Skip to content

Update: Emirates first class awards now only available through some partners

April 21, 2021
5 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor's Note

This post has been updated with new information. 

Emirates offers one of the best first-class products in the sky. Select Boeing 777s feature fully enclosed suites, while the A380s offer unique amenities like onboard showers and bars. Either way, flying in Emirates first class is a bucket-list experience.

While some people might spend north of $10,000 on a round-trip ticket, we at TPG recommend using your points and miles instead.

There used to be many ways to book a suite. You were able to book with either Emirates' own loyalty program, Skywards, or through a host of partners like Alaska Airlines. However, there are now a lot fewer partners you could book these coveted awards through.

Luckily, this news might not be as bad as it sounds.

For more TPG news, deals and points and miles tips delivered each morning to your inbox, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Emirates limiting first-class awards to some partners

As we reported in November, Emirates was going to limit first-class redemptions beginning April 1, 2021.

There was an update on Alaska's award chart stating,

Beginning April 1, 2021, Emirates will no longer allow partner access to First Class award bookings. Mileage Plan members can continue to redeem on the Emirates’ award-winning Economy Class and Business Class. Business Class redemptions include complimentary lounge access and regionally inspired gourmet dishes.

Alaska confirmed that this isn't just limited to Mileage Plan awards. The Seattle-based carrier told TPG that Emirates is cutting off first-class award space to all partners, not just to Alaska.

The Dubai-based carrier has parked many of its aircraft equipped with larger first-class cabins, putting pressure on capacity. This, combined with the displacement cost of a redemption booking during a time of depressed revenue, led to the decision.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Fortunately, this announcement didn't end up being as bad as it seemed.

When April came around, we noticed that certain partners continued to have access to Emirates first class award space. In a statement to TPG, an Emirates spokesperson explained,

After a careful review of operational considerations, Emirates can confirm that starting from 1 April 2021, First Class Rewards will be exclusively available to Emirates Skywards members as well as members of select strategic airline partners that offer mutual benefits to our customers. We remain committed to providing our members with excellent service and unmatched rewards in the air and on-ground.

While Emirates didn't share a list of the "select strategic airline partners," our searches confirmed that JAL Mileage Bank and Qantas continued to offer Emirates first-class awards. So the only major loss, at the time, was for Alaska Mileage Plan members.

Emirates' first-class suite on the Boeing 777 (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, this bit of relief will be short-lived. As TPG reader Jesse G. pointed out, JAL has published an update on its website explaining that Emirates first-class awards will no longer be available starting Sep. 1, 2021. Any awards booked before then for travel at a later date will continue to be honored.

As of now, Qantas members should continue to have access to these awards. Of course, it wouldn't be surprising if this changes down the line as well.

Booking Emirates first-class awards

It's pretty easy to search for Emirates award space on the Qantas website. The program offers a calendar view that shows an entire month of availability in one place. Plus, you can filter your search by cabin.

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

(Screenshot courtesy of Qantas.com)

Redemption rates vary by distance, but to give you an idea, a round-trip first-class award between New York-JFK and Dubai costs 165,000 miles with JAL and 284,600 with Qantas. You could also book Emirates’ fifth freedom route between New York-JFK and Milan (resuming June 1) for 135,000 miles with JAL and 205,200 with Qantas. Taxes and fees should be roughly comparable between programs.

Related: The best programs for booking Emirates awards

Luckily, the Emirates Skywards program is still a solid option for booking Emirates first class. It was overlooked because the airline tacked massive fuel surcharges to premium cabin awards, but those have since been significantly reduced. The program now charges 170,000 miles for a round-trip first-class award from New York-JFK to Milan or 272,500 miles to Dubai and around $150 in taxes and fees.

Another perk of Skywards is that you can currently transfer points from all the major credit card currencies at the following rates:

Related: Best ways to redeem Emirates Skywards miles for maximum value

Bottom line

Emirates is limiting the number of partners you could book first-class awards even further than it already has. However, it's not all bad news since members are being given plenty of notice and some major programs like Qantas should continue to have access. Also, Emirates' own Skywards program remains easily accessible and a solid value for booking first-class awards.

Additional reporting by Zach Griff.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023