reservation systems were down. He could see the Emirates flights, but he could not reserve them for me. I gave him all the flight info and he said all but one showed available. I thought that was weird because the one he could not see showed as available on ExpertFlyer like the others, but it didn’t matter because he couldn’t reserve them.

    The biggest concern I had is when he priced out the entire ticket, he said the mileage was over 20K miles traveled from BKK-DXB-MXP-JFK-DXB-BKK which would cost 125K points on the JAL chart (I only had 100K points in my account). He even said the exact same routing in reverse starting out in JFK instead of BKK was under 20K miles traveled which would cost the 100K points that I had. This was very frustrating but I stayed patient.

    Anyways, he said he would have to call me back later when their IT systems were back up, and in the meantime he would check why his mileage calculator showed originating the trip in Bangkok vs. New York showed more miles traveled and made my reservation cost way more on their chart. He admitted this didn’t make sense.

    5 hours later he called me back and gave me great news:

    A) the original EK flight that did not show available to him, but did to me on ExpertFlyer, now showed available – so my ideal, complex itinerary was now bookable.
    B) the mileage calculator he was using had a glitch (not sure how…), and now starting the trip in BKK was the same mileage as starting the trip in JFK, and I was just under the 20K miles traveled threshold so I could get the entire ticket for 100K JAL points.
    C) Taxes/fees for the ticket were around ~$120 USD. No fuel surcharges.

    Thought I would share these interesting data points as they may help you for future bookings.

    Now I have to go spend 115K SkyMiles. Maybe I’ll get a flight from ATL to SEA.

  41. Can anyone help me better understand if it’s possible to book one way awards on partner airlines using JAL miles? I am getting mixed answers on if it’s possible or not.

    Looking to book at one way award in First Class on Emirates. MXP-NYC.

    Does JAL allow this award to be booked? If so, what would the mileage cost be? 45k miles per person? Or 50k miles per person?

    The 4007 miles flown for MXP-NYC (according to JAL website) falls into the bucket where it looks like it should only be 45k per person according to the partner award chart. But I keep seeing that it should be 50k?

    Like I said, getting alot of mixed answers on this. Any advise and help is much appreciated!

  42. Booked lca~dxb~jnb~dxb~ath they charged me 450 for y or 650 (approx ) for j I’m fighting on the phone but getting nowhere

  43. I just spoke with JAL re: one way JFK to MXP and they quoted 90K. Is it really 100K for round trip? This is so confusing. Does E stop anywhere else in Europe or GB?

  44. Hey Ben,

    The JAL Partner Award Chart shows miles needed for round-trip, I would need to transfer 95k Starpoints (for 135k JAL) to book SIN-DXB-LAX for 2 pax (11,974 miles). Are my calculations correct?

    Also, to confirm, JAL reservation agents will NOT check/confirm space is available unless you have enough miles in your account for the specific routing you’re enquiring about?

    Thanks.

  45. You don’t state which class of service you are trying to fly. If you are saying per person, I would assume you are talking about F. You can call Jal and see what kind of availability they are showing. You can also check on Qantas. My experience was Jal saw slightly different award availability than what Qantas was showing. Keep in mind, it will take a few days/week for the miles to show up in your Jal account and you can only transfer 79,999 SPG to JAL per 24 hours, which means 60k to take advantage of the bonus 5k per 20k miles.

  46. Thank you Paul – yes, flying F. 95k Starpoints = 135k JAL which I believe should get me one-way F SIN-DXB-LAX based on their distance based award chart.

  47. Err, isn’t 95K Starpoints not 135K JAL miles?

    100K Starpoints is 125K JAL miles unless I’ve gone crazy.

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