Alaska Blocking Emirates Award Space?

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

One of the very best uses of Alaska Mileage Plan miles is for travel on Emirates.

Emirates A380

Emirates is one of my favorite airlines in the world, especially after my most recent flight with them. They don’t have many partners with good redemption rates and easily accruable points, so Alaska Mileage Plan really is the best option by a long shot (the other program to consider for Emirates redemptions is Japan Airlines Mileage Bank).

Emirates A380 first class cabin

Alaska Mileage Plan allows one-way redemptions on Emirates with stopovers at no additional cost, and doesn’t impose fuel surcharges. Redemption rates aren’t cheap compared to what Alaska charges for some other partners, but at 90,000-100,000 miles one-way in first class, they’re still quite a good value.

As a reminder, Alaska only published award charts for travel on Emirates in selection regions.

Alaska publishes an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Africa, India, and the Middle East:


As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Asia:


As well as an Emirates award chart for travel between the US and Europe:


Those are small amounts to pay for a shower in the sky. šŸ˜‰

Emirates A380 first class shower

Emirates first class award availability fluctuates widely

Emirates is all over the place in terms of how much award space they release. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to find first class award space in advance, while other times it’s easy as pie. As a general rule of thumb:

  • Emirates has excellent first class award availability out of Dallas, Houston, New York, and San Francisco (this is thanks to the fact that all of these routes either have additional frequencies or recently started being operated by A380s)
  • Emirates sometimes releases more first class award availability within two weeks of departure

But in general award availability has been better lately than before.

Alaska doesn’t have access to all Emirates award availability

I’m not sure whether if it’s by design or just a (convenient) glitch that neither airline has an incentive to fix, but in many cases Alaska Mileage Plan members have access to one less first class award seat than Emirates Skywards members.

“Z” is Emirates’ first class award bucket, so if a flight is “Z2” (meaning it has two first class award seats available), Alaska may have access to only one.


Lately I actually observed that Alaska had access to more Emirates first class inventory than before. In a vast majority of cases I was noticing that they had access to “full” Emirates first class award availability.

Is Alaska blocking Emirates awards after March 28, 2015?

Here’s a rather odd trend which seems to have developed in the past few days. Best I can tell, Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t have access to any Emirates first class award availability after March 28, 2015.

Let’s use flights between Houston and Dubai as an example. On March 28, 2015, Emirates has two first class award seats:


And Alaska does indeed see that inventory:


However, take that same flight two days later, which shows the same first class inventory:


And Alaska doesn’t see the inventory:


To be clear, the above is just an example — best I can tell this is the case across the board. I can’t find any Emirates first class award availability on Alaska’s website for travel after March 28, 2015.

Bottom line

I wouldn’t read too much into this yet. Nowadays we have to take a really flexible approach towards airline partnerships and award availability.

For most of last year I received emails almost every day about how Emirates awards are virtually impossible to book with Alaska miles. Then suddenly hundreds of first class award seats opened up out of several US gateways.

Availability and redemption opportunities go in cycles, so I would assume this is a temporary thing.

But in the meantime, you’re not the only one wondering why there’s no first class award availability after March 28, 2015.

Emirates A380 first class dinner service

  1. 2 weeks ago, I easily booked iah-dxb-cdg F a380 for both, for the week surrounding April 15 despite the website issues u bring up. At least at that point, it was still doable.

  2. Been trying to change an award home from Male to Dallas for tomorrow. Expertflyer shows Z2 D1 N6 for the flight I want to take. Alaska website doesn’t show availability in any cabin.

  3. I noticed this a few weeks ago. Tons of seats Jan-March on most routes and then nothing. Hope it comes back!

    Any word on UR being able to transfer to Korean Air again?

  4. The phone agents are able to book award space where z=2 on Expert Flyer. You just have to keep on calling til you find someone who’s willing and able. I booked my 1st award for 2 in April. I suggest saying that “another agent was able to find something by ‘trying something else'”.

  5. Mike – Call Alaska every few hours for the change. Don’t trust the website.

    I had to do this 2 weeks ago on a 2 First class awards tickets from Alaska points on Emirates for DFW-DXB-JNB. Website wasn’t showing availability but agent made it work.

  6. Thanks for addressing this! You were nice enough to answer my questions about his in the “Ask Lucky” column but this post is even better. Hopefully space starts opening up. I’m trying to plan JFK/DXB/MUC for Oktoberfest next year.

  7. I recently booked SFO-DXB-AMS in F on the A380 for late April. If ExpertFlyer is showing Z=2 or above, call Alaska Airlines and ask for a manual sell. If they aren’t going for it, HUCA, but it took me one try by providing the dates and flights I knew were available. I don’t know why it doesn’t show online but it is definitely still bookable.

  8. Lucky, I always appreciate your posts on routes and ways to use points. It can be frustrating and time consuming trying to book award flights and its great when you point out what gold mines their are, and when those gold mines have problems. We have seen issues with Alaska not displaying Emirates before when expertflyer displays “Z” available. I hope this is just a temporary glitch.

    Keep up the great work.


  9. Nice timing, as I just wrote a post last night about maximizing Alaska Airlines mileage partners, including Emirates. I definitely saw Emirates availability last night when I was writing the post up, but I went back and checked and it was for later this month – I also was seeing no availability later in 2015.

    Hopefully it’s just a temporary glitch!

  10. Love your blog, Lucky. Can anyone chime in and tell me if Emirates generally has good availability in F when space first opens up at 330 days (or whatever it is). I’m starting to plan a round B-day trip in 2016 and just realizing I can transfer Starpoints to Alaska and redeem on Emirates.

  11. Lucky, have you noticed any problem with business class award space? I’ve been saving my miles and will have enough to book SEA-DXB-BCN by the end of the month, with a stopover in Dubai. I have been saving since March for this award.

  12. Looking for 2 first class seats LAX-DXB. Found 2 Z class on Expert Flyer March 12. Alaska website showed 0. Called partner desk to confirm no availability. Asked CSR to speak with supervisor about the EF availability. After 10 minutes on hold was told they were not showing any availability. Very frustrating. Checked again today, flight still shows 1 seat in Z but Alaska showing 0 and not able to book.

  13. Any update on this Lucky? Was about to go for Alaska Credit card and purchase remaining points for 100k reward on Emirates F. But will delay if it’s looking like it won’t come back.



  14. Wow….I just feel fortunate that I was able to use my Alaska miles for first and business class tickets on Emirates back in May.

  15. Is there a secret handshake or phrase I need to say in order for the Alaska agent to book an award that doesn’t show up on their website but comes up as Z2 on expert flyer? I hear these stories of the caller getting the agent to book it even though it doesn’t come up on the alaska website, but I haven’t had any luck.

    What are some successful tricks that people have tried? Thanks!

  16. @ Philip — For what it’s worth, that’s not something I’ve ever had luck with, though maybe others can chime in.

  17. @ Lucky, Robert B
    I am having issues with Business class seats on the connecting flights. For example DFW-DXB-MAA.
    In May, it shows DFW-DXB business class is available but DXB-MAA only economy is available (no First or Business) as per Alaska website. But, there is 4 Business seats available in all 3 flights from DXB-MAA in Business class and 2 First class seats in one flight šŸ™

  18. Hey Lucky, I just got an agent to book a first class DXchB-LAX ticket in April. All I did was to ask her to check the old system for availability (same system to check Cathay). She put me on hold and came back a few minutes later saying she had to get permission from her supervisor and that she found my seat.

  19. Lucky, thoroughly enjoyed your review on LAX-DXBā€¦ so much so I’m planning a trip myself. As I continue to search Alaska for EK availability, there is nothing forward of April. Have you heard anything through the rumour mill lately? Thanks!

  20. Lucky,

    Maybe you could reach out to the Alaska folks and see what the deal is? Clearly there is some issue going on and they need to be straight forward about it. The fact that both EF and Qantas can see availability that Alaska can’t see is cause for some concern.

  21. I’m a VFF and also own a company that assists airlines with distribution / gds / crs – be it simple support, glitches, or running the entire res system.

    What you are seeing is a normal tactic by host airlines to limit inventory through the GDS. ITA inventory feeds – which gets their numbers from the host system as an “AVS” message, will show how many seats are open per bucket. Airlines have the ability to set limits and cut-offs to individual systems and even airlines. This is useful when protecting from an oversell situation – ie – Delta may have Y5B4Q2 in their system for a DFW/ATL flight on today, but they may show American Y0B0Q0, even though ITA shows Y5 — Delta may be oversold and willing to sell that seat for $$$ rather than let American grab it during an irregular operations episode and only get $80.

    Emirates could very well be limiting Z seats to the GDS world/ITA/Sabre, and that’s their business to do such. EK could also be prohibiting redemptions for long term and only allowing them close-in (ie – 3 to 10 days prior).

    I’ve overseen a codeshare relationship between Alaska and another airline, and with that came the Mileage Plan redemption / accural. Mileage Plan LIKES to be cost-neutral, meaning they aren’t paying EK for those miles, they are hoping that EK flyers use their number on Alaska or EK flyers are burning miles on Alaska. Me thinks that Alaska is probably giving Emirates a nice check every month, as even I was able to book Malta – Houston in F on EK šŸ™‚

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