Alaska Airlines has notified its Mileage Plan members that first class award redemptions on Emirates will no longer be available beginning April 1, 2021. Take a deep breath: you still have several months to theoretically book first class awards on Emirates using your Alaska miles.
Alaska Airlines Loses Access To Emirates First Class Awards
A new message on its Emirates award redemption page notes:
Book your First Class award travel with Emirates by March 31, 2021. 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.
This is a sad development. Despite a steep and unannounced devaluation in 2016, Emirates redemptions on Alaska Airlines have remained a relatively good value, allowing access to Emirates first class award space at attractive rates, particularly for routings to Africa and Asia.
The consoling news is that Emirates no longer collects exorbitant fuel surcharges in its own Skywards program. Furthermore, Emirates is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, so the points are relatively easy to come by. While taxes and fees are still higher on Emirates than you will pay with Alaska, the days of $1500 in surcharges for a round-trip to Dubai are long gone. In that sense, this news comes as less of a blow.
Who Initiated This Move?
I’ve reached out to Alaska Airlines for clarification on which side initiated this change, though based upon the wording it appears fairly clear this is a choice by Emirates. If it was merely a compensation issue, Alaska Airlines could have raised the redemption price. The more likely reason is that Emirates saw too many first class bookings being ticketed by Alaska Airlines. I’m just speculating, but this move strikes me as the kind of move Singapore Airlines and SWISS have made in choosing to reserve their first class cabins for guests from their own loyalty program.
However, we’ve seen no announcement from JAL or Qantas yet (two other Emirates partners which allow first class redemptions), so mark this issue as developing.
I don’t encourage the purchase of Alaska miles unless you have a trip ready to book for precisely reasons like this. While I greatly appreciate that Alaska provided notice this time, losing Emirates First Class is losing a cornerstone of MileagePlan in terms of my own personal valuation.
Will this announcement from Alaska Airlines make you less loyal to MileagePlan?
(H/T: Frequent Miler)