Alaska Airlines Adds Emirates Redemptions to its Award Chart

As expected, Alaska Airlines has gotten up their award chart for redemptions on Emirates which will begin January 16.

I was sleeping last night when this was first noticed — while Lucky tripped over himself, fell, and quickly got up a blog post while bleeding in order to bring you the news first. So hat tip Lucky.

Here are the award charts:

As is common for Alaska Airlines awards on partners, they do not publish award charts for travel between every region of the world. For instance there is no award on Cathay Pacific between Europe and Asia.

You can fly Emirates between North America and the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia but not, say, all the way to Australia.

Alaska Airlines awards on partners are roundtrip only, no one-ways for half the miles. An enroute stopover is permitted. And all travel must be on the partner only or a combination of the partner and Alaska Airlines — mixing partners on one award is not permitted.

Should You Transfer Points to Alaska to Redeem on Emirates?

Emirates has a good, quality product for sure, but the award chart is pricey relative to other options that Alaska offers and relative to other options that other carriers offer to similar destinations.

For instance Alaska charges 155,000 miles for roundtrip business class traevl to Africa on Emirates. Meanwhile for 140,000 miles you can book first class on Cathay Pacific to Africa.

And of course many programs charge 120,000 – 125,000 for business class to Africa.

On the other hand Alaska wants the same number of miles for first class to India on Emirates as American AIrlines gets for India first class awards. So the pricing isn’t crazy either.

If you have Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles already, this is a great new option to use them.

If you are starting from scratch and want to fly Emirates, this probably isn’t the best way to do it. For instance, Starwood transfers to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank are going to be a better deal. JAL has a distance-based award chart. Keeping the award under 20,000 miles roundtrip costs 155,000 miles in first class. That will get you New York JFK – Dubai – Bangkok and back, something Alaska would charge 200,000 miles for.

It’s worth noting that there are no fuel surcharges on Emirates — so whether you redeem via Alaska or Japan Airlines won’t matter materially in terms of cost. (Alaska continues to impose fuel surcharges only on British Airways awards.)

How Available Are Emirates First Class Awards?

It used to be the case that Emirates awards even in first class on the A380 were widely available. I chalk this up to their limited partnerships, there simply aren’t that many members competing for the space, they’re a huge airline with widespread first class, so plenty of seats tend to be available.

But here’s my concern and why I won’t transfer points into either my Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank accounts right away.

Expertflyer has historically shown award space on Emirates, a great easy way to find the space that’s available (albeit a pay service). And of course Expertflyer even lets you set up alerts, they will let you know by email when space opens up on a given flight.

But it’s now showing that ‘Z’ class is the one single class for flex and saver awards and upgrades in first class. My interest in Emirates is first class awards.

In the past I’m quite sure that there were different award buckets for flex (extra miles for more space but only open to Emirates Skywards members) and saver (regular awards, bookable by partners like Japan Airlines and Alaska) first class awards. And indeed Expertflyer continues to show different buckets for flex and saver awards in business class and economy.

If this is an actual change rather than a glitch on the part of Expertflyer, then it could have meaningful impact on the availability of Emirates awards. And I need to play around with that a bit before confidently moving points over.

My plan is to wait until January 16 when Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan can book Emirates awards. Then I’ll search for flights where Expertflyer shows first class available, and then match to ensure that Alaska can see those same flights and that the space isn’t really ‘flex’ space limited to Emirates’ own members (as it is hard to conceive of saver and flex awards actually coming out of the same bucket).

If any readers want to be even more enterprising, y’all could do the same experiments now with Japan Airlines and report back in the comments!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. ‘On the other hand Alaska wants the same number of miles for first class to India on Emirates as American AIrlines gets for India first class awards. So the pricing isn’t crazy either.’
    With the One World award tix for that many miles, one could go to India on BA and then visit the Far East on the way back and take Cathay Pacific F coming back. So I see a huge advantage with AA.

  2. I am curious about the Z inventory thing on EF, I am a little worried that it might be too good to be true. Maybe, because EK does not have many partners that allows F redemption on EK, they can afford to not have to split up inventory for Skywards members and partners.

    Just one little pointer, you can redeem awards on CX between HKG and Europe 😉 Just not to the rest of Asia. That is the one of the biggest downfalls of AS’s program alongside with not being able to mix-and-match partners or redeem one way awards, particularly for those who are based outside of North America.

    Nonetheless, this new partnership brings a lot of destinations that are now reachable like MLE, MRU, bunch of destinations in India/Africa, and gives us more options for travel to Asia. I am tempted to do LAX-DXB-NRT or something similar 😉

  3. fyi – called AK desk, two important data points: while EK award redemption table lists “NorthAm to Ind/M.E./Afr” the details are less sanguine:

    a. If source/destination city in NorthAm is not an Emirates hub and not one serviced by Alaska (example – Boston) – Alaska will not allow AA/DL/other MileagePlan partner to carry you on the EK redemption, “you will have to pay for that ticket by cash yourself if Alaska does not fly that sector”.

    b. If routing to India (for example), then “Middle East” stopover means “Dubai” stopover not Abu Dhabi or elsewhere in the Middle East (“you will need to pay pay for that ticket with cash even if it served by EK”). Presumaby the same applies to Africa trips.

    Rep couldn’t price fuel surcharges for a dummy reservation, “don’t have that data yet”.

  4. I voiced the same concern on FT but no one seems to know the answer if partner can access the Z inventory now since it is combined with A (Flex) inventory. Will love to see if anyone know or has successively redeemed Emirates First using partner miles lately.

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