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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.
» Learn more: Sweet spots for booking with Emirates miles
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:
Routes from Dubai
First Class Award Price
43,500 Qantas points.
64,500 Qantas points.
Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok.
89,800 Qantas points.
Johannesburg, Seoul, Singapore.
107,700 Qantas points.
129,300 Qantas points.
New York, Boston.
149,800 Qantas points.
San Francisco; Los Angeles; Houston; Miami; Chicago; Washington, DC; Sydney.
170,800 Qantas points.
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.
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.
» Learn more: The guide to Emirates Skywards
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.
» Learn more: How much are Emirates Skywards miles worth?
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.
» Learn more: The guide to fifth freedom flights
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.
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.
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.
» Learn more: Should you dress up for business or first class flights?
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:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Top photo courtesy of Emirates.