AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.
Emirates Airlines' first class has long been one of the most sought-after award redemptions. At the same time, redeeming points and miles for Emirates first class has always been somewhat of a challenge. In recent years, this redemption has only become more difficult to book.
In the past few years, three of the last few remaining partners with access to Emirates first class award space (Alaska Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air) lost access to this coveted award space. Then, when everything looked bleak, Air Canada's Aeroplan program gained access to Emirates award space — including in first class.
With all of that factored in, how do you book Emirates first class award tickets in 2023? Let's take a look.
- One-by-One, Partner Airlines Lose Access to Emirates First Class Award Space
- Emirates Skywards: The Best Way to Book Emirates First Class Awards
- Booking Emirates First Class Through Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Newest Way to Book Emirates First Class: Air Canada Aeroplan
- The Bottom Line
One-by-One, Partner Airlines Lose Access to Emirates First Class Award Space
In the past, accessing Emirates first-class award space was a lot more achievable. Sure, it wasn't the easiest of award redemptions. However, with a little time and effort, you could usually find first-class award space offered through Emirates' partner airlines.
Three of Emirates' best-known partners — Alaska Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air — once allowed travelers to book Emirates first-class at a pretty good value. But, both airlines have now lost access to Emirates first class award space.
Alaska Airlines terminated its partnership with Emirates on August 1, 2021. Even before that, Emirates first-class awards weren't available through the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program since April 1, 2021. Soon after, Japan Airlines lost access to Emirates first class award space on September 1, 2021. Now, Korean Air's SKYPASS program has also lost access to first-class award space.
Which Airline Partners Still Have Access to Emirates Award Availability?
For travelers hoping to bypass Emirates' own frequent flyer program (Skywards), there are just two partner airlines that have access to Emirates first class award space: Qantas' Frequent Flyer and Air Canada Aeroplan. We will dive into those options below.
But first, let's look at the generally best way to book an Emirates first-class award using points and miles in 2023. Thanks to transfer partners and a beefed-up Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program, the best way to book Emirates first class is generally through Emirates' own Skywards program. Here's how to book Emirates first class with Skywards miles.
Emirates Skywards: The Best Way to Book Emirates First Class Awards
As Emirates restricted partner award access to its first class cabins, it made improvements to its Skywards frequent flyer program. What was once a lackluster program offering very little value to travelers has improved significantly — recent changes notwithstanding.
Now, the best way for you to access Emirates first-class awards is by transferring points and miles to the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program. Here are your options for doing so.
Transferable Points That Transfer to Emirates Skywards
You don't need to rack up or purchase Skywards miles to fly Emirates first class. In fact, you might even have enough points or miles for a first-class award right now and not even know it.
Emirates has a long list of partners. From hotels to credit cards, there is no shortage of partners from which you can transfer points or miles to your Skywards account. As of writing this post, here are just some of the programs that are transfer partners with the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program:
Which Emirates Skywards Transfer Partners Are Best?
Not all transfer partners offer the same value to travelers. In fact, some partners (i.e. IHG) offer horrendous value on transfers to the Emirates Skywards program. Here are the best and worst transfer partners for Emirates Skywards transfers.
- American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1 transfer ratio
- Capital One Venture Miles: 1:1 transfer ratio
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1:1 transfer ratio
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: 1:1 transfer ratio
- Bilt Rewards: 1:1 transfer ratio
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 transfer ratio — plus get a bonus of 5,000 Skywards miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred
For the latest points and miles valuations on these programs, click this link.
|Transfer Partner||Approximate Value per Point/Mile||Value "Cost" Per Skywards Mile|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.01¢ per point||2.01¢ per mile|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.15¢ per point||2.15¢ per mile|
|Bilt Rewards||2.22¢ per point||2.22¢ per point|
|Citi ThankYou Rewards||2.2¢ per point||2.2¢ per mile|
|Brex Rewards||1.66¢ per point||2.49 cents per mile|
|Capital One Venture Miles||2.66¢ per point||2.66¢ per mile|
|Marriott Bonvoy||0.95¢ per point||2.85 cents per mile|
|IHG One Rewards||0.69¢ per point||3.45 cents per mile|
|Hilton Honors||0.58¢ per point||5.8 cents per mile|
Buying Skywards Miles
Buying miles is one way to quickly build up a large balance of Emirates Skywards miles, and Emirates recently put Skywards miles on sale for 2.1 cents each.
Unfortunately, there is a caveat when it comes to buying frequent flyer miles through the Skywards program. You need to earn miles first before you can even begin to think about buying miles. Emirates is one of the only airlines with such a requirement.
Emirates First Class Award Rates
One major change for 2023 is how many Skywards miles you'll need to book first class award travel. In December 2022, Emirates devalued the Skywards program. This means the number of Skywards miles you'll need to book first class has increased significantly. Most Skywards awards are now 20% more expensive than before this devaluation.
Here's what this devaluation looks like when searching for first class award space:
|Origin Airport||Destination||Miles Required (before December 2022, each way)||Miles Required (after December 2022, each way)|
|New York City (JFK)||Dubai (DXB)||136,250||165,500|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||Dubai (DXB)||155,000||186,000|
|Newark (EWR)||Athens (ATH)||85,000||102,000|
|New York (JFK)||Milan (MXP)||85,000||102,000|
|London (LHR)||Dubai (DXB)||85,000||102,000|
|Vienna (VIE)||Dubai (DXB)||85,000||102,000|
For a more detailed look into redeeming Emirates Skywards miles, check out AwardWallet's guide to the Skywards program.
Booking Emirates First Class Through Qantas Frequent Flyer
The last long-standing partner airline that still has access to Emirates first class is the Qantas Frequent flyer program. As a last resort, you may be able to redeem Qantas Frequent Flyer miles for first class award space on Emirates.
First off, here's how many Qantas Frequent Flyer miles you will need to book Emirates first class:
- New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB): 149,800 miles (one-way)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB): 170,800 miles (one-way)
- London (LHR) to Dubai (DXB): 89,800 miles (one-way)
- Paris (CDG) to Dubai (DXB): 89,800 miles (one-way)
Unless the Qantas Frequent Flyer program is your primary airline loyalty program, you're probably going to be short on miles. Luckily, you can find a few transfer partners that can help you.
List of Qantas Transfer Partners
- American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1 transfer ratio (increments of 500 points)
- Capital One Venture Miles: 1:1 transfer ratio (increments of 1,000 points)
- IHG Rewards: 5:1 transfer ratio (increments of 10,000 points)
- Hilton Honors: 20:3 ratio (increments of 10,000 points)
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 ratio (minimum 3,000 points) – a bonus of 5,000 miles is awarded for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred
- World of Hyatt: 5:2 ratio (increments of 5,000 points)
If you were to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program for a first class award flight on Emirates from New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB), you would need 449,400 Bonvoy points. That figure does not include the added 5,000 bonus you will earn for every 60,000 points transferred. Even with that bonus, transferring Bonvoy points to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program isn't a great way to maximize the value of your points.
Arguably the best transfer partner on this list, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio. If you were hoping to redeem Qantas Frequent Flyer miles for a first class award on Emirates, you will need the equivalent number of American Express points rounded up to the next 1,000 points. That is, if you need 149,800 Qantas Frequent Flyer miles, you will need to transfer 150,000 Membership Rewards points to your account.
Emirates Skywards is also an American Express transfer partner and that Skywards members have better luck finding first class award space. Due to this, it's a better idea to transfer Membership Rewards straight to your Skywards account, as opposed to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account.
Newest Way to Book Emirates First Class: Air Canada Aeroplan
The past few years have not been kind to travelers looking to redeem points for Emirates first class. However, there is finally some good news. In 2022, Emirates and Air Canada announced a new partnership.
Later in the year, most class of service on flights operated by Emirates became bookable with Aeroplan points. This included Emirates first class.
So, should you redeem Aeroplan points to book Emirates first class? Does the Aeroplan partner award chart offer good value for Emirates redemptions? The answer is not a resounding yes or no. But, generally, yes, Aeroplan redemptions for flights on Emirates offer solid value.
Aeroplan Partner Award Chart for Emirates
|0-2,000||15,000 to 35,000 points||30,000 to 77,500 points||65,000 to 175,000 points|
|2,001-5,000||21,000 to 65,000 points||45,000 to 140,000 points||110,000 to 325,000 points|
|5,001-9,000||40,000 to 85,000 points||80,000 to 185,000 points||225,000 to 475,000 points|
|9,001-12,000||60,000 to 110,000 points||120,000 to 225,000 points||300,000 to 600,000 points|
|12,001+||85,000 to 150,000 points||180,000 to 300,000 points||400,000 to 750,000 points|
What makes redeeming Aeroplan points for Emirates first class a good value is the lack of any carrier-imposed fees or surcharges. In short, Aeroplan is the only Emirates partner that doesn't pass any fees or surcharges on to its members. So, the lack of fees increases the value of the award redemptions.
However, as you can see from the award chart above, the award redemption rates aren't amazing. You'll need a nice stash of Aeroplan points to book Emirates first class. But, assuming you're ready to swallow the hefty redemption rates, you won't incur any fees or surcharges.
In short, Aeroplan awards for travel on Emirates should elicit a mixed reaction. Overall, the addition of Aeroplan to the list of partners that can access Emirates first class award space is a fantastic development for travelers.
The Bottom Line
Sure, it's quite clear that redeeming points or miles for Emirates first class has become more challenging. However, there are still a few ways to book first class award space on Emirates. Skywards has become a much more well-rounded program with a long list of transfer partners. This means that you can indirectly book Emirates first class using American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, or Chase Ultimate Rewards points, among others.
The Qantas Frequent Flyer program still allows members to redeem miles for Emirates first class. Compared to the Emirates Skywards program, Qantas' program offers far less value when booking first class award space on Emirates.
Then, starting late last year, Aeroplan members gained access to award space on flights operated by Emirates, including first class. While Aeroplan award redemptions rates for travel on Emirates aren't phenomenal, the lack of carrier-imposed fees and surcharges make Aeroplan a solid partner through which to book first class awards.
In short, the best way to book Emirates first class award space is by using Skywards miles. Whether you've earned Skywards miles through travel or by transferring points or miles from partners, Skywards is almost always the best method to book first class awards on Emirates.
Have you had any luck booking Emirates first class using points or miles? What program would you pick to redeem points or miles for first class on Emirates?
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.