There are a couple of catches, though:
- Historically Emirates has been blocking award availability for their new first class
- Only a very limited number of flights feature Emirates’ new first class
However, there is actually a way to redeem miles for Emirates’ new first class, and it’s something not many people are aware of. So let’s take a closer look at that.
What makes Emirates’ new first class so spectacular?
Emirates introduced their new first class product on the 777-300ER just over a year ago. The first class cabin features just six seats, and it’s simply the most insane first class hard product in the sky.
While there are lots of first class suites with doors nowadays, this one is actually fully enclosed, floor-to-ceiling.
This suite also has an incredible number of gadgets, from temperature controls in your private suite, to lighting controls where you can choose the color and intensity of the lighting.
Check out my full Emirates new first class trip report for everything you need to know.
What routes feature Emirates’ new first class?
The bad news is that Emirates only has a total of nine 777-300ERs featuring their new first class, and they don’t have any immediate plans to reconfigure existing planes (either 777s or A380s) with these seats.
So in a way this first class product is a gimmick, since just a tiny percentage of their fleet features the seats.
As of now, Emirates’ nine 777-300ERs with the new first class are operating select frequencies on the following routes (this is highly subject to change, and you may also find these planes sometimes operating other routes):
- EK33/34 between Dubai and London Stansted
- EK43/44 between Dubai and Frankfurt
- EK89/90 and EK83/84 between Dubai and Geneva
- EK183/184 and EK181/182 between Dubai and Brussels
- EK59/60 between Dubai and Hamburg
- EK312/313 between Dubai and Tokyo Haneda
How can you redeem miles for Emirates’ new first class?
As a general rule of thumb, Emirates doesn’t release first class award seats in their new first class. The planes only have six first class seats, and obviously they’re trying to sell them, given how much they’ve invested in the product.
However, there’s an interesting trend. Just over two days before departure, Emirates seems to make first class award seats available in their new 777-300ER cabins. The catch is that they typically only do this when at least four of the six first class seats are left for sale.
For example, here’s a sampling of some of the flights that are available over the coming days (and in all cases, I’ve verified that the seatmap shows the new first class cabin):
Which miles should you redeem?
So Emirates does make some awards available in their new first class just over two days before departure, but which miles are you best off redeeming?
As you can see, most of the availability on these routes is for travel between Dubai and Europe. Distance-wise, we’re talking about flights in the range of 3,000-3,400 miles.
What options does that leave you with?
- Qantas Frequent Flyer — Qantas charges 75,000 points for a one-way first class ticket for a flight covering up to 3,600 flown miles
- Qantas is a Citi ThankYou transfer partner, and there’s even a 25% transfer bonus right now (so you could book a flight for 60,000 Citi ThankYou points)
- Qantas is also a Capital One transfer partner, and points can be transferred at a 2:1.5 ratio
- Qantas is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, and points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, and you get a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points
- Emirates Skywards — Emirates charges 85,000 miles for a one-way first class ticket from Dubai to Europe
- Emirates is an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner, and points transfer 1:1
- Emirates is a Capital One transfer partner, and points transfer 2:1
- Emirates is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, and points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, and you get a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points
- Japan Airlines Mileage Bank — Japan Airlines charges 65,000 miles for a one-way first class flight covering up to 4,000 miles
- Japan Airlines is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, and points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, and you get a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points
With all of the above options, you’d be on the hook for taxes, fees, and surcharges. Emirates does have hefty carrier-imposed surcharges. For a one-way ticket from Dubai to any of those European destinations, you can expect to pay ~$460, or so.
There’s one last option to mention, even though it’s not ideal. You can redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on Emirates, though they don’t allow redemptions solely between Europe and the Middle East. So you’d have to book a ticket from Europe to Dubai to North America, which would cost 180,000 Alaska miles. On the plus side, at least this redemption wouldn’t come with any surcharges.
Emirates’ new first class is my favorite first class product in the world. Up until recently the best way to fly it has been to find a discounted first class fare, as Emirates publishes good fares out of many markets.
However, being able to redeem miles is even better. The great news is that just over two days before departure Emirates makes award seats available in their new first class, and there are some pretty decent options for booking it.
(Tip of the hat to Oscar)