Best Ways to Book Emirates First Class Using Points [Step-by-Step]

Emirates First Class A380 - First Class Cabin

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When you think of the best first class products in the world, Emirates is probably high on your list (if not at the top)! Without a doubt, Emirates offers one of the most luxurious seats in the sky, and flying first class on this airline is an experience you won’t want to miss.

From the amazing Emirates first class suite to the champagne or the shower spa, you’ll be flying like royalty.

To top it all off, you’ll have access to an actual inflight bar where you can enjoy a drink or snack and chat with your fellow passengers.

Before we discuss how to book an Emirates first class flight, let’s take a look at exactly what you’ll be booking.

A Look Inside the Emirates First Class Suite

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the glamorous first class experience on Emirates.

Let’s start with your first class suite, complete with a mini-bar, bed, and a door for privacy. Those doors close with just the push of a button.

You read correctly: individual motorized doors on an airplane. And that’s only the beginning of the Emirates first class experience!

Emirates First Class A380 - Seat 1E
There’s nothing like having your own personal Emirates first class suite. You even have your own mini-bar. Don’t worry, champagne is provided on request! Image courtesy of Upgraded Points.

Emirates raises the stakes with their fine dining experience to keep you well-fed. From champagne to spirits to fine wine, your flight attendant will ensure you always have a nice drink to go with your meal.

Emirates First Class A380 - Caviar
Experience fine dining at 30,000 feet in your Emirates first class suite.

You might be wondering what kind of champagne. Well, this is first class on Emirates, and they really spare no expense. You’ll be able to enjoy a glass of world-renowned Dom Perignon.

Emirates First Class A380 - Dom Perignon
The Emirates first class experience wouldn’t be complete without a glass of Dom Perignon! Your flight attendant will be happy to pour you a glass (or 2).

Is this the best first class experience? Perhaps, although that will depend on your personal tastes. It’s certainly up there!

How to Fly Emirates First Class

Now that you have a taste of Emirates first class, let’s discuss how to book this flight so you can have some fun!

While Emirates does have their own frequent flyer program, in this case it’s not the best option (and certainly not the best value) for booking this flight. We’ll discuss more below.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

In November 2017, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank imposed huge fuel surcharges for awards on Emirates, in addition to the miles cost. For trips from the U.S. in Emirates first, these can be as much as $1,716!

To avoid these surcharges, there are a few airports where you can start your trip and skip them:

  • Hong Kong (HKG)
  • Tokyo (NRT)
  • Sydney (SYD)
  • Colombo (CMB)
  • Auckland (AKL)
  • Sydney (SYD)

If you decide to book an Emirates award, then consult Japan Airlines’ distance-based chart. The more miles you actually fly, the more Mileage Bank miles it will cost.

JAL Partner Award Chart
A new devaluation is apparent on the new JAL Partner Award Chart. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp.

As you can see, the award chart is broken into tiers based on the total trip distance. If you fly multiple segments, you’ll need to consider the distance of each segment.

This chart presents some sweet spot award booking opportunities for Emirates first, which we’ll discuss a bit later.

You can now search for Emirates availability directly on the JAL website:

  1. Go to JAL’s website
  2. Search for your desired route
  3. Select your desired flight
  4. Pay the necessary taxes/fees and complete your booking

A couple key points to remember when booking with Japan Airlines miles:

  • You are allowed up to 6 segments, 2 stopovers (stays exceeding 24 hours), and 1 open jaw per itinerary
  • One-way bookings are allowed
  • Search with Qantas for award flights that don’t touch the U.S.

If you’re planning an Emirates first class trip, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank will likely cost you the fewest miles. Make sure you give them a look!

Don’t forget to check out other amazing redemptions with the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Until Alaska Airlines massively devalued their Emirates award chart in early 2016, using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program was the go-to way to book first class awards on Emirates.

Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines now charges a ton of miles to book an Emirates first class ticket. Check out the current cost in Alaska miles in the chart below:

RouteOne-Way Award Cost
U.S. to Middle East/India150,000 Alaska miles
U.S. to Europe180,000 Alaska miles
U.S. to Asia180,000 Alaska miles
U.S. to Africa200,000 Alaska miles
U.S. to Oceania225,000 Alaska miles

Not only are these award prices much more expensive than using Japan Airlines’ Mileage Bank program, but your point of origin or destination must be in the U.S.

The biggest benefit Alaska possesses is that it is the only realistic way to fly without paying fuel surcharges in excess of $1,700+.

So in that sense, it can definitely be worth it to use Alaska miles for Emirates first class.

If you have a ton of Alaska miles sitting around, here’s how you can book an Emirates first class ticket:

  1. Go to Alaska’s website
  2. Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”)
  3. Select your desired flight and “Add To Cart”
  4. Log in to your Alaska Mileage Plan account
  5. Pay the necessary taxes/fees and complete your Emirates booking

While Alaska Airlines might not be the go-to program for Emirates anymore, Mileage Plan still provides some other amazing redemption options.

Emirates Skywards

While most people would not consider using Skywards miles to book Emirates first class a worthwhile option, we actually believe the Skywards program can be valuable to a specific set of people.

Specifically, if you want to try out Emirates’ chauffeur service and truly live “the Emirates first class experience” — including the flight, chauffeur service, and amazing lounge — then it might be worth it to use Emirates Skywards miles.

Emirates is a transfer partner with both American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, while JAL and Alaska are only transfer partners with Marriott.

So while JAL and Alaska don’t have any way to rack up miles fast, American Express Membership Rewards will definitely help you boost your point balances to book first class!

Unfortunately, you will still be responsible for carrier-imposed surcharges. But if you book round-trip awards, you’ll be able to leverage stopovers!

Here are a few great example routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) – Malé round-trip for 270,000 miles + ~$1,759 in taxes and fees
  • Sydney (SYD) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 288,000 miles + ~$122 in taxes and fees
  • Auckland (AKL) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 336,000 miles + ~$45 in taxes and fees

Here’s how you can book your award:

  1. Visit Emirates
  2. Log in to your Skywards account
  3. After you log in, search for flights
    • Be sure to check off the box that says Classic Rewards
  4. Select your flights
  5. Pay with your miles and any additional taxes and fees.

Other Options for a First Class Emirates Booking

Qantas and Korean Air also partner with Emirates.

Korean Air isn’t great anymore since it’s no longer a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, and their booking process is quite difficult.

Qantas has a ridiculous award chart (in addition to taxes and fees), so we definitely don’t want to use them here, except maybe to search for award availability outside the U.S.

Great Emirates First Class Redemptions

Even with the new surcharges, Japan Airlines may provide the best opportunity to book Emirates first class, so let’s look at a few options available for booking:

  • New York City (JFK) to Dubai round-trip in first class for 135,000 miles
  • New York City (JFK) to Perth one-way in first class for 135,000 miles
  • New York City (JFK) to Milan round-trip in first class for 100,000 miles
  • New York City (JFK) to Milan to Dubai to Bangkok to Dubai to Milan to JFK for 155,000 miles
    • This routing could include a stopover in Milan or Dubai on your way to Bangkok, plus a stopover at the other city on your return to New York

If you want to experience a shower in the sky, find a route on which Emirates operates an Airbus A380. Currently, Emirates operates this aircraft between Dubai and 4 U.S. airports:

Emirates A380 Routes
Los Angeles (LAX)
New York City (JFK)
San Francisco (SFO)
Washington, D.C. (IAD)

The Dubai to Los Angeles route is actually one of the longest flights in the world — plenty of time to enjoy the glamour of an A380 Emirates first experience!

Emirates flies to several other U.S. airports with their Boeing 777. These routes still provide the same first class suite and perks, but you won’t get to experience the shower spa and inflight bar.

While Japan Airlines will require fewer miles, a round-trip first class award from the U.S. to Dubai will include up to about $1,716 in taxes and fees. Alaska will require more miles, but won’t impose fuel surcharges (which keeps the out-of-pocket cost lower).

Hot Tip: Check out our in-depth guide for a full list of Emirates’ routes to/from the U.S., including plane types, cabin, and seating options. 

How to Earn Enough Miles for Emirates First Class

Bank of America provides both personal and business versions of co-branded cards with Alaska Airlines that will earn you additional Alaska miles.

Marriott Credit Cards

You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to Japan Airlines, Alaska Airlines, or Emirates at a transfer rate of 3:1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 Skywards miles bonus.

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - for a limited time, earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

American Express Membership Rewards Cards

You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points and transfer them to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)
The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.
Recommended Amex Cards (Business)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a HUGE welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 after you spend an additional $15,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks. This excludes getting one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork, up to $2,700 in value.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

When Should You Search for Emirates First Class Award Space?

Unlike airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa, Emirates does not have a regular schedule for releasing first class award space to their partner airlines.

That being said, Emirates first class is a highly sought after award ticket, so you should start searching for space as soon as you have an idea about your travel dates.

The more flexibility you have with your travel dates, the easier it will be to find space and book your Emirates first class experience!

What Makes Emirates First Class Amazing?

If the pictures above weren’t enough to convince you that Emirates first class is an experience not to be missed, let’s dive into some more features you’ll get to enjoy:

Emirates First Class Lounge

Emirates First Class A380 - First Class Lounge
Your Emirates First Class Lounge experience is sure to get your travel day started on the right foot.

When departing from or transiting Dubai International Airport, you will have access to the Emirates First Class Lounge. If your flight is on the Emirates A380, you will be able to board your flight directly from the lounge.

You’ll find areas dedicated to entertainment, dining, and even families with children. There really is something for everyone in the Emirates First Class Lounge.

Emirates has amazing lounges in other airports around the world too, including in New York City (JFK), where you can also board your flight from the lounge.

Emirates First Class Catering

Emirates First Class Lounge Dining
Whether you want a full meal or a snack, you will be happy in the Emirates First Class Lounge and during your flight.

From start to finish, your first class experience will include fantastic food and beverage choices. In the Emirates First Class Lounge, you have the option to enjoy snacks from a buffet or order a meal in the dining area anytime you’re hungry.

You’ll also enjoy on-demand dining on your flight, so you can eat when you are ready. As we mentioned above, fine champagne and other drinks are available as desired.

Emirates Inflight Bar

Emirates First Class A380 - Bar
Enjoy a drink, a snack, and the company of your fellow premium cabin passengers at Emirates’ inflight bar on the Airbus A380.

One of the most well-known features of Emirates first class on their Airbus A380 is the inflight bar. Located at the rear of the business class cabin, first class passengers are welcome to enjoy the company of fellow passengers and have a drink.

You can even bring your Dom Perignon champagne with you! This is a fantastic way to stretch your legs and add a little fun to your flight.

Emirates First Class Shower Spa

Emirates First Class A380 - Onboard Shower
A shower at 30,000 feet is pretty unbelievable — and in a space like this, it’s definitely comfortable as well.

Emirates first class passengers can also enjoy the First Class Shower Spa. You will have access to the room for 30 minutes, with 5 minutes of hot water in the shower. During your spa experience, you might notice that your feet are warm…that’s because the floor is heated!

After a long flight, this can be just what you need to freshen up before an adventure.

Emirates First Class Amenity Kit and Pajamas

Emirates First Class A380 - Amenities Kit & Pajamas
Slippers, pajamas, and a luxury amenity kit help you rest easy during your journey.

To top off the first class experience, Emirates provides an amenity kit with high-end Bvlgari products and pajamas (to keep) so you can relax comfortably during your flight.

Emirates Chauffeur Service

Emirates Chauffeur
Enjoy Emirates chauffeur service when booking awards with Emirates Skywards miles only! Image courtesy of emirates.com.

If booking awards with Emirates Skywards miles, you’re eligible to book a complimentary chauffeur service in business or first class. You’ll be transported upon arrival or prior to departure if you’re within a qualifying distance from the airport you’re flying out of.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Emirates first class is an experience any traveler will enjoy. While these flights retail for tens of thousands of dollars, you can use Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program to score an amazing award ticket.

Like with all award bookings, make sure you check for award availability before transferring points. Remember to start your search for award space as soon as you’ve narrowed down your possible travel dates to increase the likelihood of finding Emirates first class award space.

Now that you know how to book Emirates first class, what are you waiting for? Get out there and take flight in one of the most amazing first class products in the sky!


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Best Ways to Book Emirates First Class Using Points

FAQ

What is the best way to book Emirates first class?

Right now, the cheapest way in miles to make a first class Emirates booking is with Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles, though with large cash surcharges. If you have a ton of Alaska Mileage Plan miles, they can be a solid backup option.

What do I get when flying Emirates first class?

When you fly Emirates first class on the Airbus A380, you’ll enjoy a comfortable suite with a lie-flat seat. Additionally, you’ll have 30 minutes to use the first class shower spa.

To top it all off, you can enjoy the inflight bar at the rear of the business class cabin. Don’t forget the Dom Perignon champagne!

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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12 comments

  1. Hi! Love your site! I love booking with points. We have a ton of points with our Amex Platinum and we’re looking to book 3 seats in first class on Emirates to Milan next June. When I followed your link to Alaska Airlines, flying from JFK to Milan wasn’t an option. And on the Japan Air bank flying to Europe wasn’t an option either. Can you help? Thank so much!! Jenni 😊

    • Hi Jenni! Booking Emirates First directly with Emirates by transferring from Amex will cost you a LOT of points (and taxes). For example, a one-way flight from JFK > MXP would be 85k miles & ~$548 (see here). If you login to Emirates.com you can find out how many miles it would cost for your journey which is what I’d recommend doing if you’re set on using Amex points. If not, definitely use JAL miles as it’s a lot cheaper, especially the further you travel.

  2. Hi Alex, Nice post on this about Emirates. I loved my one time flying Emirates direct to Dubai. I was wondering the best option for a person like me to use points from Amex Gold Rewards to fly on Emirates first class. You say Japan Airlines would be best to transfer to and to use on Emirates. What would some good options for me to go on any destination considering I start off at O’Hare? You stated its not a good idea to fly to/from the US. Please help me with any ideas as I am new to using points and would like to take advantage of them to any destination. Thanks!

  3. Hey Joe! Yes, isn’t Emirates F just wonderful? 😀

    Here are some points redemption rates using Amex MR points (one-way):

    Chicago – Dubai 136,250
    New York – Dubai 136,250
    Dubai – Johannesburg 90,000
    Dubai- Tokyo 117,500
    Dubai – Mumbai 52,500
    Dubai – Sydney 136,250
    Dubai – Paris 85,000

    Hope this helps.

  4. Hi Alex,
    Do you still feel that Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is the best way to book award tickets on Emirates First Class Cabins? Are the showers available on all their planes?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Yes, Japan Airlines is still the best ways to book EK F! Only the A380 plane has showers on it, the 777 unfortunately doesn’t but the seats are a little larger on the 777 and the cabin is more private due to having fewer seats than the A380. For me, it’s A380 every time due to the bar and the showers!

  5. Great article. Emirates F is a favourite of mine, and many of our Australian readers use Qantas points to book it, simply because Qantas points are so easy to earn and burn here.

    While you’ve rightly pointed out that Qantas can be expensive for Emirates redemptions, there are some reasons why it makes sense to use Qantas points in this way:
    1) Qantas is the only airline scheme other than Emirates Skywards that provides access to Chauffeur Drive on points bookings – a nice perk.
    2) By commencing an Emirates journey in Hong Kong (even after the Nov 1 lift in restrictions around carrier surcharge) carrier surcharges can be avoided completely. As an example, I flew HKG-DXB-ATH-DXB-ADL last year, all in Emirates F, and paid around $80. Good times!
    3) While long distance flights require lots of points, it is possible to get a taste up the pointy end on a short distance route at a reasonable price. For example, the fifth freedom route of SYD-CHC comes in at 54,000 points, which many will think is decent for a 4 hour jaunt (complete with 4 course meal, Dom, Hennessy Paradis and shower time).

    • Stephen Au · December 31, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Adele! Thanks for reading.

      You bring up great points! We’re going to include your feedback in our comments so that Qantas-loyal readers can utilize your knowledge. Thanks for your comments!

  6. Heather · July 13, 2019 · Reply

    Hi! Great article! I’m having trouble finding a place on the JAL website where I can search Emirates flights. It looks like JAL only has the option of booking flights through Japan airlines. We saved up a bunch of Amex points for flying from LA to Dubai but since they’ve switched to Marriott we can’t seem to figure out how to do this.

    • Stephen Au · July 16, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Heather,

      Generally speaking, you’ll want to search for availability elsewhere such as on Alaska Airlines or directly on Emirates Skywards. Japan Airlines’ interface is somewhat clunky. Thanks for reading!

  7. lindsay · August 22, 2019 · Reply

    I went to the JAL website to look at using points to book First Class for an Emirates flight MXP-NYC, but Europe is not an option in the From/To drop-down menu. Am I missing something?

    • Andrew Kunesh · August 22, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Lindsay, looks like that’s a glitch on JAL’s website. Unfortunately, this means you will have to call JAL to book this award ticket.

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