Alaska Airlines and Emirates have announced the upcoming end to their partnership but despite a July 31st termination date, aspects of the arrangement have already ended it would appear.
Official Close Date
On June 2, 2021, Alaska Airlines and Emirates have announced the termination of their codeshare and loyalty program with an effective date of July 31, 2021. The announcement made earlier this week came as little shock to Alaska Mileage Plan members who have seen the carrier transition from a unique solo airline to a oneworld member airline. Qatar Airways is a key oneworld member, its CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al-Baker is the incoming chair of the alliance. Qatar competes heavily with Emirates for premium traffic through the Middle East.
The quick dissolution of Alaska’s partnership with Emirates is a bit of a shock as these things usually take more time. For members of Mileage Plan, there are few days left to book Emirates Skywards award bookings or earn miles with the carrier.
However, even with such a small window, opportunities are already fading away for those who want to take one last Emirates flight with Mileage Plan miles.
Premium Space Disappears
Matthew covered the removal of first-class bookings on Emirates for Alaska Mileage Plan members just a few months ago. It appears that even sooner than stated, the remaining premium space has dried up. I shopped flights from both New York (all airports) and Los Angeles to verify the vanishing space. To save you the trouble, on the below calendars, “70k + $5XX” represents British Airways availability while “82.5k + $20”
Here’s the availability from New York airports to Dubai in business class for June:
And here’s the availability from New York airports to Dubai in business class for July. Note that every day but July 1st is out for Emirates but shows availability for British Airways with a stop in London for fewer miles but excessive fuel surcharges:
Emirates shows the same decent availability (fewer flights) from LAX for June, but then nothing in July.
It makes sense why Emirates wouldn’t want to honor premium class space for a partner that it would no longer serve, they don’t want to secure a bunch of bookings for a discounted rate and they have no reason to honor the spirit of the agreement. However, we also don’t know that it was even Emirates’s choice. Perhaps Alaska simply didn’t want to pay an elevated rate for a partner that would soon go away regardless.
To holders of Alaska Mileage Plan points, it remains disappointing.
Targeting a Redemption
Coach awards are available from both markets every day there is a flight for 42K on Emirates without the same limitation. While the partnership that allows Alaska flyers to earn Skywards Miles and its inverse for paid flights may finish at the end of July, redemptions have been stopped short by an entire month.
As a travel blogger, it’s a rite of passage to fly in a premium cabin on Emirates and something I, shamefully, have not yet experienced. Over the last year, even when flights operated and could be delivered to destinations where Americans were accepted, the experience once in-country wouldn’t be desirable so we have fought the urge even when permitted to fly.
However, as the world reopens, there is this very tiny window that still allows Alaska Mileage Plan travelers to experience Emirates’ premium product, so long as they can fly in the next couple of weeks.
I want to enjoy as much of the Emirates experience with the limited opportunity available, from the onboard product to lounge access in Dubai – who doesn’t want to get a haircut on a layover? The real question is now that we can leave the United States for plenty of options globally, where will we go and can we find the rest of the experience we are looking for on a no-notice trip to the other side of the world?
I’ll be sure to report back my success or failure on this shotgun trip.
Despite Alaska and Emirates announcing an end to their relationship in short order, and then further reduced availability to actually fly the carrier in business class, this is not the only way to access Emirates flights using miles. There is always cash as well, though that’s probably a bit further off for our family of three. I can’t speak to whether Alaska has reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed Emirates limitation for premium cabins, but regardless, this is the hand we have been dealt. I know how I will play it, how will you?
What do you think? Did you scoop up last-minute space following the announcement? Any tips for a potential first-time Emirates flyer?