Emirates ending First Class awards w/ partner miles [Book w/ JAL miles through August]


Update 4/28/21: We previously posted about Alaska Mileage Plan losing the ability to book Emirates first class awards. Now, Japan Airlines has announced that we will no longer be able to book Emirate First Class with JAL Mileage Bank miles after August 31, 2021.

a plane on a map

Original post follows:
a screenshot of a website

Emirates will no longer allow partner access to First Class awards as of April 1, 2021 according to the latest mileage statement from Alaska Mileage Plan. This is surprising and if true it is hugely disappointing as Emirates First Class has long been one of the most aspirational awards in the sky. Though some would argue it to be more bling than substance, there simply has been no blingier way to fly in commercial air travel. While you’ll still be able to book directly via the Emirates Skywards program, it will be sad to see the end of one of the most fun partner redemptions possible. As seen above, the way Alaska has worded this makes it seem that this will apply to all of Emirates’s partners.

a man and woman standing at a bar
Taking one’s turn as an Emirates bartender is almost a rite of passage in the premium cabin award travel realm.

This news came out in the latest Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan statement this evening, so on the surface it seems that it is possible that this only applies to Alaska Mileage Plan bookings. That explanation certainly seems like it could fly given the timing: Alaska is set to join the oneworld alliance on March 31st, 2021 — which they claim is the last day to book Emirates first class awards.

However, the wording does not indicate that Mileage Plan will no longer offer Emirates First Class awards or that Emirates will no longer allow Mileage Plan access but rather it directly says that Emirates will no longer allow partner access to First Class awards as though this will be a blanket policy.

Granted, there aren’t many partner options for booking Emirates first class that are particularly appealing these days. Japan Airlines offers the best deals in many cases, but Japan Airlines miles are fairly hard to come by given that the only US transfer partner is Marriott. JAL does have a US credit card, but it isn’t very attractive.

Emirates also partners with Qantas, though in all but the shortest distance 5th freedom flight redemptions, the Qantas rates aren’t particularly good.

Alaska Mileage Plan used to be the way for US-based frequent flyers to access Emirates awards. Indeed, “back in the day”, I redeemed 90K Alaska miles per passenger to get fancy and fly from the Maldives to New York with a stop in Dubai in first class (an itinerary that priced around $20K one-way with the stopover at the time that I booked it). Unfortunately, Alaska increased that redemption to 180K miles at some point with no notice – and in most cases Alaska redemptions for Emirates first class just aren’t particularly attractive anymore.

a man drinking from a glass in a plane
Nick enjoying the Emirates experience

But there is no denying that Emirates first class is fun. From the free-flowing Dom Perignon….

a bottle of champagne next to a glass of champagne

To the onboard shower on the A380….

a bathroom with a sink and shower

And the nearly nonsensical minibar beside the seat…

a person's legs in a chair in a business class

It is definitely one of those experiences that leaves you laughing at the places this points and miles game can take you. In fact, I am typing this post while wearing my Emirates first class pajamas, which I’ve held onto and enjoyed for years.

And the “new” first class looks downright amazing. I have seen some pictures on social media recently that make it look much nicer than it looks in the marketing images.

a man sitting in a chair with a cup of tea
Emirates First Class 777-300ER. Image courtesy of Emirates.com.

Again, for most of us this won’t necessarily be a massive loss given that partner rates for Emirates first class aren’t amazing. And now that Emirates has eliminated the egregious fuel surcharges that they used to impose, booking via Emirates Skywards isn’t a terrible deal at just 85K + $41 one-way from Newark to Athens or 135K miles round trip in first class on that route (See: Emirates slashes award fees: now worth a second look). Given that Emirates is one of the most promiscuous airline programs, you can transfer points to Emirates from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Marriott Bonvoy and Capital One. Emirates even launched their own credit cards recently (the Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard and Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard).

That said, I’m nervous as to whether or not good values for Emirates first class will remain if Emirates no longer needs to compete with partner programs. On the one hand, we’ve seen that some programs which routinely restrict first class space to partners (like Singapore Airlines) have much better space available for members of their own program, but we don’t yet know what the Emirates model will look like.

It is worth repeating that it is possible that the email from Alaska was poorly worded and that this change will only affect Alaska Mileage Plan bookings. However, given that they did not announce an end to the partnership but rather just to first class bookings, I am more tempted to think that this is a move coming from Emirates. While it won’t be a huge blow for many readers, I’m always happier with more ways to book the most luxurious awards rather than fewer. If you’re interested in booking an Emirates first class award via a partner, you’ll have to keep your eye out for availability and be sure to book it by the end of March. Hopefully that will give us enough time with travel actually possible / safe / enjoyable to make it worth booking.

H/T: Reader Kathy

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[…] First, Alaska did a no-notice devaluation of its awards on Emirates Airlines and then, in 2021, lost access to Emirates First Class entirely. That same year Alaska joined the OneWorld alliance, news that some took with much trepidation […]

[…] First, Alaska did a no-notice devaluation of its awards on Emirates Airlines and then, in 2021, lost access to Emirates First Class entirely. That same year Alaska joined the OneWorld alliance, news that some took with much trepidation […]


Hopefully EK F awards will come back to AS some time in the future.

[…] members will no longer be able to redeem their miles for Emirates First Class. This comes after a late 2020 announcement by Alaska that Emirates was removing the ability for their partners to redeem for the coveted front […]

[…] 【2020.11 更新】AS的網站上現在寫道2021年4月起將無法兌換EK頭等艙了。而且看他們的語言描述,應該是EK方面的決定,到時候所有夥伴里程都將無法兌換EK頭等艙了(原話是 「Beginning April 1, 2021, Emirates will no longer allow partner access to First Class award bookings.」)。EK頭等艙是最值得體驗的頭等艙之一,失去了夥伴兌換能力真的是挺大的遺憾,以後兌換就只能用EK里程自己兌換自己了。HT: FM. […]

[…] Wow: Emirates ending First Class awards w/ partner miles in April by Frequent Miler. […]


The statement from Alaska Airlines that this development impacts Qantas is incorrect. This article includes a statement from Qantas advising that Qantas Frequent Flyer won’t be impacted

Christopher Ardalan

Glad I went ahead and booked JFK-DXB-SIN in FC for next September since the schedule is showing the A380 for the JFK flight and the new FC product for the Singapore route. Of course finger is crossed that boarder will open and no product change.

[…] first noted by Nick Reyes, Alaska Airlines sent out a program update to Mileage Plan members informing that “Beginning […]


Sad but at the same time am glad Alaska gave its members notice of this. Nowadays it seems like the better deal is to transfer points to Emirates Skywards and redeem from there.

[…] (Tip of the hat to Frequent Miler) […]

[…] (Tip of the hat to Frequent Miler) […]


Business Class still bookable?


Alaska miles one of the more overhyped instruments in the game. This strikes me as an Alaska only devaluation, I’d guess. Shame on Alaska for kneecapping the currency during a pandemic.