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 challenging to book.

In 2021, two of the last remaining partners with access to Emirates first class award space (Alaska Airlines and JAL) lost access to Emirates first class. So, how do you book Emirates first class award tickets in 2022?

Passenger seated in Emirates' new first class suite
Here’s how to book Emirates first class awards in 2022. (Image courtesy of Emirates Airline)

One-by-One, Partner Airlines Lose Access to Emirates First Class Award Space

At one time, accessing Emirates first class award space wasn’t all that difficult. Sure, it was by no means the easiest of award redemptions. But, with a little time and effort, one could usually find first-class award space offered through Emirates’ partner airlines. Two of Emirates most popular partners, Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines, 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. However, first class awards have not been 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. So, where does this leave travelers wanting to book Emirates first class?

For travelers hoping to bypass Emirates’ own frequent flyer program, Skywards, there are just two remaining partner airlines that have access to Emirates first class award space.

Members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program and Korean Air’s SKYPASS program can still use their miles for travel in first class on Emirates. However, booking these partner awards through Qantas or Korean Air can be a major hassle, and they typically are not great ways to maximize the value of your points or miles.

So, how do you book an Emirates first class award using points and miles in 2022? 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.

Emirates Skywards: The Best Way to Book Emirates First Class Awards

Emirates has restricted partner access to its first-class cabins. However, you can still access Emirates first-class awards by transferring points and miles to the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program. As a matter of fact, the number of transfer partners from which you can transfer points and miles to Emirates has improved over the years.

You don’t need to rack up or purchase Skywards miles to fly Emirates first class. 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 Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program:

Transfer Partner Partner Points or Miles Skywards Equivalent Transfer Ratio
American Express Membership Rewards 1,000 Membership Rewards Points 1,000 Skywards Miles 1:1
Capital One 1,000 Venture Miles 1,000 Skywards Miles 1:1
Chase Ultimate Rewards 1,000 Ultimate Rewards Points 1,000 Skywards Miles 1:1
Citi ThankYou Rewards 1,000 ThankYou Points 1,000 Skywards Miles 1:1
IHG Rewards 10,000 Rewards Club Points 2,000 Skywards Miles 5:1
Hilton Honors 10,000 Honors Points 1,000 Skywards Miles 1:1
Marriott Bonvoy 3,000 Bonvoy Points 1,000 Skywards Miles 3:1
How To Book Emirates First Class Award Travel in 2021
Top off your Skywards account by transferring points or miles from Emirates’ long list of partners

Maximizing Value with Transfer Partners

There are still a number of ways that you can book Emirates First Class with miles or points earned with transfer partners. However, not all transfer partners offer the same value to travelers. In fact, some partners (IHG), offer horrendous value on transfers to the Emirates Skywards program. Here are the best and worst transfer partners for Emirates Skywards transfers.

Best Value:

  • 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
  • Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 transfer ratio – also, get a bonus of 5,000 Skyward miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred

Worst Value:

  • Hilton Honors: 10:1 transfer ratio
  • IHG Rewards: 5:1 transfer ratio

For the latest points and miles valuations on these programs, click this link.

Transfer Partner Approximate Value per Point/Mile
American Express Membership Rewards 2.41 cents per point
Capital One Venture Miles 3.15 cents per point
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.47 cents per point
Citi ThankYou Rewards 2.37 cents per point
IHG 0.73 cents per point
Hilton Honors 0.62 cents per point
Marriott Bonvoy 1.00 cent per point

Emirates Skywards Isn’t All That Bad

Emirates’ own frequent flyer program, Skywards, has improved in recent years. What was once a lackluster program offering very little in value to travelers has improved significantly. This is especially true when redeeming miles earned from transfer partners. However, buying and earning miles has also improved. Another massive improvement to their program was slashing their excessive fees.

Buying miles is usually the most realistic way to maximize value from Emirates redemptions for travelers based in North America (and we recently saw them on sale for 2.1¢ each). Unfortunately, there is a major caveat when it comes to buying frequent flyer miles through the Skywards program. You need to have first earned miles before you can even begin to think about buying miles. Emirates is one of the only airlines with such a requirement. However, you do not need to have earned any miles to transfer points or miles to the Skywards program.

Here are some sample Emirates first class award redemptions from the US and Europe:

Departure City Arrival City Miles Required (One-Way)
New York City (JFK) Dubai (DXB) 136,250
Los Angeles (LAX) Dubai (DXB) 155,000
Newark (EWR) Athens (ATH) 85,000
New York (JFK) Milan (MXP) 85,000
London (LHR) Dubai (DXB) 85,000
Vienna (VIE) Dubai (DXB) 85,000

For a more detailed look into redeeming Emirates Skywards miles, check out AwardWallet’s guide to the Skywards program.

Emirates New Boeing 777 Suites
Transfer points or miles to Emirates Skywards to book Emirates first class. (Image courtesy of Emirates Airline)

Qantas Frequent Flyer Program

One of the two partner airlines 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, there are a few transfer partners that can help you.

  • 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.

Qantas a380
You can also book Emirates first class through the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. However, this comes with its own challenges and hurdles.

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.

Given that Emirates Skywards is also an American Express transfer partner and that Skywards members have better luck finding first class award space, it’s a better idea to transfer Membership Rewards straight to your Skywards account, as opposed to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account.

Korean Air SKYPASS

As of writing this post, Korean Air SKYPASS members can still technically book Emirates first class awards. However, you wouldn’t know it by looking at Korean Air’s partner award chart. At the moment, only economy and business class awards are shown when viewing Emirates Airline award redemption rates.

To make things worse, Korean Air SKYPASS members cannot book one-way awards on Emirates. Instead, all Emirates awards booked using SKYPASS miles must be round-trip itineraries. On top of that, finding the true cost to redeem SKYPASS miles for first class on Emirates is almost impossible. Finally, booking Emirates awards through the Korean Air SKYPASS program comes with hefty fees and surcharges.

In short, you probably should not redeem SKYPASS miles for Emirates first class. You will have much better luck maximizing the value of your points or miles when you book Emirates first class through Emirates Skywards and even the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8
Korean Air SKYPASS is the second partner airline in this guide with access to Emirates first class. But, good luck finding space and getting any value from your points or miles!

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 number of 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 and Korean Air SKYPASS still allow members to redeem miles for Emirates first class. Compared to the Emirates Skywards program, both programs offer far less value when booking first class award space on Emirates.

In short, the best way to book Emirates first class award space is 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 way 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?

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