There used to be two programs that offered Emirates First Class and Business Class redemptions at reasonable rates:
- Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Now there is only one.
Current State of Alaska/Emirates Awards
Sadly, Alaska Airlines massively devalued their Emirates chart with no notice. Emirates First Class prices have gone up 67%-100%.
And you still can’t book Emirates First Class on all routes with Alaska miles, just between the United States and Asia, Africa, or Europe.
Current State of JAL/Emirates Awards
Now the best miles for booking Emirates First Class are, by far, Japan Airlines (JAL) miles.
For Emirates flights, JAL uses a distance based award chart, so the price of your award is determined by the summed distance of all segments and cabin, which you can check on Great Circle Mapper.
Unlike with Alaska Airlines miles, you JAL miles can book all Emirates routes.
Here are some high value examples:
Economy/Business/First Class Roundtrip Prices in Thousands of JAL Miles
- 21/42/65 Auckland to Sydney (flight distance of 2,690 miles roundtrip)
- 39/63/100 New York to Milan (flight distance of 7,990 miles roundtrip)
- 55/85/135 New York to Dubai (flight distance of 13,698 miles roundtrip)
- 60/100/155 Los Angeles to Dubai to Sydney one way (flight distance of 15,819 miles one way)
- 60/100/155 Los Angeles to Dubai (flight distance of 16,678 miles roundtrip)
- 60/100/155 New York to Dubai to Bangkok (flight distance of 19,798 miles roundtrip)
All of these awards are either unbookable with Alaska miles or more one way with Alaska miles than roundtrip with JAL miles.
You can book one way awards, however they cost a lot more than half the roundtrip price because JAL’s charts for Emirates flights starts expensive and then goes up little by little. For instance, Auckland to Sydney in First Class is 60,000 JAL miles one way (1,345 miles flown) but only 65,000 JAL miles roundtrip (2,690 miles flow.) Similarly New York to Dubai is 100k one way in First Class and 135k roundtrip in First Class.
You can take two stopovers on an award. For instance, you could fly New York to Milan (stop) to Dubai (stop) to Asia or Africa (destination) and return home. If you want to have an open jaw, it will count as one of your stopovers and the distance between the open jaw cities counts as distance traveled on the chart.
You get six segments per award, whether you fly one way or roundtrip. It’s pretty hard to jam more than six Emirates segments onto one roundtrip, so this shouldn’t come into play often.
If your origin and destination on an award aren’t the same, they must be in the same country.
There has been some question over whether or not Japan Airlines collects fuel surcharges on Emirates redemptions as their loyalty program’s policy has waivered over the last few years. When I first wrote about the Best Program to Redeem Miles for Emirates First Class, JAL was not collecting fuel surcharges, but if you read the comments section you can see that policy changed sometime in 2013. In 2014, JAL updated their website with a statement regarding taxes and carrier fees on partner redemptions, which holds today as the current policy and says all taxes and carrier fees on Emirates redemptions will cost a maximum of $78.20 between the United States and United Arab Emirates. So at least on a roundtrip to Dubai, there are no fuel surcharges.
I also called JAL Mileage Bank and asked a customer service representative to quote the taxes and fees for a couple other awards flying to different places. From what he told me it does not seem that fuel surcharges are collected on Emirates redemptions:
- New York to Bangkok: $44
- Los Angeles to Sydney: $66
Both of those amounts are very similar to what the taxes and fees would be on revenue ticket, less the fuel surcharges.
Please let us know in the comments if anyone has booked an Emirates flight with JAL miles to a place other than the United Arab Emirates recently and what the out of pocket expenses where.
Emirates First Class on an A380 has showers available onboard.
Both First Class and Business Class passengers have access to an onboard bar (First Class also has another private bar with premium liquors and champagne).
Here are links to past trip reports–each one as an index at the top to see other posts in the series.
- Auckland to Sydney in Emirates First Class on an A380
- Dubai to Houston in Emirates First Class on an A380
Booking an Award with Your JAL Miles on Emirates
Find award space at alaskaair.com and book by calling JAL at 1-800-JAL-FONE (1-800-525-3663) from 9 AM – 9 PM ET Monday through Friday and 10 AM – 6 PM ET on weekends and holidays. You can’t book online, and despite that fact, there is a $20 phone booking fee.
How to Get Japan Airlines Miles
The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership. Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
The sign-up bonuses from these two cards coupled with the points earned from spending to meet the requirements for the bonuses garners you at least 58,000 Starpoints. Sixty thousand Starpoints transfer to 75,000 JAL miles.
SPG is currently running a promotion through April 15, 2016. You can buy 20,000 Starpoints–which transfer to 25,000 JAL miles–for $525 or 2.625 cents per point (2.1 cents per mile). The maximum amount you can buy is 30,000 Starpoints for $787.50 (2.6 cents per mile). I wouldn’t buy these points speculatively, but if you have an Emirates redemption in mind and are short some Starpoints I would consider purchasing to top off your account. The Starwood Preferred Guest program is known for running these purchase discounts relatively often, so keep an eye out if you have your sights set on showering at 35,000 feet.
Transferring Starpoints to JAL Mileage Bank
One of the variables to remember when using your Starpoints for airline redemptions is how long it will take them to transfer from your SPG account to the airline you want to redeem on. The transfer time to Japan Airlines varies. The latest FlyerTalk post on the subject reports a wait time of 5 days, but some people report having to wait two weeks. Online information as to whether or not Japan Airlines will hold your award is not defined, but it’s certainly worth trying– call and speak to a representative at JAL Mileage Bank 1-800-JAL-FONE (1-800-525-3663) and explain you have to wait for your Starwood Preferred Guest points to transfer to your Japan Airlines Mileage Bank account.
Redeeming Alaska Airlines miles used to be an affordable way of booking premium cabin awards on Emirates. That is no longer the case as award prices have inflated 67% to 100%. Japan Airlines miles, which are most easily accumulated as Starwood Preferred Guest points since the airline is a 1:1 transfer partner, are now the best miles to use to book the sought after Emirates First Class on an A380.
JAL’s routing rules and fuel surcharges’ policy have improved in the last few years, so it’s now even easier to book the award you want. Just remember it can take some time move points between accounts if you plan on using your SPG points for the redemption.