The future of loyalty? Skywards+ lets travelers buy elite-like perks

Aug 11, 2021

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Today, Emirates announced a new subscription program dubbed Skywards+. This program lets Emirates Skywards members purchase elite-like benefits and discounts for an annual fee. This includes lounge access, discounted business class upgrades and even fast tracks to elite status.

But is Skywards+ a good deal? Let’s take a closer look at the new subscription service and discuss why other airlines might follow suit with similar programs.

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Skywards+ membership tiers

There are three Skywards+ tiers to choose from:

  • Classic Package – $399 per year
    • 20% bonus Skywards miles on flights
    • Preferential Cash + Miles redemption rates
    • Two business class lounge passes
    • 5kg bonus checked bag allowance
  • Advanced Package – $699 per year
    • 20% bonus Skywards miles on flights
    • 20% discount on Upgrade Rewards
    • 20% discount on Classic Rewards
    • Preferential Cash + Miles redemption rates
    • Five business class lounge passes
    • One additional checked bag
    • 10kg bonus checked bag allowance
  • Advanced Package – $999 per year 
    • 20% bonus Tier Miles toward elite status qualification
    • 20% bonus Skywards miles on flights
    • 20% discount on Upgrade Rewards
    • 20% discount on Classic Rewards
    • Preferential Cash + Miles redemption rates
    • Ten business class lounge passes
    • One additional checked bag
    • 10kg bonus checked bag allowance

You can sign up for a Skywards+ membership on Emirates’ website. All subscriptions are billed on an annual basis and are not refundable. Benefits should be active on your Skywards account shortly after you activate a Skywards+ membership.

Related: Everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards

Is Skywards+ a good deal?

Emirates A380 taking off in Prague
Most Emirates flyers will find it tough to get value from a Skywards+ membership. (Photo by kamilpetran / Shutterstock.com)

Emirates’ Skywards+ packages aren’t cheap — and frankly, some tiers aren’t worthwhile. Spending $399 per year on the Classic Package is an abysmal deal for two days at the lounge and the potential to earn more Skywards miles. Unless you’re flying a lot and earn enough bonus points to offset the annual fee, this level is a skip.

The only Skywards+ tier possibly worth considering is the Advanced Package. The most intriguing benefit here is the 20% bonus Tier Miles earned on flights. This could jumpstart your progress toward Emirates elite status or make it significantly easier to qualify for status. The other benefits are great, but the value is nominal by comparison.

That said, I think these packages are a skip for most travelers. You’re not likely to get value from these benefits unless you fly Emirates a lot and want a fast track to elite status. But as always, run the numbers and see if you can make Skywards+ perks worth more than the annual fee.

Related: Emirates devaluing first class awards in July by removing Flex awards

This could be the start of a larger trend

Skywards+ could be the start of a larger airline subscription service trend. (Photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy)

Regardless of its value proposition, I think subscriptions like Skywards+ will become a broader trend in the airline loyalty space. Airlines have made it clear that how much you spend is directly correlated with your elite status tier — not how much you fly. In the case of United Airlines, you’re effectively required to spend your way to elite status after the airline transitioned to revenue-based status earning.

With that in mind, there’s no reason for airlines not to sell elite-like perks and fast tracks to elite status. United has done something similar for years by selling annual Economy Plus seat selection and checked baggage subscriptions. In the future, I think we will see these types of subscriptions be bundled into a single subscription, like Skywards+.

For domestic carriers, benefits could look similar to buy-up packages we’ve seen airlines introduce over the years. For example, you can buy Main Cabin Plus packages when you book flights with American Airlines. This includes perks like preferred boarding, Main Cabin Extra seat selection and checked bags. We could see these rolled into a subscription service for frequent flyers.

American Main Plus Booking
(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Related: Cash cow: Why loyalty programs are a lifeline for airlines and hotels during COVID

Bottom line

Today, Emirates announced a new subscription service called Skywards+. This lets Emirates flyers buy access to perks on an annual basis.

Skywards+ isn’t a great deal, but it could be the start of a larger industry trend. It’s impossible to say exactly what subscriptions will look like with other airlines — or if they’ll be a good deal. But, airlines need the additional revenue after a year of coronavirus shutdowns, and this is one easy way they can capitalize on leisure travelers getting back on the road.

Feature photo by M101Studio/Shutterstock.com

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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