Alaska Mileage Plan will no longer allow Emirates First Class redemptions as of March 31, 2021, bringing to an end one of the most outlandish award redemption sweet spots I’ve covered here at Prince of Travel.
In this post, I wanted to provide an update on the “Emirates First Class extravaganza” booking trick that I had first written about (and flown) in the summer of 2019, and then flew again in the opposite direction in November 2020 – because it’s now the last chance saloon for anyone looking to burn a big balance of Alaska miles on a once-in-a-lifetime luxury indulgence.
Alaska Awards on Emirates First Class
Alaska Mileage Plan is a known for being a valuable award program thanks to its wide range of airline partners with outstanding premium cabins.
However, its partnership with Emirates commands extraordinarily high mileage amounts: a one-way journey in Emirates First Class from North America to Dubai costs 150,000 Alaska miles. Let’s be honest: that’s an obscene number of Alaska miles to spend on a single flight!
Indeed, with other First Class products like Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines starting at only 70,000 Alaska miles for a one-way, splurging 150,000 miles per person on a single flight in Emirates First Class is certainly a tough pill to swallow.
But what if I told you that those 150,000 miles could allow you to book not one, not two, but three flights in Emirates First Class, for a combined flight time of 27+ hours?
And what if those three flights could encompass not only the Airbus A380, on which you’ll get to experience the shower in the sky and the onboard bar, but also the Boeing 777 with Emirates New First Class, widely considered to be the world’s absolute best and featuring a fully-enclosed private suite designed by Mercedes-Benz?
Alaska’s Quirky Routing Rules on Emirates
While the program is valuable enough if you simply stick to one-way and round-trip journeys (after all, it’s one of the few programs to allow a stopover on a one-way redemption), the fun really begins when you start experimenting with stopovers and open-jaws using the multi-city search engine on the Alaska website.
Alaska Mileage Plan negotiates independent agreements with each of their airline partners, so the stopover and routing policies vary from partner to partner. On Emirates, the basic rules are as follows:
- You can only redeem Alaska miles for a trip originating from, or terminating in, a North American city
- The other end of your trip may be in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, or the Middle East
- You may have a stopover in Dubai on a one-way routing
- Your trip must take place on flights operated by Emirates or Alaska Airlines only (as Alaska awards cannot combine more than one partner airline)
And that’s about it!
Note that there aren’t really any rules on whether or not you can route through the same city twice on a single ticket, or even any kind of maximum permitted mileage (MPM) restriction either.
Many other loyalty programs use these rules to limit how convoluted your routing may be, but Alaska, for the most part, does not.
Three Emirates First Class Flights for the Price of One!
So what does this mean? Well, the multi-city search engine allows you to input two separate searches to be combined into a single one-way redemption. And if you play around with it enough, you can get it to spit out some very intriguing routings…
…such as a North America to Middle East redemption, via the Middle East and Europe!
Yes, you read that right. This routing takes you from North America to Dubai, and then to Europe, and then back to Dubai, all for the price of a single North America–Middle East one-way redemption.
In First Class, that’s 150,000 Alaska miles – which works out to an average cost of 50,000 miles per First Class segment. That’s starting to look like a pretty sweet deal, isn’t it?
In order to pull up this routing on the search engine, you would use the multi-city search function on the Alaska website and input two sectors: the first between your North America departure city and your chosen European “layover” city, and the second between the European layover and Dubai. You’d space out the dates two days apart, so that neither your stay in Dubai nor Europe exceeds 24 hours.
The same principle works in reverse, too. If you’re planning a return trip from Dubai, you can fly round-trip to Europe first before catching your return flight to North America, all for the same 150,000 Alaska miles that it would’ve cost you to book only the Dubai–North America segment.
In this case, you’d again use the multi-city search function to search for two sectors spaced two days apart: the first between Dubai and your chosen European layover, and the second between that European city and your chosen final destination in North America.
Here’s something very important to note: because you’re booking a routing that isn’t technically allowed by the program, Alaska Mileage Plan’s phone representatives are unable to assist with booking or changing these “extravaganza” awards.
If you make a booking through the Alaska website, it’s essentially locked in place, and Alaska agents are unable to change the dates, routing, or class of service.
The only way to change your booking would be to cancel it and book a new one, although you’d take the risk that the First Class availability doesn’t immediately go back into the award inventory. Being flexible in terms of travel dates would help immensely in this regard.
Moreover, after March 31, it won’t be possible to cancel and rebook anymore, since Alaska will no longer be able to access Emirates First Class award space – so it’s truly going to be a lock-and-load approach in these last few days.
Airbus A380 vs. Boeing 777
If you’re interested in booking this crazy experience for later in 2021 or early 2022, there are a few things to take note of as you optimize your routing.
Emirates offers three versions of its world-renowned First Class product:
- Emirates A380 First Class, with the onboard shower and bar
- Emirates 777 New First Class, with the fully-enclosed suites, ultra-modern interiors, and LED virtual windows
- Emirates 777 Old First Class, which is similar to A380 First Class without the shower and bar
An ideal three-flight routing would encompass both the A380 First Class and the 777 New First Class, allowing you to sample both of Emirates’s best onboard experiences.
(Meanwhile, 777 Old First Class is by no means slumming it, but it doesn’t quite carry the same glamour factor of the A380 and New 777 First Class that you’d be looking for if you’re splurging 150,000 Alaska miles purely for the love of flying.)
The tricky part, however, is that the 777 New First Class product is only available on nine of Emirates’s Boeing 777 aircraft, so it’s a rather elusive product to book successfully.
Most of Emirates’s North America routes, including its sole Canadian route to Toronto, are scheduled to be operated by the Airbus A380 throughout the rest of 2021 and 2022. The exception is the New York JFK–Dubai route, which operates 777 New First Class until June 30, 2021.
If you’re booking an Emirates First Class extravaganza for a date after June 30, your best bet will be to hunt for 777 New First Class on the routes between Dubai and Europe – specifically Brussels (EK183/184), Geneva (EK83/84), and Frankfurt (EK47/48).
To verify which Boeing 777 services have New First Class and which have Old First Class, you can use ExpertFlyer to look at the seat map – if there’s six seats in First Class, it’s the new product. Alternatively, you could use Google Flights to search for seven First Class seats on the direct route – if there are any dates that show up in the availability calendar, then it’s obviously going to be the Old First Class.
There’s one caveat to note about New 777 First Class availability: it seems like there’s a maximum of one seat available when booking far in advance.
(Sure, more seats might open up on a last-minute basis, but that’s not helpful here when all Alaska awards on Emirates First Class are ending on March 31.)
If you’re interested in booking this once-in-a-lifetime experience for at least two passengers, then you should at least be able to find two First Class award seats on the North America–Dubai segment on the Airbus A380.
But after that, you’ll either need to split up on your own individual 777 New First Class jaunts (say, one passenger goes to Brussels and back, while the other goes to Geneva and back), or you’d continue on the shared journey on another set of Airbus A380s or perhaps the 777 Old First Class suites.
“Normal” Emirates First Class Awards Also Ending Soon
Here’s what’s so crazy about booking three Emirates First Class flights for the price of one.
Imagine if you had only booked a flight from North America to Dubai, and then from Dubai to Europe (so without the final flight at the end). That would count as a North America–Europe redemption, which costs a whopping 180,000 Alaska miles!
You’re therefore basically saving 30,000 miles per person by adding an additional seven-hour First Class flight into the mix. Funny how that works, eh?
Now, for practical purposes, this routing option likely won’t be of much use if you actually need to travel to or from Europe. That’s because it isn’t possible to actually have a stopover in Europe – the time between your flights from/to Dubai must be shorter than 24 hours, or else the search engine won’t return anything.
So really, this quirky routing is only useful for those of you who want to maximize your Emirates First Class experience to the fullest possible, because you must complete all three flights in quick succession of each other. But hey, I know there’s many such avid flyers out there, for whom this would be a killer opportunity!
Of course, as stunning of an experience as it is, the Emirates First Class extravaganza isn’t necessarily something that will appeal to everyone. Many collectors of Alaska miles might simply prefer to – hmm, I don’t know – fly on a routing that actually makes sense en route to a destination that they want to visit.
Well, if you’re interested in redeeming 150,000+ Alaska miles for a more “normal” Emirates First Class routing to somewhere in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia, then you should also take action before March 31, as all Emirates First Class awards on Alaska miles will be ending soon.
(Remember, on these “normal” awards, you get to have a stopover of extended duration in Dubai as well.)
After March 31, the best way to book Emirates First Class awards will likely be through the airline’s own Emirates Skywards program, in which we can earn miles by transferring Amex US MR points at a 1:1 ratio.
Even though the mileage amounts may still be somewhat competitively priced (with the best sweet spot being 135,000 Skywards miles for a round-trip between New York and Europe on a fifth-freedom route), the possibilities for crazy routings like the “extravaganza” will very much be consigned to the history books.
Unparalleled privacy, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, virtual windows, the shower in the sky, and the onboard bar – all with free-flowing caviar and Dom Perignon throughout, accompanied with gourmet cuisine, fine wines, and world-class service.
If you plan to travel between North America and the Middle East with a somewhat flexible schedule sometime over the next year, and you’re happy to simply indulge in Emirates First Class for as long as possible, then a quirk in the Alaska Mileage Plan booking engine can offer you a fantastic opportunity to splurge 150,000 Alaska miles for no less than three flights on Emirates First Class.
You’d better take action soon, though, because the opportunity is ending on March 31 as all Emirates First Class awards are being phased out from Alaska Mileage Plan and other partner programs.