Why You Shouldn’t Redeem Alaska Miles for Emirates Flights
Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is one of my favorite mileage programs out there. They’re the only big US airline that still awards miles based on distance flown and their award chart has some real sweet spots. The program also has some really unique partners. One of their most unique partners is Emirates.
However, using Mileage Plan for travel on Emirates became much less attractive several years ago when they significantly increased the award rates. The only saving grace was the lack of fees on award travel. That may be changing though.
Emirates Significantly Reduces Award Fees
As noted by One Mile at a Time, Emirates has significantly reduced their fuel surcharges while keeping award prices the same. Previously, Emirates awards using their own miles would tack on as much as $1,000 in additional fees to award tickets, making them a non-starter. Now, we’re looking at closer to $100 on some award bookings. That’s without raising the amount of miles requires. That’s a significant improvement to Emirates Skywards program.
Does that mean you should be this guy now? Let’s take a look at some popular redemption options and see how the two programs stack up.
East Coast to Europe in First Class
Alaska Mileage Plan charges a whopping 180,000 miles for a one-way first class flight from the US to Europe in Emirates First. Meanwhile, Emirates Skywards charges 135,000 miles round trip. That’s an absolute no brainer if you ask me. Taxes and fees will run just over $100, which isn’t bad at all considering what you’re getting. If you only want to fly one-way, it’s going to cost you 85,000 Emirates Skywards miles. Not cheap, but still less than half the price of Alaska.
If you’re looking for the full A380 experience, you’ll want to fly between New York and Milan. Who knows if the shower suite and bar will still be a thing in 2021, but there’s always hope. Emirates other US Fifth Freedom route operates between Newark and Athens on a 777. You may not get to shower onboard, but it’s still an incredibly luxurious experience. This is definitely the best value with Emirates Skywards.
First class a little too rich for your blood? How about 90,000 miles round trip in business class. That’s cheaper than you’ll find on Alaska (110k) or American (115k).
Fly Emirates New First Class Between Europe and Dubai
While Alaska’s Mileage plan is great for flights to and from the US, it’s a bit more limited for strictly international flights. For example, if you wanted to fly between Europe and the Middle East, your only options are with Finnair or Singapore Airlines. If you want something direct, you’re SOL.
That’s not a problem with Emirates Skywards though. Especially if you want to try out Emirates swanky new first class seat between Dubai and Frankfurt, Brussels, or Geneva. Availability on Emirates new first class seats can be tough to come by, but if you’re flexible or willing to wait until the last minute, you may be able to snag one. At 135,000 miles round trip, this is easily one of the most comfortable ways to travel between Europe and the Middle East.
US to Australia
Let’s start out by saying, if you want to fly from the US to Australia on Emirates, it’s going to cost you. A one-way flight between New York and Sydney on Emirates will cost you 120,000 miles in business and 250,000 in first. Yes, it’s nearly 30 hours of flying, but that’s still a huge amount of miles however you look at it. That’s just getting you there. If you want to fly round trip in first, you’re looking at a half-mill in Alaska miles.
Emirates Skywards isn’t exactly cheap either. The same one-way journey will cost 165,000 miles in business and 225,000 in first. A round trip is a little more palate, but still 240,000 and 360,000 miles, respectively.
You may not have 500,000 Alaska miles laying around, but there’s a lot better odds you have 360,000 points split between your Amex, Chase, and Citi accounts. Is this going to be for everyone? No. But, if you’re going to splurge, you might as well do it in a more cost effective way. It’s still 140,000 miles fewer.
Emirates Miles Are Easier To Come By
Unlike Alaska, Emirates miles are pretty easy to come by. The Skywards program partners with every major transferrable points currency including American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi. When you’re looking to create a bunch of miles quickly, credit card bonuses are one of the easiest ways to do so. Advantage Emirates.
Meanwhile, Alaska miles does not partner with any of the major transferrable points currencies. That doesn’t mean that Alaska miles are less valuable than Emirates miles. That just means they’re harder to come by.
The recent changes to Emirates Skywards have made the program much more compelling. While Emirates awards have been possible through Alaska’s Mileage Plan, they typically still cost an arm and a leg to do so. Considering that Alaska doesn’t transfer with any of the major transferrable currencies, this made things more challenging. However, Emirates first just became much more attainable through the Skywards Program.
Alaska’s Mileage Plan still has use in booking Emirates awards – especially if you’re sitting on a mountain of miles. However, Emirates Skywards program may become my new preferred program when searching Emirates awards. Considering some of the other values offered by Mileage Plan though, I’d rather put my Alaska miles toward an award on Cathay or JAL.
May 29, 2020
From what I can tell, one-way from JFK-DXB-MLE is 160K I think, so it’s pricey to go all the way to MLE. But still may be a better deal then Alaska since it’s easiest to collect Emirates miles!
May 29, 2020
Agreed! I went with a few of the more glaring examples. More often than not though, it’s a toss up on one-ways and Emirates is the clear winner on return trips.
May 29, 2020
First off I’d like to say that I love the Pan Am passport case in the picture.
As to the use of Alaska miles, I’d largely agree but flying EK on any miles these days pretty much has a bunch of problems:
Business class is pretty mediocre.
First class is pricey for most routes.
First class is what everyone actually wants to fly.
First class availability on routes that are not crazy expensive is just awful. As a simple example, find a round trip EWR-ATH in first class for two using Emirates’ own program round trip for a week through the end of schedule. You’ll find nothing, and that’s in a pandemic.
Long story short, Emirates killing off YQ may be nice within an extremely limited set of circumstances but given the incredible paucity of space that people actually want the whole thing feels like a gimmick. I’d genuinely rather be thrilled than be sour grapes but the ironic reality is that the options that are inspiring have prices that are – uninspiring.
May 31, 2020
Thanks for the write-up on this. It seems someone has done a lot of work. I have about 600k AS miles and had hoped to use them on a trip back to Dubai either in FC or BC but due to waining work opportunities over there, COVID issues, etc. I am not seeing a chance to use them anytime soon. Don’t have any Emirates miles to use them directly. Thanks again.
June 3, 2020
So just recently I noticed that Emirates flights don’t come up anymore when trying to book on miles via alaskaair.com. I actually booked a one way flight to Chennai from the US for next year (fingers crossed), but when I went to check to see if anything else had opened up, no flights show for anything. Not even a direct from LAX or SFO to DXB for any travel. I’m wondering if this is the end of being able to book on Emirates with miles due to the new OneWorld Alliance starting this summer?
June 3, 2020
Great question, Karen. We’ve noticed the same issue. Jon actually just posted an article about it.