How To Redeem Miles For Emirates First Class

Filed Under: Awards, Emirates
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Reader Cynthia left the following question on the blog recently:

Hi, I was hoping to do a splurge Emirates first class flight from NY to Dubai with my mum on November, just like what you did you your dad, but when searching on the Alaska website, I didn’t find any award availability for business/first after March. I was reading online that is likely because the Alaska – Emirates partnership for Emirates business/first looks to be ending. Do you have any insight on this? Are there any other options for award travel on Emirates first apart from using Emirates points?

I’ve written extensively about how Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t have access to all first class and some business class award availability on Emirates for travel after March 28, 2015. Here are the posts on that topic:


I don’t have an update regarding Alaska/Emirates

I first wanted to post that I unfortunately don’t have a further update regarding the availability issue between the two airlines. I’ve followed up with Alaska’s corporate communications department, and if I hear anything I’ll be sure to pass it along.

My hope is still that this is only temporary, and that eventually Alaska redemptions for Emirates first class will again be possible.

After all, Alaska has great award rates for travel on Emirates, allows substantial backtracking, and even allows stopovers on one-way awards.

So what are the best alternatives for redeeming miles for travel in Emirates first class?


Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

Japan Airlines has a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates, whereby the redemption cost is based on the cumulative distance of all segments flown (you’re allowed to book one-way awards, roundtrips, or open jaws).

Here’s their distance based award chart:


They allow a maximum of six segments, and up to two stopovers per itinerary. Best of all, they don’t impose fuel surcharges for Emirates awards originating in the US.

To give a few examples of redemption rates:

  • A roundtrip A380 first class award between New York and Milan would cost you 100,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 business class award between New York and Milan would cost you 65,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 first class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 135,000 miles
  • A roundtrip A380 business class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 85,000 miles
  • An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Dubai) would cost you 135,000 miles
  • An A380 first class award from New York to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to New York (with stopovers in Milan and Bangkok) would cost you 155,000 miles

Book all of this in Emirates A380 first class for 155,000 miles

So there are some crazy good deals to be had, and the redemption rates are actually in most cases even better than Alaska’s.


How to earn Japan Airlines miles

The small catch with JAL Mileage Bank is how tough their miles are to accrue. Of the four major transferable points currencies, the only one that transfers to JAL Mileage Bank is Starwood Preferred Guest.

If you want to accumulate Japan Airlines miles with credit card spend, your best bet is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express.

Korean Air SkyPass

Korean Air partners with Emirates, though the catch is that they have a zone based award chart. For travel originating in the US, the roundtrip redemption rates are as follows:

  • USA to Europe business class — 125,000 miles
  • USA to Europe first class — 170,000 miles
  • USA to East business class — 140,000 miles
  • USA to Middle East first class — 210,000 miles

You’re allowed one stopover in each direction, though you can only redeem miles for a roundtrip — you can’t book one-way partner awards with Korean Air.

As you can see, those are pretty high redemption rates, so this isn’t a redemption I’d be eying except as a last resort.

That being said, it’s still better than what Emirates Skywards charges directly through their program. For example, a one-way award from Dallas to Dubai through the Skywards program costs 155,000 miles plus $754 in taxes and carrier imposed charges:


How to earn Korean Air miles

The small catch with Korean Air SkyPass miles is how tough their miles are to accrue. Of the four major transferable points currencies, the only one that transfers to KE Skypass is Starwood Preferred Guest/Marriott Rewards.

If you want to accumulate Japan Airlines miles with credit card spend, your best bet is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.


Bottom line

My hope is still that Alaska Mileage Plan miles can be redeemed for travel in Emirates first class in the long run. That being said, if not, Japan Airlines does have really lucrative award rates for travel on Emirates. They’re actually better than Alaska’s in many cases — it’s just that the miles are sort of tough to accrue.

What are your plans for redeeming miles for travel on Emirates long term?

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  1. without Alaska it’s almost impossible to book… 210k would put a serious dent in my UR balance.

  2. Don’t forget Korean Air also adds the fuel surcharge on KE redemption which can be over $1K per person. But at the same time, UR points are much easier to get than JL miles due to 5X office supplies.

  3. I believe EK’s own Skywards program only allows one-way bookings at their higher redemption level, whereas there are cheaper awards when booking a roundtrip. So the 155K rate for Dallas-Dubai is not particularly comparable to the Korean rates. The EK awards still aren’t very cheap but they’re not quite that bad.

  4. @ AC — Korean Air does have fuel surcharges for their own flights, yes, but they’re usually not too high, in my experience. Which routes are you redeeming for that are costing you over $1K per person?

  5. How is the availability of first class awards from North America to Europe using JAL miles? Thanks.

  6. What about Virgin America Elevate? According to their partner award chart, 55k miles Business class round-trip from New York to Milan, though with some hefty fuel surcharges ($1090). Still, might be a value in some scenarios.

  7. Alaska’s mileage plan award chart for Emirates round-trip is 145k/180k for business class and first class respectively; while the Korean award chart rates are 140k/210k. Korean is actually slightly cheaper for business class and only 30k more for first class. In comparison the Korean award rates don’t seem so outrageously priced given that Chase UR points are much easier to acquire than Alaska miles. The middle east region typically requires a premium in most mileage programs anyway, so that should also be accounted for in the overall valuation. The biggest factor is that you can actually access Emirates awards with Korean or JAL while it’s not currently possible with Alaska. That probably warrants a 30k mile premium (the difference between Alaska’s and Korean’s first class award rates). Do you suspect that the Alaska MP situation with Emirates may ultimately turn into something like other mileage programs that block Lufthansa first class awards?

  8. I really think you’re under-selling EK’s own program. JFK-MXP for 62,500 miles one way with nearly unlimited availability and instant transfer from Amex is a tough combo to beat IMO.

  9. Ben, Thanks so much for your EMIRATES update. Me and my partner has a big stuff to celebrate February 2016 and just got 150.00 alaska miles for 2 business class EK A380 – BKK-DXB-LAX. Since the release of seats coming up soon I will not have time to get enough miles for another program (read Japan air). I never got a change to use the Alaska miles I had bought only for this trip in mind (February 2016) – Ben shall we just hope that C class will come up later or go for something else like ….
    I guess alternative could be CX C or F – BKK-HKG-SFO/LAX
    Thanks for all your great reports … about EK how is their coffee and menu card in C class ?

  10. @Lucky, I was hoping to grab Emirates 5th freedom betsen akl-syd next Feb. Was waiting for Alaska to open up awards 331 days out…. Is it lossible to book 1 way via Korean for Emirates using UR points instead?

  11. @ dan — You can’t redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates to Australia. And as stated in the post you can’t redeem Korean Air miles for one-way awards on Emirates.

  12. @ Jorgen/yyc — I think you’ll probably still have luck booking Emirates business class, so it’s not a bad option at all. Their food and coffee are good in business class.

    Otherwise I’d consider Cathay Pacific first class. If you can find space on them, I’d say that’s an unbeatable option.

  13. @ Justin — True, though there are hefty carrier imposed surcharges as far as I know. That is one of the better values, but the rates aren’t nearly as good for travel to the Middle East and beyond, in my opinion.

  14. @ Scott B — Right, hefty fuel surcharges, plus Virgin America points are worth more than other miles (Membership Rewards transfers aren’t 1:1). So that’s not the same as 55,000 airline miles.

  15. Seems to be a typo on the best way to earn JAL……it’s thru Diner’s to SPG……….YMMV

  16. sorry, didn’t see that you included the info about no 1-way redemptions via Korean. I had read a previous post of yours that mentioned that flight and booking via Alaska. But maybe another blog (gasp), regardless, is there an economical way to get the AKL-SYD 5th freedom flight? Via how though? Thanks.

  17. Lucky,

    I remember reading in one of your posts awhile back that when redeeming Korean Air miles (even as transferring from Ultimate Rewards) it is impossible to book an award for a non family member such as a girlfriend. Is this still the case and does it also apply for redeeming Korean Air miles for emirates?

  18. Do you know whether JAL and KE have the same access to award availability given to skywards members? I recall reading how AS could only see 1 award seat when in reality there are two? I just hope JAL/KE has access to both seats as well. If they don’t, then my strategy would to focus on Amex MR point transfers to skywards.
    Bgriff is correct. For your example DAL-DXB, if you fly it roundtrip in F, the cost would be 247,500 skywards miles (which is less than double the one-way price of 155,000 EK miles.) So if one ever has to use skywards to redeem for EK F, I suggest redeeming a roundtrip ticket.

  19. Just returned from my first major award redemption trip which included EK on SEA-SFO-DXB-HKG. I am so depressed to learn that situation with AS and EK hasn’t improved. My best part of this trip was the SFO-DXB leg. This trip also included Singapore A380 suite between HKG-SIN and Asiana’s brand new A380 between ICN to LAX but a brand new 3 month old A380 on SFO-DXB leg with nearly 90% of business seats empty, it was hands down the best part. The crew was all over our family with my wife and older daughter in first suite and me and little one on business… it felt like we just charted a private A380! One of attendants was begging to take one of my daughter ‘back there’ so she could play with her and feed her!!!

    and thing about needing to book through Alaska for me is that I am from Seattle and in order to fly these A380s, I have to fly AS to SFO or LAX and when redeeming through Alaska, first class ticket to SFO was included with no additional miles needed. In case of my wife,

    By the way, FYI, I noticed that new A380 on SFO-DXB had much improved business class seat (wider), better entertainment system/control and larger screens on both business and first compared to slightly older A380 on DXB-HKG route even though they all look alike.

  20. Hi Ben – Does JAL allow Emirates redemptions from US to Australia? If so, how may miles – business and first? Thanks

  21. @ tim — Yes they do. It all depends on the routing. Just look at the distance based award chart. For example LAX-DXB-SYD and back is about 32,000 flown miles roundtrip, so would cost 190,000 miles in business class or 290,000 miles in first class.

  22. @ Sdfamily — Yes, though frankly paid rates in that market aren’t horrible, so it could make sense just to pay.

  23. @ Joe P — It does indeed apply, regardless of which airline you’re redeeming on. Quite a frustrating policy.

  24. @ dan — Either via Japan Airlines, or otherwise the paid fares aren’t bad, so in most cases I think paying is just the best bet for those routes.

  25. How odd. So I assume same-sex married couples are OK? Do you have to submit proof? They really don’t need any additional PR problems after peanutgate.

  26. @ Mike — Totally agree it’s odd and ridiculous. Yes, if married that’s fine, and a marriage certificate will have to be submitted.

  27. I still don’t understand why more people don’t focus on Korean miles to book EK First. As someone mentioned, it is only 30K miles more for roundtrip to DXB, and Korean miles are much easier to get than Alaska miles.

  28. @ Dave — Yes, “only” 30K more than the worst first class redemption using Alaska miles. The beauty of Alaska miles is you can do stopovers and connect to Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. That’s where the big difference in value arises from.

  29. Lucky,

    I’m looking for a one-way award to Northern Europe in May, and I found perfect EK flights from California connecting in Dubai with Z = 1 for each segment. It looks like I’ll have to transfer SPG points to Japan to book. Two questions:
    1. Does JAL let you put award tickets on hold while the miles transfer in? I seem to remember reading that SPG to JAL are slow…

    2. Any idea if fuel surcharges are involved, and how to estimate them before calling JAL to book? I say calling, since I don’t think you can book this award online.

    Thanks again!


  30. Hi – Older article so much may have changed.. however, the article states “A roundtrip A380 business class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 85,000 miles”… Is that accurate? Miles between the two is around 8,200 miles..


  31. for those signed up for Emirates Corporate Travel, do they need to have a account for skywards miles in order for them to earn Business rewards miles? (in other words, those in emirates corporate travel now earn Business rewards miles?

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