How to Book Emirates First Class With Points

Booking a first class ticket with your Emirates Skywards miles can lessen the sting of the high price tag.
JT Genter
Josh Garber
By Josh Garber and  JT Genter 
Edited by June Casagrande

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Emirates offers one of the most luxurious commercial flight experiences in the world in its first class cabin. Premium cabin travelers can expect an enclosed suite, top-of-the line drink and food options and, on certain planes, bars and showers.

However, Emirates first class is notoriously expensive. For example, a round-trip first-class flight from Los Angeles to Dubai could set you back over $22,000. Thankfully — for those of us that want to fly Emirates first class and aren't made of money — you can book Emirates first class with points and miles.

Here's how to book Emirates first class with points and what to expect on your flight if you do.

Booking Emirates first class with partner points

Don't rely on partner airlines

Emirates is not part of an airline alliance, but rather has over a dozen airline partners spanning the globe. Partner airlines include TAP Portugal, Japan Airlines and Qantas. However, Emirates greatly restricts first-class award availability through its partners.

Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines used to be ways to book Emirates first class awards. However, Emirates ended its partnership with Alaska Airlines effective Aug. 1, 2021. Then, Japan Airlines announced that it would no longer allow frequent flier members to book first-class flights on Emirates using Japan Airlines miles effective Sept. 1, 2021.

Emirates even recently ended its mileage partnership with JetBlue effective Oct. 30, 2022.

Booking through Qantas Frequent Flyer

After all of these cuts, you can only book Emirates first class through one partner loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer. However, this redemption option doesn't come cheap.

Qantas uses a distance-based award chart with Emirates first class awards starting at 29,000 Qantas points for flights under 600 miles and climbing to 227,500 Qantas points for flights over 9,601 miles.

Let's translate that into routes that you can fly in Emirates first class:

Distance Band

Routes from Dubai

First Class Award Price

601-1,200 miles.

Mumbai.

43,500 Qantas points.

1,201-2,400 miles.

Istanbul, Cairo.

64,500 Qantas points.

2,401-3,600 miles.

Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok.

89,800 Qantas points.

3,601-4,800 miles.

Johannesburg, Seoul, Singapore.

107,700 Qantas points.

4,801-5,800 miles.

Perth.

129,300 Qantas points.

5,801-7,000 miles.

New York, Boston.

149,800 Qantas points.

7,001-8,400 miles.

San Francisco; Los Angeles; Houston; Miami; Chicago; Washington, DC; Sydney.

170,800 Qantas points.

8,401-9,600 miles.

Auckland.

199,300 Qantas points.

If you need to top off your Qantas Frequent Flyer account, you can transfer points to Qantas from most major transferable points programs:

Booking Emirates first class using Skywards

Now that most partner booking options have been eliminated, you'll generally want to book Emirates first class awards through Emirates' own Skywards program. This is possible even if you don't collect Skywards miles thanks to Skywards' many bank and hotel partners.

Transfer points from bank and hotel programs to Emirates Skywards

Emirates is one of a few airline loyalty programs that partner with all five of the best transferable point currencies. Plus, you can even transfer points from newer transfer programs Bilt Rewards and Brex Rewards.

Points transfer to Emirates Skywards at a 1:1 transfer ratio from all of the following programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Capital One Miles.

  • Citi ThankYou Points.

  • Bilt Rewards.

  • Brex Rewards.

  • Heathrow Rewards.

That means you can effectively earn 5x Emirates Skywards miles when booking airfare using The Platinum Card® from American Express, 3x Skywards on general travel using the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and 2x Skywards on all purchases using the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Terms apply.

Figure out how many points you'll need

Emirates doesn't publish an award chart. Instead, Emirates offers a tool on its website that you can use to calculate the number of Skywards miles you’ll need to book a first-class flight.

However, this tool doesn't show pricing for first class saver awards. That leaves you needing to manually search Emirates first class awards to determine how many miles you'll need.

Here's how much it costs to book Emirates first class awards on several routes from the U.S.:

  • New York City to Milan for 85,000 Skywards miles.

  • Newark to Athens for 85,000 Skywards miles.

  • Miami to Dubai for 136,250 Skywards miles.

  • Washington D.C. to Dubai for 136,250 Skywards miles.

  • Houston to Dubai for 155,000 Skywards miles.

  • Los Angeles to Dubai for 155,000 Skywards miles each way.

Take advantage of the fifth-freedom flights

The cheapest way to fly Emirates first class from the U.S. is on Emirates' fifth-freedom routes between New York City and either Athens or Milan.

Flying from the U.S. to Dubai costs at least 136,250 Skywards miles each way. But you can book a fifth-freedom route to either Athens or Milan in Emirates first class for 85,000 Skywards miles each way. That's still a lot of miles, but the 51,250-mile difference makes it much easier to accumulate enough miles to book an Emirates first class award.

What is the Emirates first class experience like?

If you’re wondering what the Emirates first class experience is really like, look no further. I recently used Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to experience this world-class cabin myself. I transferred 85,000 Ultimate Rewards® points to fly from New York-JFK to Dubai to Milan in first class.

Unfortunately, this flight was slated for April 2020 when Milan was at the center of a massive COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. The Emirates staff were incredibly accommodating, though, allowing me to switch itineraries multiple times. Ultimately, I changed this reservation to fly from Zurich to Dubai to Los Angeles, and was finally able to fly in July 2021.

Photo courtesy of Josh Garber

Both of my flights were on Emirates’ A380, which not only offers the spacious suite seen above, but also an onboard shower and two bars. One bar is dedicated solely to first class passengers, and the other is where you can mingle with passengers flying in business class.

Photo courtesy of Josh Garber

The food and drink options were outstanding. I had steak on both flights and champagne from Dom Perignon as well. It was my first time ever taking a shower on a plane, and though I was nervous it would have bad water pressure and cold water, I was pleasantly surprised. The water was steaming hot (how I like it!) and had great pressure. It was a great way to clean up before landing after an amazing flight.

Booking Emirates first class with points, recapped

Emirates first class is a bucket-list travel experience that, while not cheap, can be booked with points earned through Capital One, American Express or Chase credit cards. There are some particularly attractive mileage redemptions, including the possibility to use 85,000 points to fly first class from New York City to Dubai to Milan.

Once you’ve booked your ticket and are on the flight, you can expect a world-class experience, a comfortable suite and, depending on the plane you’ve booked, a shower and bar onboard.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

Top photo courtesy of Emirates.

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