Negative earning and upgrade changes at Emirates Skywards

Emirates has announced some retrograde changes to its Skywards loyalty programme.  These come into effect from February 1st.

The changes are complex but the main impact is to reduce the miles earned on cheaper Economy tickets and to make it harder to upgrade Economy tickets to Business Class.

There is NO CHANGE to the number of miles needed for a redemption flight although lower earning rates will mean you need to fly more to earn a free trip.  This is not totally surprising as the Emirates reward chart is already expensive and comes with fuel surcharges that make British Airways look reasonable.

Emirates A380

In summary:

Economy and Business Class fares currently come in two categories – ‘Saver’ and ‘Flex’.  There are different sorts of ticket within both categories but for earning purposes there are only two options.

Going forward, there will be four categories – ‘Special’, ‘Saver’, ‘Flex’ and ‘Flex Plus’.  The cheaper economy tickets will now be ‘Special’ and the most expensive flexible tickets will become ‘Flex Plus’.

This is how a London to Dubai flight looks for a base level member at present:

  • Economy – 1500 miles each-way for Saver and 3000 each-way for Flex
  • Business – 3750 each-way for Saver and 5250 each-way for Flex

This is how it will look after February 1st:

  • Economy – 750 each-way for Special, 1500 for Saver, 2100 for Flex and 3000 for Flex Plus
  • Business – 3000 each-way for Special, 3750 for Saver, 5250 for Flex and 5700 for Flex Plus

This is an astonishing drop in earnings on cheap economy tickets.  To put this into perspective, you would need to fly 30 round trips to Dubai in discount Economy to get ONE Business Class trip to Dubai!

With British Airways Executive Club, a base level member on the cheapest World Traveller ticket would only require TWELVE trips to Dubai to earn one Club World return trip.  That is an astonishing difference.

Upgrade prices have also jumped sharply.

It currently costs 32,500 miles to upgrade a ‘Saver’ Economy ticket to Business Class one-way from Heathrow to Dubai.  From February 1st, it will cost 39,000 miles.  ‘Special’ tickets will not be upgradable at all but this is not necessarily a retrograde step as the cheapest ‘Saver’ tickets are already blocked from upgrading.

If you want to check out how these changes will impact your particular Emirates routes, you can find the old mileage calculator here and the new post-February 1st mileage calculator here.  Log-in is required.

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  1. For economy flyers is crediting to Alaska a viable option.Obviously no status or upgrade chance but from looking at charts maybe better redemption value (I’ve never redeemed on either). No easy credit card transfer but AS do seem to sell miles regularly

    • James67 says:

      Alaska scheme is good for Emirates and particularly Cathay Pacific. However, probably best to use it for rapid credits and burns because it is difficult to know how their relationships with partners might evolve. On the plus side Alaskas ongoing competition with Delta will likely keep their scheme sweet. On the downside we are seeing changes at Emirates a d likely Cathay too, that may impact on their partnerships too.

  2. Eshaq Choudhury says:

    Another nail in the coffin for Skywards. Glad I’m collecting Etihad instead now.

    • Re: Etihad…whilst they have so many double and triple mile offers when buying Business or First, remember, that they usually only release 2F and 2J seats at a somewhat acceptable mileage rate (“Guest Seats”). Mileage is also based on distance…so AUH-LHR is more miles than on BA (I think) or EK. They do promote that you can use miles for any seats (their “Open Seats”), but who would spend 750K to 1 Million points (yes…no joke) for a business class ticket from London to Abu Dhabi?

      • Yes, the two reward seats rules is a killer and the one thing that stops me using them for the family. Apparently some less busy routes out of other European countries get more availability.

        • Camille says:

          Agreed. Unless Eithad change the 2 reward pax limit, I would not think of going anywhere near them.

          I also don’t like their distance based policy, as I can never remember howmany miles are required for a particular redemption. EK and QR offer a better bet in that regard, IMHO.

  3. I think ‘loyalty’ to airlines died as a strategy quite a long time ago. If you are flying low cost and/or not that often then you’d take years to build up a decent stash of Airmiles via flying alone. Given that you won’t be in a premium loyalty tier, and thus won’t earn extra miles or have lounge access, the reasons not to spread your love are even more limited.

    I tend to fly BA more than average but that’s because it’s convenient and they’ve been competitive for journeys I want. I earn enough Avios through credit card deals etc that I don’t need to take paid flights to redeem with them. We travelled to Malaysia with Turkish 2 years ago and even in economy that earnt us enough miles to get a one-way business flight IST-LHR with them, so the points weren’t wasted.

    • James67 says:

      I have been fairly loyal to BA (and partners) since demise of BMI. A BAEC devaluation might be final straw though.

  4. QR did this 2yrs ago, so we stopped using them. Also the tier level achieved only lasted 6 months, which was v frustrating. It was a shock when they announced they were dropping us from silver to burgundy which is lowest tier, that they they then brought in an extra tier at the top. It made flying with them worthless. Concentrated on BA OW ever since, as James67 says, plenty of card earning ops for non frequent flyers, and we even use BA sales more, than bothering with avios. Keep our avios for F, if we can find them.

  5. I remember a few years ago Emirates Skywards being a very generous scheme whereby I could use points for upgrades and obtained silver status after flying just 6 sectors in economy one year. It was great and was a boon to have access to what was a very good lounge in DXB for Silver status holders when flying economy. I recall boarding one flight and they didn’t include Silver status as priority boarding, I enquired about this with the ground staff who advised that if they included silver status holders then half the passengers for the flight would qualify for priority boarding!

    EK have used the scheme wisely over the years to encourage loyalty as they grew market share on what is a very good product anyway. It’s disappointing but no surprise that they keep making the scheme less and less generous, but with more and more middle east carriers flying out of UK at least there are other options to explore in determining whether there are benefits to be had from loyalty.

    On a related note CNN Business Traveller this week featured loyalty schemes, recorded the prog but not watched yet. CNN tend to repeat the programme a few times over the week.

  6. Funnily enough, it was Emirates that accidentally got me into frequent flyer miles and Flyertalk. We (hubby and I) don’t fly much but went to Australia in economy on Emirates in 2007 and were signed up to their scheme because we booked online. The flights were good, the planes clean and quite roomy and they happily changed the return flights for free (on tickets costing £730 each) so we were much impressed. Fast forward to the next trip to Oz in 2011 and they then had a tie up with Virgin Blue. The points from that one economy trip + two car hires got us seven entirely free internal flights between the two of us. Marvellous. How the mighty have fallen 🙁

  7. A pretty crappy frequent flyer program just got a whole lot crappier

    • Ironically, for me, its great. When I want 4 J seats in the peak school holidays, they always have it as long as I pay the higher rate (which I use Membership Rewards for). The higher rate is 20 per cent cheaper than using a Gold Priority Redemption via BA and it is incomparably better, especially the kids TV selection which is very key for us!

      • Camille says:

        Which is the main reason i’ve actively pursued Skywards Miles in the last 6 months. My kids aren’t far off going to school and it makes sense to have such an option for peak school holidays…..assuming it is still available by the time that get there!!

        However, a possible side-effect of these negative changes at Emirates, in particular the increase in fuel surcharges, is that availability may improve at the Saver level!?

        • Possibly but it will take a while to work through the system, and they may just block out key school holiday dates anyway.

        • Camille says:

          Sure….they could just block peak holiday dates.

          Are you, or anyone on HFP, aware as to whether EK run redemption sales at either the Saver or the higher level?

        • Not that I remember but I don’t follow it too closely, I only book one route and on very specific dates.

  8. pazza2000 says:

    Is a one off Economy saver UK – Dubai rt worth even collecting the miles for? Would ithe 1.5k/3k offer much discount towards an easyjet flight for eg?

  9. not a very happy post!

  10. I realise that this is slightly off topic but, being a bit of a numpty I can’t find anywhere other than here that will let me post it! Perhaps someone can can move it. It is basically a thank you to Raffles. I managed to secure DUR/LHR Club Class tickets for October using my BA Avios. No question of any outward flight being available for the dates I wanted (and I was very flexible, believe me) so I decided to try for a good deal on any other airline using cash and preferably Emirates. BA wanted £9660 for two one way club tickets out of LHR 03Oct (I know single journies are always more expensive but that is crazy) and Emirates wanted £4781 for LHR/DXB/DUR. THEN I remembered Raffles comments somewhere about flying out of other airports so I tried CDG/DXB/DUR on Emirates and they quoted £2650.81 for business class, a difference of some £2130!! I booked them and then used some more Avios to book club tickets LHR/CDG. In all I saved a lot of money even though I am sure that someone will tell me I could have got them cheaper. In all £3256 for two business class returns to Durban. Thanks Raffles.