Update: See the comments for reports that fuel surcharges are being collected by JAL on Emirates flights.

Yesterday I panned the Emirates frequent flyer program for its exorbitant miles prices and fuel surcharges to enjoy Emirates Business and First Class.

But flying Emirates First Class on an A380 is awesome–there’s an onboard shower and bar–so I want to give everyone the cheapest ways to use miles to put a truly luxury experience within reach.

Fully Flat Bed in Your Emirates First Class Suite
Fully Flat Bed in Your Emirates First Class Suite

There are two programs that offer Emirates First Class and Business Class redemptions at reasonable rates:

  • Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Each program offers a better rate in certain situations, but both offer sweet spots that get you into Emirates First Class and Business Class at reasonable miles prices with no fuel surcharges. And you can quickly get the miles needed in each program even if you don’t currently have an account with either airline and never plan to fly to Japan or Alaska.

What are the redemption prices for Emirates First and Business Class with Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines miles? When do you use one program, and when do you use the other. How can you get Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines miles?

Redemptions of Alaska Airlines Miles for Emirates Flights

Alaska Airlines allows one way and roundtrip redemptions of its miles for Emirates flights in economy, business, or first class. The redemptions must begin in North America and can go to Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.

The major Emirates awards you might want to book with Alaska miles that you can’t book are the US to Europe on Emirates’ JFK to Milan route and the US to Australia/New Zealand via Dubai on two long haul Emirates flights.

But other than for those missing routes, Alaska miles are a great option to fly Emirates First Class and Business Class. The award charts are a bit steep, but otherwise very customer-friendly.

Here is the chart from the US to the Middle East, India, or Africa. Each way in First Class is 90,000 Alaska miles to the Middle East or India and 100,000 miles to Africa.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.35.56 PM

Here’s the chart to the rest of Asia. It’s 75k miles one way for two longhaul Business Class flights–US to Dubai, Dubai to East Asia–or 100k miles for two longhaul First Class flights with a shower.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.36.19 PM

The best four things about redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates flights:

1. Emirates award space is searchable at alaskaair.com (or via the Alaska Airlines mobile app.) By the way, this is the best place to search whether you’re using Alaska miles or Japan Airlines miles.

2. Alaska doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Emirates flights. You only pay government taxes, which are very low out of Dubai. For instance, New York to Dubai costs about $68 per roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.53.36 PM

3. You can book one ways for half the price of roundtrips. I’ll show below that you cannot do this with Japan Airlines miles. Since the awards are so expensive, it’s nice to be able to treat yourself to Emirates First Class one way and return home with any other type of miles that allows one way awards.

One way booking also means you can mix-and-match cabins. See above for a screen shot of one way in First Class and one way in Business Class for 162,500 miles.

4. You can book stopovers on one way awards! Dubai–Emirates’ hub–seems like a place I would enjoy for a few days, but not much longer, and it’s zero extra miles to add a stop in Dubai for a few days on the way somewhere else.

Simply search for a multi-city award from your city to Dubai and from Dubai to the final destination. In this case I’m searching New York to Dubai to Beijing.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.58.20 PM

The results will show the normal price, including a free stopover in Dubai. Note that this itinerary is listed as 111 hours and 5 minutes because of the nearly four day stopover in Dubai. Click the Details link for more info like dates and operating aircrafts.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.58.09 PM

The three drawbacks of booking with Alaska miles:

1. The miles prices are a little steep, though cheaper than using United miles on partner flights to the same regions starting February 1, 2014.

2. You can’t combine partners in a single direction. To book Emirates flights, your award either needs to be all Emirates flights or all Emirates and Alaska flights. You can, of course, fly Emirates one way and British Airways on the return with Alaska miles because you can book one way awards.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.12.28 PM

3. Your awards have to begin in North America. I often advocate getting into incredible products cheaply on faraway flights like Etihad First from Europe to Abu Dhabi or Qantas First from Abu Dhabi to London. You cannot fly Auckland to Sydney–or something similarly short and cheap–in Emirates First with Alaska miles.

Redemptions of Japan Airlines (JAL) Miles for Emirates Flights

Luckily JAL has a very different redemption system than Alaska. I say “luckily” because the more different our options are, the more relative sweetspots each one will have.

JAL allows only roundtrip redemptions of its miles for Emirates flights in economy, business, or first class. The redemptions can be on any Emirates flights. The cost is determined by the total length of all flown segments and ground segments (open jaws.)

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.33.31 PM

On a distance-based chart, the sweet spots are at the top end of each distance band. On this one, I also think that 8,001 – 20,000 mile trips are a much better deal than shorter or longer trips.

Let me give a few examples of roundtrip flight distances, so you can see how many Japan Airlines miles you’d need for the trip.

Economy/Business/First Class Roundtrip Prices in Thousands of JAL Miles

21/42/65 Auckland to Sydney (2,690 miles)

39/63/100 New York to Milan (7,990 miles)

55/85/135 New York to Dubai (13,698 miles)

60/100/155 LAX to Dubai (16,678 miles)

60/100/155 New York to Dubai to Bangkok (19,798 miles)

What strikes me is that all the prices are really cheap! Sixty-three thousand miles to Europe roundtrip in Business Class or only 155k to Southeast Asia in First Class, when Alaska wanted 200k.

The best four things about redeeming Alaska miles for Emirates flights:

1. JAL doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Emirates flights. You only pay government taxes, which are very low out of Dubai as discussed above.

2. The price of roundtrip awards is far lower than with Alaska miles and far lower than the new United chart for example. This is especially true in economy and business class, but I’m sure most of us are looking at Emirates First Class.

3. 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.

4. Your awards can begin anywhere, not just in North America. I’m a traveler, so sometimes I’m in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Auckland, or somewhere else outside the US. It’s nice to have the flexibility to begin awards outside the US.

The five drawbacks of booking Emirates flights with JAL miles:

1. You can’t book one way awards. Alaska and JAL miles are attainable, but they aren’t as easy to get in quantity as, say United or Delta miles, so it would be nice to have a one-way, half-price option.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.35.05 PM

2. You only get six segments on your entire award.

3. Your origin city and the last city on your return must be in the same country.

4. An open jaw counts as one of your stopovers and the distance between the open jaw cities counts as distance traveled on the chart.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.35.31 PM

5. You can’t book online. Find award space at alaskaair.com and book by calling JAL at 800-JAL-FONE from 9 AM – 9 PM ET Monday through Friday and 10 AM – 6 PM ET on weekends and holidays.

Getting Alaska and JAL Miles

Alaska Airlines miles are easier to get than JAL miles because Bank of America releases an Alaska Airlines personal and business card:

Both Alaska and JAL miles are partners of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, so Starpoints transfer 1:1 to each program with a 5k mile bonus for every 20k points transferred. There are personal and business versions of the SPG card.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months

There are also currently options to buy Alaska miles and Starpoints a little cheaper than usual.

You can buy up to 54,000 Alaska miles for $1,182.50 or 2.19 cents per mile until December 20, 2013.

You can buy up to 20k Starpoints–which transfer to 25k JAL or Alaska miles–for $525 or 2.625 cents per point (2.1 cents per mile) until December 13, 2013.

Getting both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and its business version and meeting their minimum spending requirements would be 60k Starpoints. Buying 20k more would get you to 80k Starpoints, which could transfer to 100k JAL miles, enough for a roundtrip to Milan in First Class or a roundtrip much farther away in business class.

Or you could transfer those 80k Starpoints to 100k Alaska miles and add on by purchasing up to 54k more Alaska miles and getting both Alaska cards for 55k more Alaska miles, putting your total at 209k Alaska miles, enough for a roundtrip in First Class–and four longhaul segments on a shower-equipped A380–to Asia or Africa.

It would be tough to quickly regenerate your depleted balances in either case, but there’s no reason an American can’t get one roundtrip in Emirates First Class for just the taxes.

Recap

The best way for Americans to fly Emirates First–and take their onboard shower–or Business Class–and relax at the onboard bar–is with Alaska miles or JAL miles. Neither imposes fuel surcharges on Emirates flights.

Alaska awards can be booked one way with a stopover but cost more miles for a roundtrip and must originate in the US.

JAL miles can be used for really cheap redemptions, especially in economy and business class. But you have to book a roundtrip award and JAL miles are harder to get.

Both types of miles are transfer partners of Starwood Preferred Guest. Getting both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and its business version and meeting their minimum spending requirements would be 60k Starpoints. Thost 60k Starpoints would freely transfer to 75k miles in either program.




Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months and 2x points earned on dining and travel spend, this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

Learn More

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.