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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.
Here's how to book Emirates first class with points and what to expect on your flight if you do.
Tips for booking Emirates first class with points
Emirates first class is notoriously expensive — a round-trip first class flight from Los Angeles to Dubai, for example, could set you back around $25,000. So if you want to fly Emirates first class and you’re not made of money, it can be helpful to figure out how to book Emirates first class with points.
Don't rely on partner airlines
Emirates is not part of an airline alliance, but rather has a select number of airline partners around the world. Partner airlines include TAP Portugal, Japan Airlines and JetBlue. Emirates greatly restricts first class award availability through its partners, though. While Japan Airlines and Alaska Airlines used to be great sources for Emirates first class redemptions, Emirates ended its partnership with Alaska Airlines effective Aug. 1, 2021, and Japan Airlines announced that it would no longer allow frequent flyer members to book first class flights on Emirates using Japan Airlines miles effective Sept. 1, 2021.
Luckily, Emirates does offer some great opportunities for redemptions through its own Skywards program with some great credit transfer options.
» Learn more: Sweet spots for booking with Emirates miles
Transfer points from travel cards to Emirates
Chase, Capital One and American Express all offer travel cards where you can earn points that transfer directly to Emirates Skywards. Chase and American Express points transfer on a 1:1 basis, whereas Capital One transfers on a 2:1 basis. For every 1,000 Capital One points moved over to Emirates, you’ll receive 500 Skywards miles.
Examples of cards that earn points that can transfer directly to Emirates Skywards include Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Terms apply.
Figure out how many points you'll need
Although Emirates doesn't publish an award chart, it does have 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.
Here are some one-way first class redemption options:
New York City to Milan for 85,000 Skywards miles.
Newark to Athens for 85,000 Skywards miles.
Dubai to Tokyo for 117,500 Skywards miles.
New York-JFK to Dubai for 136,250 Skywards miles.
Los Angeles to Dubai for 155,000 Skywards miles.
» Learn more: The guide to Emirates Skywards
Take advantage of the fifth-freedom flights
You might be curious as to why Emirates, a Dubai-based airline, flies directly between the U.S. and both Athens and Milan. The reason is that the airline offers these flights as fifth-freedom routes, a term for when an airline offers flights between two destinations where neither is its home base.
Although flying direct from New York City to Dubai would cost 136,250 Skywards miles, flying a fifth-freedom route to either Athens or Milan in first class costs only 85,000 Skywards miles. But it gets better. If you want to maximize your time in first class, you can sometimes find routing from New York-JFK to Milan that includes a stopover in Dubai, meaning you’ll get to fly New York City to Dubai to Milan all in Emirates’ first class cabin, for the same 85,000 Skywards miles.
» Learn more: How much are Emirates Skywards miles worth?
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?
Final thoughts on booking Emirates first class with points
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 2022, 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.