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Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines hugely devalued their award chart for travels on Emirates. In some cases, award prices doubled overnight, and many customers were understandably upset about the changes. This leaves Japan Airlines JAL miles as one of the major ways to redeem tickets on Emirates A380 First Class.
Emirates has an aspirational First Class product on their A380, complete with an onboard shower spa. They also fly to a good number of US cities, making them much more accessible than other Gulf carriers.
The Alaska Airlines Way is No Longer Appealing
With Alaska’s devaluation, the cost for awards are now as follows:
- North America to India/Middle East: 165,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Africa: 240,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Asia: 210,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Europe: 210,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to India/Middle East: 300,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Africa: 400,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Asia: 360,000 miles roundtrip
- North America to Europe: 360,000 miles roundtrip
Bank of America has a co-branded credit card with Alaska, but otherwise Alaska miles can be hard to come by. For those who are earning miles purely from flying, an Emirates First Class trip could mean multiple years of flying…and for one ticket only!
Japan Airlines to the Rescue?
One of the alternative ways to book award travel on Emirates is through Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank. Japan Airlines has a distance based award chart, and their partnership with Emirates makes some good receptions possible.
Accruing JAL Miles
One major problem was the fact that JAL miles are hard to come by, since their only notable transfer partner is SPG. You can earn SPG points by staying at Starwood hotels, or by using the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. You can also credit oneworld flights to JAL, but they have a pretty bad accrual rate, especially if you are flying in coach.
With the merger between Marriott and SPG, you can also transfer Marriott points to SPG. Additionally, because Marriott is a transfer partner of Chase, you can actually transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to JAL. This is, of course, done at a horrible rate. However, if all you have is Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you now at least have the opportunity to redeem for Emirates.
It’s worth noting that you can directly transfer Marriott miles to JAL, but the conversion rate is absolutely horrendous. You will get a much better deal if you first convert your Marriott points into SPG points, and then to JAL miles.
Book Emirates First Class with JAL Milleage Bank Miles
JAL Mileage Bank has a distance based award chart, and have access to award seats 330 days out. Here are the essentials of their routing rules:
- Maximum of 6 segments on an itinerary
- Maximum of 3 stopovers on an itinerary (cities cannot repeat)
- A city can only be on an itinerary a maximum of 3 times
- 1 open jaw allowed
One-way itineraries are allowed. However, since it’s a distance-based award chart, there is some “economies of scale” involved here. For example, if you fly a 5,000-mile route one-way, it costs 65,000 miles to fly First Class; with a round-trip, you will pay 100,000 miles for the 10,000-mile journey. All in all, booking round-trip costs less than two one-ways.
JAL does not charge fuel surcharges on award tickets on Emirates, which is great. They do charge taxes, but these are quite minimal to the the Middle East and Asia. For instance, fees on tickets from the US to the UAE max out at $78.20 roundtrip.
There are a few things to keep in mind with redeeming JAL miles for Emirates. First of all, you can’t book Emirates flights online, so you will have to call JAL (1-800-JAL-FONE, or 1-800-525-3663) to ticket your itinerary.
Additionally, even though JAL partners with both oneworld carriers and Emirates, you cannot mix and match Emirates with other oneworld airlines, or other partner airlines. This is partly because Japan Airlines has a separate award chart for oneworld redemptions. You can, however, include Japan Airlines in the same itinerary with Emirates.
For example, You cannot fly Emirates to Beijing, and then connect on China Eastern (JAL partner) on the same ticket. You also won’t be able to fly American Airlines (oneworld partner) from Cleveland to New York, and then connect to an Emirates flight. This means you will have either fly out of an Emirates US gateway, or position yourself there.
Emirates flies to the following US cities, and the ones with asterisks (*) denote A380 services.
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – begins December 15, 2016
- Houston (IAH)
- Los Angeles (LAX) *
- New York (JFK) * – also between New York and Milan (MXP) *
- Orlando (MCO)
- San Francisco (SFO) *
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington (IAD) *
The Shortest Emirates A380 Flights
For those who only care about trying Emirates First Class and the A380 shower spa, there are a few short routes. As we saw with the JAL award chart above, any itinerary less than 2,000 miles costs 60,000 miles in First Class. If you pony up 65,000 miles, you fly Emirates First Class for up to 4,000 miles.
Here are the only Emirates A380 flight less than 1,000 miles:
- 530 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Kuwait (KWI)
Here are all the Emirates A380 flights less than 2,000 miles:
- 1,049 miles: Hong Kong (HKG) – Bangkok (BKK)
- 1,057 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Jeddah (JED)
- 1,198 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Mumbai (BOM)
- 1,345 miles: Auckland (AKL) – Sydney (SYD)
- 1,428 miles: Auckland (AKL) – Brisbane (BNE)
- 1,643 miles: Melbourne (MEL) – Auckland (AKL)
Here are all the Emirates A380 flights less than 4,000 miles:
- 2,261 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Moscow (DME)
- 2,626 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Vienna (VIE)
- 2,702 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Rome (FCO)
- 2,776 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Prague (PRG)
- 2,839 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Munich (MUC)
- 2,929 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Milan (MXP)
- 2,966 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Zurich (ZRH)
- 2,996 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Copenhagen (CPH)
- 3,012 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Frankfurt (FRA)
- 3,050 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Bangkok (BKK)
- 3,113 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Dusseldorf (DUS)
- 3,144 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Mauritius (MRU)
- 3,215 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Amsterdam (AMS)
- 3,212 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Barcelona (BCN)
- 3,405 miles: Dubai (DXB) – London (LGW)
- 3,421 miles: Dubai (DXB) – London (LHR)
- 3,448 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- 3,486 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Birmingham (BHX)
- 3,516 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Madrid (MAD)
- 3,518 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Manchester (MAN)
- 3,628 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Guangzhou (CAN)
- 3,639 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Beijing (PEK)
- 3,633 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Singapore (SIN)
- 3,684 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Hong Kong (HKG)
- 3,918 miles: Melbourne (MEL) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- 3,970 miles: Dubai (DXB) – Johannesburg (JNB) – begins Feb 1, 2015
It’s worth noting that the flight between New York (JFK) and Milan (MXP) is technically only 3,995 miles. However, for redemption purposes, Japan Airlines apparently counts the JFK-MXP route as 4,007 miles. This is a huge bummer, because it’s the only “sub-4000 mile” flight that touches the US.
If you fly a roundtrip though, the difference is negligible. That is because JAL charges 100,000 for First Class itineraries between 6,001 – 10,000 miles. This is another example I’d cover, where you can fly from New York JFK to Milan in Emirates First Class for 100,000 JAL miles roundtrip.
In addition to the above, there are also a few “sweet spots” in a distance based chart. You can mix and match destinations until you achieve a routing that fits right under the threshold. Here, I will illustrate two examples, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast.
With a distance-based chart and , there are several sweet spots that allows you to maximize your trip. The fact that Emirates operates a direct flight between the US and Europe also adds some flexibility in routings.
For example, the route New York – Milan – Dubai – Bangkok – Dubai – New York is 19,897 miles. This falls just under the 20,000 mile threshold, meaning you could redeem 155,000 JAL Miles for the ticket in First Class. Let’s break this itinerary down:
- New York to Milan (stopover #1)
- Milan to Dubai (layover)
- Dubai to Bangkok (destination)
- Bangkok to Dubai (stopover #2)
- Dubai to New York
This itinerary has 5 segments and 2 stopovers, and Dubai only appeared on the itinerary 2 times, so you are comfortable within the JAL routing rules. Additionally, since the A380 operates all of the above routes, you can count on the “best” Emirates First Class experience on all flights.
Note that you will only be able to stop in Dubai once, either during the outbound or return. This is because JAL only allows you to make a stopover in each city once.
There are also sweet spots for those in the West Coast. Take this route: Los Angeles – Dubai – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Dubai – Los Angeles, which clocks in at 24,461 miles. This falls just under the 25,000 mile threshold, meaning you could redeem 200,000 JAL Miles for the ticket in First Class. Let’s break this itinerary down:
- Los Angeles to Dubai (layover)
- Dubai to Bangkok (stopover #1)
- Bangkok to Hong Kong (destination)
- Hong Kong to Dubai (stopover #2)
- Dubai to Los Angeles
This itinerary also has 5 segments and 2 stopovers, and Dubai only appeared on the itinerary 2 time. All of these fall within the routing rules of JAL. All of these routes area also operated by the A380, so you can have the best Emirates First Class experience.
These are just some examples of the routings you could achieve, and you can of course include open jaws in the tickets and play with the distance to find something you like.
Japan Airlines has pretty generous routing rules, and their distance based award chart creates a few ways that allow you to maximize your redemption. Not being able to redeem your ticket online is annoying, but Japan Airlines has a California-based call center. You can call them at 1-800-525-3663 to ticket your award.
As part of oneworld, there are tons of other amazing awards you can use your JAL points for. However, I know Emirates has a special place in many people’s heart (and bucket lists). If you have a healthy balance of SPG points (from stays or from the SPG credit card) or JAL miles, and you want to experience a shower in 30,000 feet or a cabin with so much bling it could blind you, Emirates could be a worthy redemption.