Skip to content

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

Aug. 11, 2021
5 min read
Emirates first class on A380
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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?

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.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

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.

(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

Featured image by (Photo by M101Studio / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023