Emirates Eliminating More Partner First Class Awards

Emirates Eliminating More Partner First Class Awards

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Emirates is known for having one of the world’s best first class products, whether you want to shower in first class on the A380, or enjoy the fully enclosed suite on the 777.

Late last year we learned that Emirates Skywards would increasingly restrict first class awards to members of its own Skywards frequent flyer program. As of April 1, 2021, Emirates pulled first class awards from Alaska Mileage Plan. Now there’s a further update — as of September 1, 2021, Emirates will pull first class awards from Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.

Let’s go over what we know about these changes.

Emirates first class awards pulled from Alaska Mileage Plan

In November 2020, Alaska Mileage Plan announced that Emirates first class awards would no longer be bookable as of April 1, 2021 (while seemingly unrelated, this coincided with when Alaska Airlines joined oneworld).

Here’s how Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan described the change on its website:

Book your First Class award travel with Emirates by March 31, 2021. Beginning April 1, 2021, Emirates will no longer allow partner access to First Class award bookings. Mileage Plan members can continue to redeem on the Emirates’ award-winning Economy Class and Business Class.

Interestingly Alaska suggested that “Emirates will no longer allow partner awards access to first class,” though initially these awards were only pulled for Mileage Plan, and not other partner frequent flyer programs.

Personally I didn’t consider this to be a huge deal — while redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Emirates first class used to be a great deal, there was a massive devaluation in early 2016, which made the value of this much worse.

Emirates’ A380 first class

Emirates first class awards will be pulled from Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

Probably the best partner program through which to book Emirates first class awards has been Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. Unfortunately it has been announced that as of September 1, 2021, Emirates first class awards will no longer be bookable through Mileage Bank:

Effective from September 1, 2021, new bookings for First Award Tickets with Emirates (EK) will not be accepted. First Class Award tickets that are already booked or ticketed could continue to be used for travel on Emirates on/after September 1, 2021.

For context, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank has a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates, based on the cumulative distance flown. You can find the pricing below.

This award chart is really lucrative, and offers among the best pricing for travel on Emirates. The major catch is that Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles aren’t easy to come by — Marriott Bonvoy is the only major partner that Mileage Bank has, so unless you’re a Japan Airlines frequent flyer, most of us don’t have a practical way to generate a large balance of Mileage Bank miles.


Emirates’ old 777 first class

Is Emirates restricting partner awards a big deal?

If you asked me in the past, I would have probably said that this is a huge deal. However, nowadays I don’t think this is that bad, as booking through Emirates Skywards represents an increasingly good value:

  • Emirates Skywards miles are easy to come by, given all the transferable points currencies that can be converted into Skywards miles
  • As of May 2020, fuel surcharges when booking awards through Emirates Skywards were decreased drastically, significantly improving the value proposition of these redemptions

The way I view it:

  • For most people, booking through Emirates Skywards has represented a better value than booking through Alaska Mileage Plan
  • While Japan Airlines Mileage Bank offered better value than Emirates Skywards, Mileage Bank miles are so tough to come by, so there weren’t many practical situations where that redemption option was valuable
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer still has access to Emirates first class awards, though redemption rates aren’t very good, so booking through Emirates Skywards is a better value

Just to give some examples of Emirates Skywards first class award redemption rates:

  • Emirates Skywards charges 85,000 miles one-way or 135,000 miles roundtrip between the US and Europe (Emirates flies from New York to Milan and Newark to Athens)
  • Emirates Skywards charges 136,250 miles one-way or 217,500 miles roundtrip between the US and Dubai
  • Emirates Skywards charges 178,750 miles one-way or 285,000 miles roundtrip between the US and Johannesburg (via Dubai)


Emirates’ new 777 first class

Bottom line

As of April 2021, Emirates pulled first class award availability from Alaska Mileage Plan, and now as of September 2021, Emirates will pull first class award availability from Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.

Personally I don’t view this as being a huge deal, given the extent to which Emirates Skywards has improved as a program, thanks to the great reduction in carrier imposed surcharges. Add in how easy Emirates Skywards miles are to come by, and that’s a useful option for many people to travel in one of my favorite first class products in the world.

What do you make of these changes to accessing Emirates first class awards?

Conversations (11)
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  1. Paul Cofer Guest

    Does anyone know if we can count on Emirates to honor business class awards booked thru Alaska before July 31, 2021? I have several business class award seats for travel to/from Dubai for next March and April. Given my age and size, being told to sit in coach at the last minute would be bad for my health given the duration of flights to/from the west coast.

  2. UpperDeckJohnny Guest

    Ben:

    "...to shower in first class on the A380, or enjoy the fully enclosed suite on the 777"

    The A380 is also an enclosed suite.

  3. KW Guest

    Dang, will miss that 115,000 JAL points that I flew SIN-DXB-LAX with stopovers on. JAL transfers were the best use of Bonvoy points, in my opinion.

  4. Peter Brown Guest

    It keeps Yankee ribbon clerks out of Emirates f class!!!!!!

  5. MurrayF Guest

    For around $5000 USD (was $6800 nzd when I first looked) you can get 8 flights with stopovers and some 40-44hrs of first class on emirates CMB-CHC (christchurch NZ). Earns around 75,000 Alaska miles. Thats got to be a great deal getting you to CMB, MLE, DBX, SYD, CHC so plenty of options for extended trips.

    https://www.google.com/travel/flights/booking?tfs=CBwQAhqiAWoHCAESA0NNQhIKMjAyMS0xMS0wM3IHCAESA0NIQyIfCgNDTUISCjIwMjEtMTEtMDMaA01MRSoCRUsyAzY1MyIfCgNNTEUSCjIwMjEtMTEtMDMaA0RYQioCRUsyAzY1MyIfCgNEWEISCjIwMjEtMTEtMDQaA1NZRCoCRUsyAzQxMiIfCgNTWUQSCjIwMjEtMTEtMDUaA0NIQyoCRUsyAzQxMhqiAWoHCAESA0NIQxIKMjAyMi0wMS0wN3IHCAESA0NNQiIfCgNDSEMSCjIwMjItMDEtMDcaA1NZRCoCRUsyAzQxMyIfCgNTWUQSCjIwMjItMDEtMDcaA0RYQioCRUsyAzQxMyIfCgNEWEISCjIwMjItMDEtMDgaA01MRSoCRUsyAzY1MiIfCgNNTEUSCjIwMjItMDEtMDgaA0NNQioCRUsyAzY1MnABggELCP___________wFAAUgEmAEB&tfu=CmhDalJJWjFKTmFHaHlRVTltVVVsQlFXdHZjM2RDUnkwdExTMHRMUzB0TFMxMGFHWTJORUZCUVVGQlIwTk1UMk00UVRaQ05VRkJFZ0V3R2dzSXJmNHRFQUlhQTA1YVJEZ1hjTDZvSVE9PQ&hl=en-US&gl=NZ&gsas=1&curr=NZD

    For around $5000 USD (was $6800 nzd when I first looked) you can get 8 flights with stopovers and some 40-44hrs of first class on emirates CMB-CHC (christchurch NZ). Earns around 75,000 Alaska miles. Thats got to be a great deal getting you to CMB, MLE, DBX, SYD, CHC so plenty of options for extended trips.

    https://www.google.com/travel/flights/booking?tfs=CBwQAhqiAWoHCAESA0NNQhIKMjAyMS0xMS0wM3IHCAESA0NIQyIfCgNDTUISCjIwMjEtMTEtMDMaA01MRSoCRUsyAzY1MyIfCgNNTEUSCjIwMjEtMTEtMDMaA0RYQioCRUsyAzY1MyIfCgNEWEISCjIwMjEtMTEtMDQaA1NZRCoCRUsyAzQxMiIfCgNTWUQSCjIwMjEtMTEtMDUaA0NIQyoCRUsyAzQxMhqiAWoHCAESA0NIQxIKMjAyMi0wMS0wN3IHCAESA0NNQiIfCgNDSEMSCjIwMjItMDEtMDcaA1NZRCoCRUsyAzQxMyIfCgNTWUQSCjIwMjItMDEtMDcaA0RYQioCRUsyAzQxMyIfCgNEWEISCjIwMjItMDEtMDgaA01MRSoCRUsyAzY1MiIfCgNNTEUSCjIwMjItMDEtMDgaA0NNQioCRUsyAzY1MnABggELCP___________wFAAUgEmAEB&tfu=CmhDalJJWjFKTmFHaHlRVTltVVVsQlFXdHZjM2RDUnkwdExTMHRMUzB0TFMxMGFHWTJORUZCUVVGQlIwTk1UMk00UVRaQ05VRkJFZ0V3R2dzSXJmNHRFQUlhQTA1YVJEZ1hjTDZvSVE9PQ&hl=en-US&gl=NZ&gsas=1&curr=NZD

  6. Kevin Guest

    @Christian, while 285k isn’t a small change but check out one way trip from US to Europe one way on Delta on Business! Often times 285k is one way in J on Delta. 280k in first on Emirates is a steal as essentially you are getting four long haul segments on one of the best/ gaudy first class seat around!

  7. Christian Guest

    It's your audience but almost 300K miles for a round trip to Africa is way too steep for me. Maybe the big MS crowd would find it easier to swallow but I think that your illustrating this as a great value comes across as pretty disconnected from most people.

  8. M Guest

    What about Korean? Where do they stand ?

  9. Joey Guest

    Doesn’t bother me at all nowadays for the same reasons you mentioned.

    I still remember how excited you were when BA rebooked you on Emirates First back several years ago!

  10. Steve Guest

    Does Emirates even release first class award space to/from the US anymore? It seems zeroed out forever.

  11. keitherson Guest

    They are the world's most popular First Class, whether people debate if it's the "best." They have quite a bit of market power to control the exclusivity of the product, IMO, and their First network is the most extensive by far.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

KW Guest

Dang, will miss that 115,000 JAL points that I flew SIN-DXB-LAX with stopovers on. JAL transfers were the best use of Bonvoy points, in my opinion.

1
Paul Cofer Guest

Does anyone know if we can count on Emirates to honor business class awards booked thru Alaska before July 31, 2021? I have several business class award seats for travel to/from Dubai for next March and April. Given my age and size, being told to sit in coach at the last minute would be bad for my health given the duration of flights to/from the west coast.

0
UpperDeckJohnny Guest

Ben: "...to shower in first class on the A380, or enjoy the fully enclosed suite on the 777" The A380 is also an enclosed suite.

0
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