It’s Back! Alaska Airlines Miles Are Great for Emirates First Class Awards

Since the fall, first class award space on Emirates A380 flights out of the US have been wide open.

The programs that folks look to when redeeming on Emirates are:

  • Emirates Skywards: an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, first class awards are exceptionally pricey and one-way awards require the higher tier chart.
  • Alaska Airlines: the most common way for US members to book these awards.
    Japan Airlines: they have the best award chart, which is distance-based. Most members would get these by transferring Starwood points.
  • Korean Air: Chase Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner, although awards are pricey.
  • Qantas: their award chart is out of this world insane, and while they print points like water in Australia most US members would be forced to transfer Starpoints to get these awards.
  • Virgin America: does not permit first class redemptions

Alaska Airlines miles are great for Emirates awards because:

  • You can get plenty of miles with the Bank of America co-brand personal and business credit cards (they’re generous giving bonus to both current and former cardmembers who sign up).
  • They sell miles aggressively with bonuses.
  • Their routing rules are generous, with an allowable stopover on a one way award and the ability to book US-Asia via the Middle East.

Unfortunately the past couple of months the ability to book Emirates first class via Alaska for flights past March 28th was mostly shut down. Described as a technical glitch, you could sometimes get Alaska’s partner desk to “request the seats using the old system” but in general it was challenging.

The great news is that Alaska has online booking of Emirates first class awards back!

The other great news is that until tomorrow Alaska is selling miles with a 40% bonus.

With a 40% bonus you’re buying miles at 2.1 cents apiece — not something I normally recommend but if you’re going to use the points for Emirates first class it could be worthwhile.

Key things to know about buying Alaska miles:

  • You can buy up to 40,000 miles per transaction.
  • You can make as many transactions as you like — there’s no limit to the number of miles that Alaska will sell you, or to the number of bonus miles you can earn with this promotion.
  • You can only use the same credit card up to 4 times per 30 day period for any transactions
  • Since these purchases are processed by and not the airline, you won’t earn credit card category bonuses for airfare or travel when buying miles.

You can use Alaska miles to fly US – Asia via the Middle East.

You can fly to just the Middle East or to India or Africa.

You can also fly between the US and Europe on Emirates (this is what worries American, Delta, and United so much).

Last month I flew Male – Colombo, Colombo – Dubai – Dallas on an Alaska Airlines award in first class. That got me access to the first class level of the Emirates A380 terminal pier in Dubai (a whole level of the terminal just for first class).

And it got me a shower in the sky between Dubai and Dallas, a flight that frequently has great award space in first (my flight had 4 seats filled only).

This cost 100,000 Alaska Airlines miles one-way plus $42.50 in taxes and a $12.50 partner booking fee per person.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

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. “You can also fly between the US and Europe on Emirates” no one is worried about this. Only a select few crazy people would do such a routing and they aren’t profitable customers

  2. @CDKing – you can fly US – Europe via Dubai on Emirates with Alaska miles, but that’s not really what I was referring to, rather the JFK-Milan flight and potentially other new services opening.

  3. I realize it isn’t the same experience but it might be that Business Class redemption’s are the sweet spot in these charts.

  4. Curious about this so I searched for roundtrip flights from Dallas to Colombo on a random date in September… say 9 Sept 2015 to 15 Sept 2015. Roundtrip cost is $22,000 on Emirates website. Then I went to Alaska Air’s website and saw that same trip priced at 180,000 miles. The cost to purchase those miles is $3,600 (by getting the 40% bonus miles). On the surface it seems like an extreme bargain.

    Unfortunately I have no need to go to Colombo. Nor funds to do so. But using Alaska Miles definitely seems like a bargain in this case. Unless I made a mistake in calculations.

    NOTE: Some days the Dallas-to-Dubai portion of that award-trip is in business-class, not first-class.

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