The Alaska & Emirates Partnership In Numbers

Filed Under: Alaska, Emirates

One of the biggest battles in the airline industry this year has been between the “big three” US carriers and the “big three” Gulf carriers regarding Open Skies policy. The “big three” US carriers are arguing that the “big three” Gulf carriers shouldn’t be able to benefit from liberalized air treaties, given that they’re not truly competing in the free market (they’re government owned and “subsidized”).

Rather than debating the actual merits it has turned into a campaign of rhetoric and patriotism.


But not all US carriers side with American, Delta, and United, in this battle. And for that matter I’m not sure those three carriers actually even side against the Gulf carriers — American gladly partners with Etihad and Qatar, despite publicly shaming those airlines.


But Alaska Airlines has had a partnership with Emirates Airline since early 2012 (award redemptions between the two carriers became possible about a year later). This was around the same time that Emirates added a daily flight between Seattle and Dubai. The partnership made sense on the surface, given that Alaska could provide some additional feed to Emirates’ flight to Dubai.


Emirates recently added a second daily flight to Seattle, which suggests that the partnership may be even more successful than we first thought. Seattle is only the second market in the US (after New York) which has more than once daily Emirates service, which is surprising just a few years into the service.


Just how big has the impact of this partnership been? The Cranky Flier shared some interesting facts yesterday about the partnership between Alaska and Emirates. Specifically:

  • Per Alaska’s second quarter earnings call, Alaska was putting 200 passengers a day on Emirates flights
  • 95% of those passengers were being routed through Emirates’ Seattle flight, as opposed to through one of Emirates’ other gateways (like Los Angeles and San Francisco)
  • Since Emirates added a second daily flight between Seattle and Dubai, Alaska is putting an average of 275 passengers a day on Emirates
  • The record was transferring 410 passengers in a single day between the two airlines


To dissect that 275 number a bit further, that means you have an average of ~137 people transferring between the two airlines each day. If 95% of those passengers are routing through Seattle, that means Alaska is putting an average of 130 people on Emirates’ flights between Seattle and Dubai daily (in each direction).

Emirates flies a 777-200LR and 777-300ER between Seattle and Dubai each day. Those planes have a capacity of 266 seats and 354 seats, respectively, for a total of 620 seats. That means Alaska is filling ~21% of all of Emirates’ seats between Seattle and Dubai, which is really impressive. Especially when you account for the fact that those flights aren’t running anywhere close to capacity. So that may represent a third (or so) of all the passengers Emirates transports between Seattle and Dubai.

That certainly makes me feel a little bit less guilty about redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates first class. 😉


Bottom line

It’s great to hear that the relationship between Alaska and Emirates is healthy. And perhaps I’m personally motivated for that to be the case so I can continue to redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates, which is one of my favorite award redemptions.

More importantly, it’s nice to see US carriers and Gulf carriers actually working together in a functional and respectful way. The funny thing is that American clearly profits off of their partnership with Etihad and Qatar Airways, though that doesn’t stop them from shaming the carriers in the name of patriotism.

I just wish Alaska would take a harder stance and more openly and publicly support their relationship with Emirates (and they especially have an incentive as Seattle’s hometown carrier — Seattle is the home of Boeing and Emirates is one of their biggest customers).

How do the above numbers compared to what you expected of the Alaska & Emirates partnership?

  1. If the SEA-DXB flights “aren’t running anywhere close to capacity”, then why is it so difficult to get an Emirates award out of Seattle? Not that I’m complaining, really, I’d rather get the A380 out of SFO anyway.

  2. It would be interesting to see what JetBlue’s numbers are regarding Emirate’s Boston flight. Emirates announced a second daily flight to Boston starting in October and I have to imagine they are getting significant feed from JetBlue. Boston probably isn’t big enough on its own to fill both of those Emirates 777s

  3. Interesting that 95% are going through Seattle even though I understand that Business on those planes do not have flat beds. I live in PDX, but go out the way to leave via LAX or SFO. It would be interesting to know many of those daily 275 passengers were in premium cabins.

  4. Emirates is primarily serving and connecting the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent from the US – not Dubai as much. Why would any one want a minimum 2-3 stops from the US to second tier cities in India and Pakistan when you can fly via Dubai on an airline with very good service and room in coach? Just try getting a business class or first class ticket from Dubai to India – they are always sold out. For example, if you want to fly from Cleveland, you have to first fly to a gateway city just in the US, then if you aren’t on the 1 or 2 non-stops to India (pathetic United or god forbid Air India), you will fly to Europe, then to a main subcontinental city, then to your own city. I flew to India 3 times this year on Emirates. On one flight, there was a group of 30 odd college students from Oregon. They were flying DEL-DXB-SEA. 10 years ago, they’d have flown to South East Asia via the Pacific and then to India. A friend of mine just took his family on vacation to California. They flew DEL-DXB-SFO in business class. The Middle East and India have a large wealthy population that regularly flies business class out of their own pocket (no air miles!). The airlines that are loosing out are the European but also the transpacific Asian carriers. People are also misinterpreting their Panama flight. Right now, travel to Central America is nearly all connecting through the US if you are coming from Asia.

  5. @MEOW: No chance for 380 in SEA. The airport just isn’t capable of handling that many passengers and there would only be 1 jet bridge attached to the plane.

    Having seen the interline area for the EK area, I can attest to the many transfer passengers AS feeds to EK (and every other intl flight out of SEA, save for DL). There are a LOT of bags for each flight.

  6. ar makes a great point about the Panama flight. The USA demands visas for all transit passengers. I’m sure plenty of folks would love to avoid that!

  7. @iv – excellent point! And manufacturing jobs at Boeing are certainly much better and higher paying than, say, a baggage handler or ticket agent.

  8. @iv – It extends beyond the aircraft, all of Emirates A380 business class seats are made in California, the economy seats in Texas and first class in North Carolina.

  9. I think Alaska are doing the right thing in keeping their head down and making good gains with their passenger numbers. No point bringing attention to themselves needlessly. I know you people like lots of drama but Alaska is playing this smartly

  10. But how many Business and First class passengers is Alaska Airlines feeding to Emirates? I still think the partnership is lopsided and if Emirates chooses to renew it, I have a feeling they’ll only allow Alaska mileage plan fliers to redeem on EK business and economy. After all, Alaska doesn’t offer first class in a 3 cabin plane.

  11. I have heard from an inside source, that the EK flights to and from the US, in average has around 40% occupancy. It is in EKs terms better to have the network rather than the passengers.
    When the QR route – operating OSL-DOH, the confirmed filling of the aircraft was less than 30% for the 6 first months. I have been on the scheduled service twice in the last two months, and at least in Business class quite crowded (95%).

  12. @Meow & @Minah, if EK could they would put an A380 on the route, I think instead of double daily, but the issue is not the number of pax it carries, after all LH brings in a ~380 seat B744 in the summer so a ~480 seat A380 would be like adding an RJ no big deal. The real issue is Taxiway clearance, apron space and the aforementioned jet bridge issue.

    I remember reading somewhere a while back when the A380s first came into service that SEA would be available to the A380 as an emergency alternate but it would mean a gate hold for all planes until the beast could taxi up the taxiway between runways16L and 16C to get to the north cargo ramp and use airstairs from the lower deck exits.

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