Alaska Airlines and Emirates have announced that they will be ending their partnership on 31 July 2021, severing ties after nine years. This means no more earning or burning Alaska Mileage Plan miles on Emirates flights, although some transitionary concessions have been made (see below).
While this loss would have been a much bigger deal a few years ago, the fact of the matter is that the Alaska-Emirates partnership has been progressively devalued to the extent most people in Singapore will barely feel the impact.
Alaska Mileage Plan no longer offers good value Emirates awards
Once upon a time, buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles to redeem Emirates First and Business Class awards was a sensational deal. You could redeem a First Class award from Asia to North America for just 100,000 miles, which worked out to about US$2,000 if you purchased miles during one of Mileage Plan’s regular sales.
But in March 2016, overnight and without notice, Alaska hiked the mileage requirement to 180,000 miles. It represented an incremental US$1,600 of cost for those of us buying miles, practically eliminating the sweet spot. In any case, Emirates removed First Class award space from all of its partners (except Qantas) in April this year.
While there’s arguably still some value in buying Mileage Plan miles for Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines redemptions, I can’t see any case made for Emirates. If you really want to try Emirates’ premium cabin products, it’s a much better idea to redeem them through the Emirates Skywards program, which recently cut its fuel surcharges and started selling miles at a decent-ish rate.
Mileage Plan redemptions for Emirates awards can be made until 30 July 2021, for flights departing up to 330 days later.
Alaska Mileage Plan earn rates for Emirates are decent
Although it’s a bad idea to redeem Mileage Plan miles for Emirates awards, there’s nothing wrong with earning them on Emirates flights. In fact, Mileage Plan offers some very generous accrual rates of up to 350% of the actual miles flown, depending on your fare class:
|Business||J, C, O, I||100%||125%||225%||125%|
|Economy||Y, E, R||100%||0%||100%||100%|
|W, M, B, U, K||75%||0%||75%||75%|
|Q, L, T, V, X, G||25%||0%||25%||25%|
This is a much bigger loss in my opinion, but it’s academic if you never bought Emirates cash fares in the first place.
If you’ve already purchased a ticket with Emirates, you’ll still be able to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles according to the following table:
|Tickets Booked||For Travel||Earn Miles|
|Till 2 Jun 2021||Any dates*||Per chart above|
|From 2 Jun 2021||Till 31 Jul 2021||Per chart above|
|From 1 Aug 2021||No miles earned|
|*If travelling from 1 August 2021, you’ll need to submit a Mileage Credit request to earn miles|
Why is the partnership ending?
The homewrecker here is undoubtedly Qatar Airways.
Alaska joined the oneworld alliance on 1 March 2021, and has started closer cooperation with Qatar Airways on flights to Seattle (Alaska’s hub). Moreover, since oneworld’s Middle East presence is already spoken for by Qatar and Royal Jordanian, it’s not difficult to imagine some pressure applied to end the Emirates partnership.
In a coincidence that will surprise no one, Alaska Mileage Plan will launch redemptions on Qatar Airways in August 2021. No details have been provided regarding the redemption rates, but I’d keep a close eye on this since it’s likely to be indicative of how much oneworld awards will cost via Mileage Plan.
Qatar Airways imposes fuel surcharges on award redemptions made through third party programs, but I’m hoping that doesn’t apply to Mileage Plan, given how they absorb these fees on the majority of their partners (except British Airways, Hainan Airlines and Icelandair).
The loss of the Emirates-Alaska partnership is no big deal as far as redemptions are concerned, although those who regularly buy Emirates First and Business Class fares will mourn the loss of the generous crediting rates.
I’d be very interested to see what kind of redemption rates Mileage Plan comes up with for Qatar Airways, and what that means for sweet spots with other oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
Watch this space.