Changing Emirates Awards Booked With Alaska Miles Is Frustrating

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

One of my favorite uses of Alaska miles is for travel in Emirates first class. That’s due in no small part to Emirates having one of my favorite first class products in the world.


There are several things which make Alaska especially great about redemptions on Emirates:

While there are many awesome things about redeeming Alaska miles on Emirates, there is one frustrating policy when it comes to changing Alaska-issued Emirates award tickets. And it’s important to understand, because it could prove problematic depending on the type of planner you are.


The policy is that Alaska uses married segment logic when it comes to Emirates award segments, even when your segments aren’t “married.” That means you can’t ever just change one segment of an itinerary, but rather have to change them all.

Let me try explaining that in simpler terms that everyone can understnad.

Say you book an award ticket from New York to Munich via Dubai — you fly from New York to Dubai, have a six night stopover, and then continue to Munich.


Say you have a change in plans and want to move your Dubai to Munich flight forward a day while keeping the same flight from New York to Dubai. If this were virtually any other airline you could change just that one segment by phoning up the airline and paying whatever the change fee is, assuming there was award space. Easy enough, right?

When making changes to Alaska award tickets for travel on Emirates, there needs to be award availability on all segments of your itinerary.

So in the above example, if you wanted to change the Dubai to Munich segment, there would also need to be award availability from New York to Dubai. Which of course often won’t be the case, especially if you’re traveling in pairs, since Emirates doesn’t typically release that many first class awards on each flight.

The next logical question is whether Emirates award availability usually goes back into inventory when canceled. In other words, if you cancel an Emirates award segment in order to make a change, what are the odds the space goes back into inventory? Anecdotally I’ve found that:

  • Recently booked awards always go back into inventory immediately (in other words, I made a booking for Emirates first class last week, and have had to make four changes to the second segment of the ticket since then — each time the space for the first segment went back into award inventory)
  • It’s much more inconsistent for tickets booked more than a few weeks ago; I find in those instances space sometimes doesn’t go back into inventory

Bottom line

Redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates first class is an incredible value, though I do think it’s important to understand their policy on making changes. This policy is specific to the Alaska/Emirates partnership, and doesn’t apply when redeeming miles on Alaska’s other airline partners. For that matter, I don’t think this is Alaska’s doing, but rather just how the system between the two airlines is set up.

So just always remember that if you make changes to a Mileage Plan award on Emirates, you’ll need to find award space on all segments. If space isn’t there, your best bet is to try and redeposit the ticket and hope that award space went back into inventory.

But if you’re someone prone to lots of last minute schedule changes, this is definitely something to keep in mind when you book hotels and make other plans surrounding Emirates awards.

Has anyone been burned by this ridiculous policy when it comes to redeeming Alaska miles on Emirates?

  1. Is this a new change? I found this to be the case when making itinerary changes on the website, but I was able to change individual segments with no problem by calling into their reservations center. There definitely wasn’t any availability on left on my retained segments.

  2. So let me try to understand this a bit further. In your example you have a ~6 day stopover in DXB. To change from 8/29 to 8/28 does the original 8/22 flight to DXB need to be available – or a ‘no-layover’ married segment NYC-DXB on 8/27 – the ‘natural’ connection for the now 8/28 flight?

    Second question – if you want to change the 8/29 flight to 8/28 and today is 8/25 (after you’ve flown the first segment) how do they handle the ‘married’ segment issue?

  3. For those living in/flying to Brazil and interested in Gol Airlines’ Smiles fidelity program: they’ve just announced a major changing. There’ll be no more redemption charts. Instead, Gol is going to adopt a “flexible valuation policy” concerning miles. In other words, there’ll be absolutely up to the company to decide how much one is going to have to spend (in miles) to purchase a ticket. For now on, I think it’ll be even more difficult for costumers to planify their trips.

  4. Had the same issue using AA miles for Etihad awards. I had to actually book backup awards for 3 days later than my original / desired routing as a ‘safety’ just so I could cancel an itin, hope the needed segments went back into inventory, and rebook with the change to the desired segment. PITA.

  5. I’ve managed to make such a change before. I was doing FRA-DXB-IAH-SEA in January of this year. My initial route had me coming home through Houston. A few days before departure, I saw that there was first availability on the DXB-LAX flight (which seems like a better idea in case of delays) but there was none left on FRA-DXB. I called Alaska and they were able to switch only the DXB-SEA flights and keep the FRA-DXB segment even though I couldn’t switch it myself on the website.

  6. I have found when changing online, you have to select you want to change all segments in one direction, even if on different days. Alaska will show you at least one option with one of your flights as is. For e.g. Fra to dxb to jfk, you can change fra to dxb and keep the dxb to jfk even if now new availability. Now, whether is errors on the next page, not sure.

  7. Lucky, this is not the case for all agents when calling into AS. I’ve successfully changed a segment when my other segment was no longer available. See the thread on FlyerTalk many are successful.

  8. I have made three changes on my second leg (after a three day Dubai stop). Changes to Europe locations and even dates and not during any of my conversations with Alaska reps did they indicate my two first class, and one business, from yyz could be lost if I try a change. As a side note, Alaska allowing no charge changes up to 60 days out is one of the sweetest deals out there imo.

  9. This is basic 101 for redeeming AS miles for EK. I am surprised a master of the hobby like yourself didn’t even know this.

  10. Hey, Lucky,

    I’m glad to see you’re off on a trip again and not just domestic bouncing. Hope FL affairs are under control.

    But I’m concerned that I may have missed a trip report. Did you ever do a full write up of your journey to Peking via Heath Row? I was looking forward to that one.

  11. Lucky (or anyone else!)

    You mention creative routing but I’m having trouble booking a one-way JFK>MXP>DXB>HKG routing (through Alaska Airlines) with a stopover of >24h in MXP. Is there a restriction on where you can take a stopover on this award tickets?

  12. You people booking US-Europe flights with connections in DXB are nuts. I don’t care if it is first class, that is just too much extra time.
    JFK-MUC – 8h
    JFK-DXB-MUC – 22h!

  13. @Tom – Yes, indeed. I imagine some people cannot afford a good champaign or a good meal at other than McDonalds and want to “feel good” about themselves book such trips. There is no other explanation!

  14. @Craig – My understanding is that the stopover has to be at a major hub. In your case, you can have a stopover in DXB but not in MXP. In MXP you can only have a <24hrs connection which can't be done since they only have 1 flight out of MXP to DXB.

  15. We are flying (by we, I mean my family of 2 adults and 2 kids) are flying MSO-Sea-JFK-DXB-JNB in December. We are using Alaska miles and flying business class the entire way on Emirates via Alaska air from MSO-JFK. Our original itinerary had us with an overnight in JFK and overnight (due to airline timing scheduling) in Dubai before we finally land in Johannesburg. As fun for us as adults to spend the night in all of these places, we decided maybe not so fun with young kids. I kept searching the Alaska site for a tighter connection but eventually saw an earlier flight to Dubai from JFK. Giving us 2 nights in the same place rather than 1 night here and 1 night there… I had just read this article about the married segments but decided to see if they would ‘unmarry’ the JFK to DXB route so we could go a day earlier. it definitely isn’t an easy process but in the end we were allowed to change the first segment. The Alaska agent first had to submit a request with emirates who then sent it to their Dubai office for approval. After waiting 24 hours I called back and another agent successfully rebooked all 4 of our emirates flights to one day earlier (JFK to DXB only) Now… Fortunately 4 tickets were still available in business class for this to happen and I noticed our original segment (which we booked in February) immediately went back into inventory. So, it definitely wasn’t easy to ‘unmarry’ these segments, but with the right agents and some patience mixed in with good luck, we were able to change an emirates segment. Whew! Great article and thanks for all the tips!

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