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UPDATE
TL:DR – Emirates First Class will no longer be redeemable with Alaska miles from 1 April 2021. To lock in the favourable rates for flights till Feb 2022, you still can do so! Hurry!

Very disappointing developments on one of my favourite mileage programmes; Alaska Airlines will no longer offer flight redemptions on Emirates flights starting 1 April 2021.

An email was sent to members on the upcoming change to the ability to redeem Alaska miles for awards on Emirates flights  Additionally, a footnote has also been included to reflect this upcoming change. 

Who Initated the Change?

When I first received this piece of information, it seemed likely that the cause of this is linked to Alaska’s impending entry into the OneWorld alliance. There was always going to be pressure for Alaska to relinquish some of their airline partners that would be in direct competition with their OneWorld partners; with the most notable showdown between Emirates and Qatar Airways in the Middle East.

However, after closer inspection and as stated, Emirates Economy Class and Business Class is still going to be bookable, it’s only First Class redemptions that has been removed. 

Also, word has broken out that in the future, there will also be an increasing number of mileage programmes that will lose access to the luxurious Emirates First Class experience.

Emirates First Class Shower Spa. Come 31 March 2021, this will no longer be bookable on Alaska Miles. (Photo Credit: Emirates)

Why was this initiated?

Well, the obvious answer seems to be that with the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines need to safeguard their most profitable routes, and not allow flight redemptions to take up potential thousands of dollars high-end customers will be willing to pay for. After all, cash and miles are all jostling for the same, fixed number of First Class seats!

My Take on This

Known to all, Emirates First Class is one of the most aspirational luxury experiences that you can book on a commercial flight, so for Alaska miles to lose its ability to redeem is definitely disheartening.

However, when sweet spots are concerned, Emirates on Alaska miles do not necessarily provide the most value. For example, one-way awards in First Class start at 150,000 Alaska miles between North America and the Middle East, and cost a whopping 225,000 Alaska miles if you head all the way to Australia (a 24 hour journey!). Unfortunately, for us based in Asia, Alaska Airlines do not provide an award chart for flights to Asia, which means that itineraries to/from Asia with Emirates are not possible.

Anyhow, 150,000-225,000 Alaska miles are a massive outlay of miles if you ask me, especially when you can just pay 70,000 Alaska miles to enjoy Cathay Pacific First Class!

Having said that, I still know of readers and clients who are willing to splurge for that moment when they could shower in 30,000 feet above ground. Sadly, going forward, that is no longer going to be possible with Alaska miles anymore.

With Alaska miles out of the picture, Emirates Skywards will take the lead on being the go-to mileage programme for booking Emirates First Class. There used to be atrocious fuel surcharges totalling thousands but fortunately, the program recently slashed fuel surcharges, meaning that a First Class redemption on its fifth-freedom flights Newark–Athens or New York JFK–Milan fifth-freedom routes are reasonable at 85,000 or 135,000 Emirates Skywards miles one-way or round-trip, respectively. As a comparison, Singapore Airlines charges 72,000 or 144,000 Krisflyer miles one-way or round-trip respectively for its Frankfurt-New York itinerary.

For us based in Asia, Emirates Skywards is a viable option for trips to Down Under. Round-trip Business Class and First Class itineraries stand at 90,000 and 135,000 Emirates Skywards miles, compared to 124,000 and 170,000 Krisflyer miles.


Conclusion

It’s undoubtedly a sad development when you have one less option for redemption with your airlines miles. However, as illustrated, it’s not that big a loss, assisted with the cushion of the Emirates Skywards programme lowering its surcharges.

You still have some time however; you can book until 31 March 2021, for flights till February 2022.

Let me know in the comments below if you will be jumping on Emirates First Class with Alaska Miles! 

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