Everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards
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While Emirates blingy first-class cabins and onboard bar and shower have caught the eye of just about every award traveler out there, the carrier’s Skywards frequent flyer program has historically been an afterthought. Simply put, there are cheaper ways to book Emirates awards with miles you could earn more easily. Both of those factors have changed recently, with Emirates slashing hundreds of dollars off its fuel surcharges.
With Emirates Skywards becoming an increasingly attractive option to book flights on one of the world’s largest and most global airlines, today we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards.
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Emirates Skywards Elite status
Emirates offers four elite status tiers in its Skywards program, starting from Blue (general members) all the way up through top-tier Platinum. You can qualify either by earning a set number of tier miles or taking a certain number of flights each year:
- Blue: General member
- Silver: 25,000 tier miles or 25 flights
- Gold: 50,000 tier miles or 50 flights
- Platinum: 150,000 tier miles
All elite members (i.e., Silver and above) receive complimentary lounge access and priority check-in. Meanwhile, Gold and Platinum members receive perks like guaranteed seats on full flights and priority baggage delivery. Each tier also comes with a mileage bonus, with Silver members earning 25% bonus miles, Gold earning 50% and Platinum earning up to 75%.
How to earn miles with Emirates Skywards
As with most airlines, the fastest way to earn a meaningful amount of miles is by leveraging the right credit card welcome bonus and transfer options. Thankfully, if you’re trying to earn Emirates Skywards miles with credit cards, you have no shortage of options to choose from.
Earn miles via credit cards
Emirates miles are among the easiest to earn, as Emirates is one of just four airlines to partner with all the major transferable points currencies. This means that no matter what points program you’ve built your credit card strategy around, you should have an easy way to transfer miles to Emirates. Here are the available transfer ratios, as well as a few great bonus offers to help you top up your account balance:
|Point program||Transfer ratio to Emirates||Top card offers|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||1:1|
|Amex Membership Rewards||1:1||
|Citi ThankYou Points||1:1|
|Capital One Miles||2:1|
|Marriott Bonvoy||3:1 with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred||
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Earn miles by flying Emirates
If you’re a frequent international traveler, you could also earn miles by crediting flights on Emirates or one of its partner airlines to your Skywards account. Emirates awards miles based on the distance flown and fare class, not the cost of your ticket like U.S. airlines do.
There’s no earnings chart published anywhere, so you’ll have to rely on Emirates’ miles calculator to see how much you’ll earn. Just as an example, if you book the cheapest fare available in each cabin, here’s how many miles you’d earn on a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB):
- Economy (special): 900 miles
- Business class (special): 6,000 miles
- First class (flex or flex plus): 15,000 miles
Earn miles on partner flights
Emirates partners with a total of 15 airlines, allowing you to earn Skywards miles when you credit flights on those partners to your Emirates account. With all partners, your earning rate will be based on a combination of your flight distance and the fare class you book. Unfortunately, Emirates’ partner award charts aren’t especially generous, with all partners capped at between 1 and 2 miles per mile flown.
Taking Qantas as an example, if you’re flying in economy class, you’ll earn 0.25 or 0.5 miles per mile flown on most discount fares and 1 mile if you’re on a more expensive full fare tickets. Even paid first-class passengers only earn 1.5 miles per mile flown.
U.S.-based travelers will also be happy to know that Emirates partners with JetBlue, meaning you can choose to earn Skywards miles on your JetBlue flights. The earning rates are distance-based and, interestingly enough, it doesn’t appear that you can earn Emirates miles when flying in JetBlue Mint.
Earn miles with rental car partners
There are a number of ways to earn Emirates miles beyond flights and credit cards, starting with the airline’s numerous rental car partners. Emirates partners with most of the major car rental companies around the world, allowing you to earn either a fixed bonus of 1,000 miles per eligible rental (which TPG values at $12) or bonuses of up to 8 miles per $1 spent, which works out to a 9.6% return based on TPG’s valuations.
Earn miles with hotel partners
Normally, you’re best off booking hotels directly to make sure you earn hotel points and have your elite benefits honored. But if you travel less frequently, you might decide that booking with a third party and earning airline miles is a better option. Emirates partners with a number of major booking platforms, as well as individual hotel chains.
For example, you can earn up to 10,000 miles per night when booking through Rocketmiles, or you can earn 2 Skywards miles per dollar spent at select Marriott hotels. The list of eligible partners is quite long and includes a number of chains that are popular outside the U.S., like Shangri-La, so make be to check out the full list to see all your earning opportunities.
Earn Skywards miles via Business Rewards
Given how important business travel is to the aviation industry, some airlines offer secondary loyalty programs geared toward small businesses. With Emirates, this program is called Business Rewards and it allows eligible businesses to earn 1 point per dollar spent on eligible Emirates flights. This is in addition to any Skywards miles you would normally earn from flying.
Instead of letting you transfer points between accounts, Emirates’ “My Family” program lets you and up to seven family members create a joint “My Family” account to combine miles. Every time you fly with Emirates, you can select how many of your miles to credit to your My Family account, with the remainder going into your individual Skywards account.
This can be a great way for couples and families to combine their efforts and save up miles for a reward faster.
How to redeem Emirates miles
Once you’ve figured out how to earn miles with Emirates Skywards, it’s time to turn your attention to redeeming them on one of the world’s most luxurious airlines. No matter what cabin you’re traveling in, you can expect relatively modern planes and impeccable service on every Emirates flight.
Redeem miles for Emirates flights
Given that Emirates is not a member of one of the three major airline alliances, most Skywards redemptions will be for Emirates-operated by flights. The Dubai-based carrier is the largest operator of both the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A380, with over 100 of each jumbo jet in its fleet.
Emirates flies from its hub in Dubai (DXB) to hundreds of destinations worldwide and has enjoyed incredible success serving as a connecting hub for passengers flying between Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and even North America.
Since Emirates doesn’t publish an award chart, you’ll need to check the airline’s mileage calculator to search prices for each individual route you want to travel. Let’s walk through a few of the most popular North American routes to see how much Emirates awards cost.
Before the pandemic, JFK would see two or three daily A380 flights, increasing your odds of finding a coveted first class award. To help you understand the way Emirates’ distance-based award chart works, let’s compare award rates from JFK to Los Angeles on the West Coast:
|JFK to Dubai||Los Angeles to Dubai|
|Economy||62,500 miles||71,250 miles|
|Business||100,000 miles||113,750 miles|
|First||136,250 miles||155,000 miles|
No matter what cabin you choose to fly in, you’re looking at a roughly 14% mileage premium to fly from the West Coast to Dubai as opposed to departing from the East Coast. Depending on how many miles you have available, that might be worth it. You may also come out ahead by booking a positioning flight to New York, Newark (EWR), Washington DC (IAD), or Boston (BOS), for example, and starting your award ticket from there.
Redeem miles for Emirates new first class
For most passengers, Emirates’ A380s, with their onboard bars and showers are the star of the show. In recent years, Emirates has begun rolling out a new and improved first-class cabin aboard a very limited number of 777-300ER aircraft. These stunning six-seat cabins are the most technologically advanced in the sky, with incredible temperature and lighting control and even virtual windows for passengers in the middle seats.
You’ll find these new first-class cabins primarily on flights between Dubai and Europe, though that’s expected to grow over time. When the new first-class product debuted, Emirates blocked all awards in the six-seat first-class cabin until right before departure. They appear to have loosened the policy recently. Now, you can fly from London Stansted Airport (STN) to Dubai for 135,000 miles round-trip, although the prices climb to 85,000 miles for a one-way flight.
The good news is award availability for early next year is excellent, with nearly every day from November through February having one first-class award seat available.
Redeem miles for Emirates fifth-freedom flights
Emirates has come under much political pressure in the U.S over its fifth-freedom flights. These routes connect the U.S. and Dubai with a stop in Europe, and Emirates is allowed to carry passengers on the U.S. to Europe legs. This is great news for passengers who can fly a five-star airline that blows the competition out of the water in nearly every aspect, but U.S. airlines are frustrated with what they view as unfair competition.
Emirates currently operates two fifth-freedom flights from the U.S, flying an A380 daily between New York-JFK and Milan (MXP), and a 777-300ER daily between Newark (EWR) and Athens (ATH). You can book one-way awards on either route at the following rates:
- Economy: 38,750 miles
- Business: 62,500 miles
- First: 85,000 miles
These rates are slightly higher than what most other airlines would charge for flights to Europe, and admittedly we’re talking about relatively short overnight flights here. Still, if you’re looking to make your trip extra special, Emirates’ mileage premium is very fair relative to the onboard experience they offer.
A note on fuel surcharges
Emirates used to charge obscene fuel surcharges on most of its flights, including $800+ on premium cabin tickets departing the U.S. While some people were happy to pay that price to fly one of the most exclusive and well known first-class products in the skies, those taxes really ate away at the value of your “free” fight.
However, a few weeks ago, with no advance notice, Emirates cut these taxes massively. Now, taxes on a first-class award from the U.S. to Dubai top out at about ~$160, a manageable amount that lets you book your preferred routing without worrying about the out-of-pocket cost.
Redeem Emirates Skywards miles for partner awards
Emirates partners with the following airlines, allowing you to earn Skywards miles when flying with them and redeem your miles for select flights:
- Air Mauritius
- Alaska Airlines
- Bangkok Airways
- Copa Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Malaysia Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Portugal
Each airline has a separate award chart for partner redemptions and in most cases, you can only redeem Emirates miles on specific routes. For example, while JetBlue normally uses a revenue-based award chart similar to Southwest, you’ll find a fixed chart when redeeming Emirates miles:
The prices increase with the flight length, though whether or not this represents a good value depends entirely on what JetBlue is charging (in both cash and points) for the same ticket. TPG values Emirates miles at 1.3 cents each, meaning if JetBlue charges $149.50 or more to fly from Austin to Fort Lauderdale, this would be a good redemption.
Emirates uses a more conventional award chart for flights on Alaska Airlines, though it’s worth paying attention to the ability to fly round-trip to Hawaii for just 40,000 miles. Just keep in mind that these prices apply to direct flights only, meaning if you’re connecting from the East Coast, you’d need to book two separate awards, which would raise your costs considerably.
Of Emirates’ international partners, I find Japan Airlines to have the most attractive pricing. For 185,000 miles, you could fly Japan Airlines first class round-trip between the U.S. and Hong Kong with a free stopover in Tokyo. Alaska Airlines would charge you 150,000 miles for the same ticket, but it’s so much easier to earn Emirates miles that it might be worth paying a bit more. I’d still consider that a great deal, especially for one of the world’s top first-class products.
Emirates first class continues to be one of the most aspirational bucket list items for many award travelers. That hasn’t changed in recent years, but after a number of devaluations from partners like Alaska and JAL, Emirates first class awards are finally getting easier to book. With a plethora of transfer partners to pick from and recently lowered fuel surcharges, it’s time to give Emirates Skywards a second look.
Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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