Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Emirates A380 First Class Award Availability Still Wide Open On New Routes

In case you missed it, Emirates is upgrading it's San Francisco and Houston routes on December 1st and 3rd, respectively. The route is currently serviced by Boeing 777-300ER's, and will be moving up to the big leagues, with daily Airbus A380 flights to and from Dubai.

What does that mean for you?

Bigger plane = more seats = more award seats. The number of Economy seats will be increasing from 304 to 399, and the number of Business Class seats will be jumping 81% from 42 to 76. As an added bonus, the A380 features Emirates' latest Business Class flat-bed product, which is a big upgrade over the angled-flat seats installed on the older planes which I found to be relatively uncomfortable.

First Class capacity will be increasing 75% from 8 suites to 14 suites, with no changes to the suite itself as both planes features Emirates' closed suite product.

But, the best part about this change isn't the extra capacity, it's the upgrade to the First Class cabin. The A380 features Emirates' signature Shower Spa experience, with two on-board showers staffed by a dedicated bathroom attendant that cleans them after each use. Unless you have $21,000 to spare and plan to book the Etihad Residence, this is the only commercial on-board shower you'll find in the sky. I enjoyed every minute of the 4-minute shower on my flight last year.

Emirates A380 Shower Spa

Award availability still wide open 

Currently, the only US routes serviced by the A380 are Los Angeles (LAX) and New York(JFK), and  it's next to impossible to find award seats on those routes more than a couple weeks out.

However, on the new SFO and IAH routes to Dubai, First Class award availability still looks pretty darn good, with plenty of showers to be had for all.

Here's the award availability for a random week in March. From the Alaska Airlines' website, 2 seats on the A380 are available from SFO to Dubai on March 13th as an example. Awesome!

Not so fast, as I wrote about before, phantom First Class award availability has been known to show up while searching on the Alaska Airlines website.

Cross-referencing against Expertflyer results validates that there are indeed 2 seats available. In fact, during that week, 4 out of the 7 days had at least 1 First Class seat available, with 2 seats available on 2 out of the 7 days. That's as good as it gets these days.
A similar story from Houston (IAH), where during that same week there is even better availability with 2 First Class seats available on 5 out of the 7 days!

How to book

Emirates awards are bookable using Emirates, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, and Alaska Airlines miles. Since Korean Air miles cannot be used for First Class awards and Emirates Skywards miles are cost-prohibitive, Alaska Airlines and JAL are generally regarded as the best choice for booking your shower.

For example, First Class awards to the Middle East will cost 90,000 Alaska Airlines miles each way. However, for just an incremental 10,000 miles, you can add on an extra segment which is often on another A380, to either Asia or Africa. As an added bonus, Alaska Airlines allows stopovers on one-way tickets, which we took advantage of to spend a few days in Dubai on a recent trip.

Awards can be easily booked online via the Alaska Airlines website, but as I mentioned above make sure to cross-reference the award space you find with Expertflyer, otherwise you will receive an error at the final step of the booking process.


  1. Can also use JAL miles.

    1. Doh, can't believe I forgot to include. Updated, thanks!

    2. It happens. I really like your blog, I think you and Lucky are the best in the game right now. Keep the trip reports coming plz.

    3. Thanks so much for reading, and really appreciate the comment!

  2. Emirates airlines growing day by day. services are really nice. Last time i traveled to new York and my experience was just awesome. Hope you want to check the First class airline tickets New York

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