Warning: Many Emirates Awards Aren’t Bookable With Alaska Miles

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

Alaska Mileage Plan is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs, especially thanks to the unique airline partnerships they have. While they partner with some airlines that belong to the major alliances, they also partner with some that don’t, which I love. Furthermore, they’re one of the only programs to allow a stopover on a one-way award ticket at no additional cost.

From 2013 until 2016, one of my favorite uses of Alaska Mileage Plan miles was for travel on Emirates, though unfortunately that partnership got significantly devalued without notice last March. We saw the cost of first class awards on Emirates increase by 67-100% depending on the regions in which you were traveling, which is huge. Fortunately business class redemptions weren’t devalued as badly, so that’s still a decent redemption opportunity.

Emirates A380 business class

There have been periods where Alaska Mileage Plan hasn’t had access to many Emirates award seats, both before and after the devaluation. Unfortunately there has been a problem for about a month now which remains unresolved, and it’s extremely frustrating.

Simply put, Alaska Mileage Plan can’t book a vast majority of Emirates first and business class awards, regardless of whether you’re booking online or by phone. There’s a thread on FlyerTalk that has been going on for about a month documenting this issue.

To make this situation even worse, the issue is that the normal availability continues to show up when doing online searches, as before.

You can even get all the way to the booking page.

However, after you enter your credit card information you’ll get an error message saying that “the request was not successful.”

This error has been occurring in exactly the same way for over a month now, so it’s strange that the website continues to show the availability, only for it not to be bookable.

An Alaska rep on FlyerTalk has said that the issue has been “escalated with Emirates,” suggesting that the problem is on Emirates’ end rather than on Alaska’s.

I’ll try to reach out to some contacts at the two airlines to figure out what’s going on. In the meantime it’s disappointing that this problem has been going on for over a month. Even more disappointing is that the website continues to show this phantom space consistently, with no notice of this glitch, so people are buying miles with the purposes of these redemptions, only to find out that they’re not actually bookable (I had a friend who did exactly that just days ago).

Emirates A380 first class

However, I do genuinely believe Alaska isn’t intending for this to happen. Are they being a bit careless and perhaps not making fixing this a priority? Yes. But at the same time if there’s one US frequent flyer program that should be trusted, it’s Alaska Mileage Plan.

Here’s to hoping this is fixed soon…

Has anyone tried to redeem Alaska miles on Emirates and run into this issue?

(Tip of the hat to AL)

  1. Noticed this issue last week and contacted mileage plan. Also posted examples on the flyertalk thread that you mentioned. Super frustrating especially given they are selling miles with the pretense you can redeem them on Emirates. Need this for an upcoming flight so it’s super annoying.

  2. The caption for the first image says first class when the picture is clearly of business class.

  3. Alaska/Emirates mileage issues have seemed to be happening on a seasonal basis. A sign of things to come?

  4. Really annoyed about this issue. I recently spent $3000 on Alaska miles because I wanted to book a specific Emirates F flight that was showing as available (both on AlaskaAir.com and ExpertFlyer). Getting this same error every time I try to book it, and phone agents have no solution – they just tell me to try again in a few hours.

    Regardless of whether the root cause is on Alaska’s or Emirates’ end, Alaska should hide Emirates awards from their search engine until it is resolved. Anything else is a bait-and-switch. I would absolutely not have spent $3,000 on miles if I’d known I wouldn’t be able to book this specific award.

  5. @Mike I’d dispute the charge with my CC company unless you’re a heavy Alaska flyer and worried about them shuttering your account…

  6. I had exactly this problem when trying to book a business class flight on Emirates from Los Angeles to Johannesburg. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Alaska Airlines, but they weren’t able to do anything. Ultimately, I transferred some credit card points into Emirates and booked the flights I wanted.

  7. its not a new issue. Never buy Alaska miles if you are planning to use on Emirates. If you do have Alaska miles and can use them elsewhere AND with luck you get an Emirates award you can use is perhaps the only scenario where Alaska miles for Emirates makes sense

  8. I transferred some miles in only to not be able to book. I even checked ExpertFlyer and the seats are showing available. They should just take down Emirates from their booking engine until it is resolved.

  9. @Justin,

    This is bad advice. Doing a chargeback with the CC would be really shitty, if not downright fraudulent. It would be one thing if Mike spent $3,000 on Alaska miles and got fewer than he was supposed to, or if he spent $3,000 directly on a first class ticket and then was not properly ticketed. But in this case, Mike was attempting two transactions: (1) a purchase of miles with cash, and (2) a purchase of a ticket with miles. He got exactly what he intended to purchase with the first transaction, i.e. the one that involved his credit card.


    Any recourse you with to pursue should be with Mileage Plan, not your credit card issuer.

  10. It happened to me. My wife and I moved more than 250,000 miles over from Virgin America, in order to book Emirates award tickets showing as available. We got the error message. I called Alaska, twice, and asked them to contact Emirates to straighten it out. No resolution. So I moved the miles back (and Alaska cooperated on this.)

    On one call, the CSR tried to convince me that all of the flights I was interested in had been taken since the update the previous night. I told her that I didn’t think so, since I was interested in four different flights, and they all had been available when I looked the week before.

    On another call, the CSR helped to identify Emirates flights that actually were available, but we couldn’t make them work out for us. So this affects some flights and not others, and a call to Alaska will tell you which is which.

  11. Is this only first and biz awards? I had no problem booking an economy at the beginning of June.

  12. Having spent mega bucks last March 28 to purchase points for an F flight from CPT-SEA (2 pax) and having had the price double before I could use the points I am very very leery of ever trusting Emirates again.

    Alaska customers should boycott EK entirely until the airline starts to treat the Alaska Miles program with the respect it deserves.

  13. I have the issue booking AS mikes to fly KE and JL before.., went all the way to pay then error msg showed..

  14. I don’t understand what’s taking Alaska so damn long to identify and fix this. I started the thread on Flyertalk, and I’ve been bringing this to their attention for over a month.

    It’s inexcusable for AS to not have had this fixed by now.

  15. Just had same issue with JL flights. I even called, the awards were there but AS couldn’t ticket. Used my AA miles and no issues. 4 tickets economy to Tokyo, 4 tickets biz return to SFO.

  16. As with many of the posters, I transferred a large amount of credit card points, and also purchased some points to book a one way F flight on EK, DPS to JFK. I spent a great deal of time trying various combinations, dates, and destinations but nothing worked. Daily calls to AS were fruitless as well. I also sent an email to AS detailing the problem and the response was to try a different date or destination!

    Finally, one diligent agent was able to book a JFK-DXB-PEK F flight for me. It was not what I really wanted but I at least got something.

  17. I ran into this issue recently. I jumped on the recent Emirates price mistake for Maldives (one way return), so I needed a way to get there. Decide to use my big bank of Alaska miles for business class on Emirates, but couldn’t get it going SEA->DXB->MLE. I had to settle for SEA->LAX->DXB->MLE. But on the plus side I get to fly the A380 out of LAX instead of the B777 out of SEA.

  18. I reached out to Emirates and their Customer Service Representative said it’s Alaska Airlines’s system. It may truly be Alaska because a friend of mine was able to book Emirates from Korean Air.

    Alaska said it’s Emirates.

    Are they pointing fingers now?

  19. I agree with Jake Tyler… Emirates said that there is nothing wrong on their side. Unfortunately, they can not assist to book but they see availabilities for Business and First Class available to their partners. I checked my dates and destination from Emirates (through their representative). Representative said that flights were available to certain partners but not with Alaska (though it was showing availability on Alaska).

    Is this way for Alaska to lure their members to buy their 50% bonus miles promotion? I know that time is running out for this promotion but check flight availability with Emirates first before buying the miles (especially if you have a fixed date). It looks like the availability for Alaska is not similar to British Airways and Qantas.

    @Lucky: Do you think you’ll be able to get something official from Emirates about the outage that Alaska is claiming it’s Emirate’s system?

  20. @Lucky I recently booked Emirates F with Emirates Skywards miles, and that same scenario played out for me on the Emirates website (everything was fine, put in CC info, then the error message). Tried multiple times and then ended up calling Emirates. I was able to complete the booking by phone. So, my guess is that it’s an issue with Emirates’ system.

  21. I am having the same problem attempting to book a Business Class Korean Air award online yesterday and today.

    The KE award space is there, verified on EF and Delta, I attempt booking via AS website, AS errors out with the request was not successful message, after this the award space disappears from EF, AS, and Delta for a period of time, an hour maybe, then comes back but attempting to book again just repeats the error loop. AS is clearly reserving the space from KE because the award space disappears from all partners after the attempted booking fails which I take to mean AS has put it on hold with KE but after a period of time when AS does not complete the booking KE releases the hold and puts the space back into inventory.

    Since this is happening across multiple partners I am going to call it Alaska’s problem. Alaska management needs to evaluate the effectiveness of their current IT staff (because it is not effective and if AS management wants to show that their management is effective they need to fix it).

  22. I reserved a flight from CPT to SEA via Emirates on June 5th flying in October. Had to call Alaska to make the reservation because of the flights showing up, but not being available. Paid the Business class fare but was placed in Coach on the first leg from CPT to DXB. Was informed that it would be a matter of time for this flight to open up and could change via calling to Business. Everyday this flight shows as available and Business, but when I call they say both Emirates legs have to be Business to make the change, they can’t just change one leg. (not what I was told when I made the reservation). Both flights show up as Business on the next day, so I say change dates, then they say that they really are not available, and it should refresh that they will go away. It does not refresh, they don’t go away, so I call again. No satisfaction. I have called Mileage Plan desk, they have connected me to Partner desk. Same story, it is Emirates system. I keep asking if their is any way to elevate this issue, NO, they are aware of it, they have informed Emirates, so they are aware of it. Your flight is a long way out, keep trying.

    Called Emirates just to see if they could make the change, from Coach to Business on that flight. Because it is not their document the flight was made under they can’t make the change.

  23. AS always blames EK. And all the “paid” bloggers always side with AS.
    Good luck finding resolution with AS.
    After 6 months of waiting for a ticket refund from AS, my neighbor sent a letter to the CEO at his home. They promised a refund within a week, and after 2 months she is still waiting.

  24. Data Point: I was able to book our EK itinerary this morning through the Alaska Airlines website. The routing was our initial preferred, taking us from FLL w/ a night in SEA before flying to SFO for our A-380 Biz seats; routing through DXB and finally MLE on EK 777! Additionally, as a work around we had been attempting to book through American Airlines for Qatar routing JFK–>DOH–>MLE. Spoke w/ multiple AA reps on telephone and though they could see the availability for QR it was not bookable, all currently locked w/ unknown date of resolution.

  25. Hi Lucky,

    It seems this “-1990” error is still present on award booking of emirates flights as of today (9/3/2017). Do you hear from other people reporting this issue?

  26. We booked and had an error as well, we did call and they resolved at least our first leg to DXB..I am worried about the follow on leg to DUR which the AS website won’t show as a single leg (only combined from a US originating city) even though ExpertFlyer shows it as wholly available. Seems like despite an abundance of availability from Emirates, AS is either only able to access a subset or their system is messed up (we had a similar experience with Qantas where I could book J class tickets from my BA account that AS could not access web or phone side). Makes me a bit disappointed with AS – low redemption rates don’t matter if I can’t redeem at all.

  27. As of October 27th, when I type Dubai’s airport code DBX into the search on Alaska Airlines, it can’t find that as a viable airport. It doesn’t matter if it is in the departure or return field, it is as if Alaska’s partners don’t fly there. This is ludicrous, because we flew Emirates earlier this year using Alaska miles with no issues.

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