A fortnight ago, I ran this article on Emirates Skywards joining the US American Express Membership Rewards programme. I mused at that point about whether they would also join the UK programme.
Well, we have our answer. On Saturday night, Emirates Skywards popped up on the Membership Rewards website.
A 25% transfer bonus is currently in place. Please note four important points:
The 25% transfer bonus ONLY applies to your first redemption
The transfer bonus offer expires on 21st November, so you don’t have much time
The bonus will post immediately with the base points
The minimum transfer is 1,000 points and then in increments of 500
It is impossible for me to give a definitive guide to whether or not you might want to move American Express points over to Emirates. However, I did fly back from Dubai with them last week (trip report to follow) on a redemption.
Here are a few things to bear in mind:
Emirates Skywards miles have a 3 year expiry. There is NOTHING you can do to stop them expiring. It is therefore risky to accumulate miles in Skywards without having a plan for them.
(They actually expire at the end of the month in which your birthday occurs, after the three years is up. We had the odd position last year where my wife had a slug expire in January but mine didn’t expire until November, despite earning them on the same day!)
As a UK resident, the only easy way of using up Emirates miles which are about to expire is to use them for easyJet flight credit! This gets you about 0.4p per mile, which is not a fantastic deal but better than nothing.
There are other airline partners but in general the redemption options are not great except for redeeming on Emirates flights.
Here are a few basics to bear in mind with Emirates redemptions:
Rather like US frequent flyer programmes (and unlike most European ones), Skywards has two levels of redemption – Flex and Saver.
The key difference is pricing and availability. Saver awards are harder to find (although no more than BA Club World awards), must be booked as a return trip and only allow one stopover per return trip.
Flex rewards can be booked as one ways and allow one stopover in each direction. More importantly, Flex availability is usually very good. Even though we flew back from Dubai on the Saturday at the end of half term – with BA not having a single Club World seat available for days on either side – Emirates could offer me 4 business class seats on pretty much every departure to London that day.
Emirates obviously has decent connections to the UK regions. This make it more interesting than BA.
The new joint venture with Qantas means that Emirates offers another option for getting to Australia.
The Maldives is also easily done with Emirates, it is about a four hour connection from Dubai
You can top up your Emirates Skywards account with their UK credit card which I outlined here. They are also a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner if you want to get 25,000 free miles from the current SPG promotion.
Emirates is not currently showing as a partner in the International Dollar / Euro Card MR programme, although given that their website still shows Jumeirah as a partner – they left in June – and indeed still calls Club Carlson ‘Goldpoints Plus’ three years after it rebranded, I wouldn’t be 100% certain it isn’t there!
Here are some pricing examples:
British Airways London to Dubai in Club World – 80,000 Avios
British Airways London to Dubai in Club World – 60,000 American Airlines miles
Emirates London to Dubai in Business Class (Saver level) – 90,000 Skywards miles, no one-ways allowed
Emirates London to Dubai in Business Class (Flex level) – 125,000 Skywards miles
Emirates does charge fuel surcharges, and these are roughly as much as British Airways would charge
This handy miles calculator lets you see how many Emirates miles are required for a particular route.
What is my plan?
We have family in Dubai, which is why we are down there quite a bit. My initial feeling is that I will do a transfer of 200,000 Membership Rewards points before the transfer bonus expires.
That will get us 250,000 Skywards miles, good enough for 4 x one-way tickets to Dubai at the Flex level. That will give me great flexibility to fit in a holiday – during school holidays – on days we want, using BA to Dubai or Abu Dhabi for one direction and Emirates for the return, taking advantage of their good Flex availability.
Please share your thoughts on Skywards below if you are an existing member. If you an existing Skywards members and want to top up your account with some Amex Membership Rewards points, check out my reviews of the Amex Gold (20,000 miles sign-up bonus) and Amex Platinum (30,000 miles sign-up bonus).