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(Update: Fixed!) Alaska Unable to Ticket Many Emirates Awards

July 07, 2017
5 min read
(Update: Fixed!) Alaska Unable to Ticket Many Emirates Awards
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Update 7/21/17: This issue has been resolved — you should once again be able to ticket Emirates award flights via Alaska:

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Airline partnerships can be quite lucrative for both earning and redeeming miles, but that's only when they work properly. Earlier this year, I wrote about Aeroplan's inability to ticket certain partner awards, though the majority of these problems have since been resolved. Unfortunately, another popular program has started running into issues booking award tickets on a key partner airline over the last several weeks: Alaska Airlines is currently having issues booking most awards on Emirates, especially for those in premium classes.

What makes this current problem especially infuriating is that Alaska's website is still showing these flights as available during the search process. It's only when you try to actually ticket the award that you run into issues. This means that you could find availability for your desired travel dates, purchase miles through one of the many promos Alaska offers and then be unable to lock in the award you want.

Here's a quick example (at the time of writing). Let's say you wanted to fly from New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) on Tuesday, November 7. Like an experienced award traveler, you first pull up ExpertFlyer to check inventory for the multiple daily nonstop flights on this route. Fortunately, you see that there are seats in both economy and business class on all three nonstop flights:

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Just to double-check, you then pull up Qantas' search engine and see the exact same results:

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And as a final check, you head to Alaska's website and see the same availability:

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You decide to book the 4:35pm departure in business class, and everything looks good on the Flight Summary page:

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You enter your passenger information, confirm add-ons and enter your payment information. However, when you click Purchase, you get the following error message:

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No matter how many times you try, the same error occurs. Calling doesn't help either, as the agents are unable to confirm the tickets either.

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However, if you wanted to take the exact same flight in economy class, you'll have no problems booking the award ticket. When I followed the exact same steps outlined above for the 4:35pm flight on November 7 but in coach, I had no problem confirming the itinerary:

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Alaska is clearly aware of the problems, as it has the following message posted on its award charts page:

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I reached out to a contact at Alaska Airlines to get additional information on this issue, specifically asking why business and first-class flights were more affected, and here's what she had to say:

"We're well aware of the problem and are working on it, realizing that we're providing an inconsistent experience for our Mileage Plan members. The root of the problem is information technology, or quite simply 'getting two advanced but separate platforms to talk to one another.' We are working in tandem with our friends at Emirates to solve this problem and have made headway, with a recent test showing improvement. We're continuing to work on it and hope to have a full resolution soon."

Personally, I struggle to reconcile this statement with the reality of the situation. If the problem was truly related to the platforms talking to one another, then why wouldn't all award tickets with Emirates be unavailable? The fact that it's still possible to book economy awards but not first or business-class tickets makes me question that it's a communication issue between the two airlines' systems.

In addition, if this truly was a temporary glitch related to IT limitations, why hasn't Alaska stopped showing Emirates award availability on its website? Surely the carrier controls its own search engine, so it seems reasonable to think that Alaska should've immediately removed Emirates from its results once this issue came to light. Instead, these flights are still showing as bookable, even when the carrier knows that they are not.

Bottom Line

If you're wanting to redeem Alaska miles for premium-class awards on Emirates, you may be out of luck for the time being.

One of the best things about partnerships between airlines is the ability to earn and redeem miles across multiple carriers. Unfortunately, this process isn't always seamless, and this is currently the reality of using Alaska miles to book premium-class Emirates awards. While the carrier is hopefully in the process of resolving these concerns, in the meantime it's very frustrating for those members who are trying to lock in award tickets.

What have your experiences been with booking Emirates awards with Alaska miles?