Earlier this year, Emirates began pulling First Class award space from its partners. Sure enough, Emirates First Class seats have no longer been bookable with Alaska miles since March 31, 2021, although economy and business class redemptions remained in tact.
Now, however, Alaska Airlines and Emirates are severing their partnership entirely. As of July 31, 2021, you’ll no longer be able to book any Emirates ticket with Alaska miles.
Redeeming on Emirates: Last Chance for Business Class
For now, until July 31, 2021, you can still use Alaska miles to book award tickets on Emirates flights.
You can book travel for any future date. Alaska’s search engine makes Emirates seats available 330 days out, so if you book as late as you can on July 31, the latest you’d be able to travel is June 26, 2022.
Furthermore, after July 31, you won’t be able to change an Emirates booking made with Alaska miles. If your travel plans change, you’d have to cancel the flight and rebook with a different Alaska partner.
While you won’t have access to the First Class shower or bar in the sky, Emirates business class is still an exceptional experience. It would make a great choice for a highly-anticipated trip to the Maldives, so if you’ve been eyeing that route, be sure to book this ticket as soon as you can.
A one-way flight from Canada or the US to the Middle East or South Asia (including the Maldives) would cost 82,500 Alaska miles in business class, or 42,500 Alaska miles in economy.
If you’re eyeing a different destination, it’ll set you back a few more miles. North America to Europe or Asia is 105,000 Alaska miles one-way in business class, and to Africa it’s 120,000 Alaska miles.
Instead, you could make use of the First Class Extravaganza strategy, just in a different cabin. You’d get the lower rate to the Middle East, and there’s nothing stopping you from not completing your ticket. 😉
More importantly, you should receive your welcome bonus of 30,000 Alaska miles on your first statement before the end of July, with enough time to book your flight.
However, sometimes the welcome bonus doesn’t arrive until the next statement if you meet the minimum spend requirement too close to the end of the monthly cycle. Therefore, I’d highly recommend that you apply for the card as soon as possible if you direly need the miles to make this booking.
Otherwise, you’ll have to transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy, or hope for another promotion on buying Alaska miles (or as a last resort, buy miles at full price). You could also turn to Mileage Plan Shopping, Alaska’s online shopping portal – although there’s no guarantee that your miles will post quickly.
Earning on Emirates: No More Alaska Miles
With the end of their partnership, you’ll also no longer see reciprocal mileage-earning benefits between the two airlines.
Miles earned on paid fares with Emirates can’t be credited to Alaska Mileage Plan. Likewise, miles earned on paid fares with Alaska can’t be credited to Emirates Skywards.
If you’ve already booked tickets for travel on any date, you’ll still earn miles as before. However, for any tickets booked on or after June 2 (today), you’ll only earn miles if you complete your travel by July 31, 2021.
Fortunately, for most Canadian award travellers, I’d say the redemption sweet spot is more interesting than any earning opportunities here, so I’m not too bothered by this loss.
Alaska Mileage Plan: What’s Next?
I must say this move doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Alaska has recently joined the Oneworld alliance, and we should expect to see some changes to their partnerships.
Previously, Alaska had many individual partnerships. To highlight a few Oneworld airlines, they already had agreements with British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways. They also had many non-alliance partners, Emirates being one of them.
While they are maintaining other non-Oneworld partners for now, Alaska is planting their roots deeper into the Oneworld network. That means strengthening their ties with existing Oneworld partners, as well as adding new ones to encompass the entire alliance.
I imagine there was some pressure from Qatar to cut the Emirates partnership. The two are competitors, with a similar calibre of service and largely overlapping route networks out of their Middle Eastern hubs in Doha and Dubai, respectively.
So far, with their new Oneworld partners (such as Royal Air Maroc and Royal Jordanian), Alaska has implemented reciprocal mileage-earning, with redemption charts yet to come. Alaska has announced that we should expect award charts for their new partners sometime this summer, although there’s no indication of whether their old charts will change.
I don’t think the end of their Emirates partnership necessarily suggests that Alaska will move towards a unified chart for all partners, although it remains a possibility. I’m hopeful that individual charts will remain, as Alaska balances their alliance and non-alliance partnerships.
Still, it’s a good reminder not to take sweet spots for granted, as we truly don’t know what to expect in that regard. Luckily, Alaska has pledged to give advance notice for any changes to existing award charts.
I’m sad to see Emirates and Alaska ending their partnership, although I understand why it may be inevitable. For anyone planning on using your stash of Alaska miles to experience the Middle Eastern carrier, if you didn’t already snag a First Class ticket this past winter, be sure to book before July 31, 2021.
As for travel on Emirates in the future, you’ll still be able to book using their own loyalty program, Emirates Skywards, a transfer partner of both American Express US Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. It’ll cost more miles than with Alaska, as they use a distance-based pricing scheme, but it’s not entirely out of reach.