Emirates Skywards makes big cuts to taxes and charges on redemption flights!

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Emirates Skywards has, with no announcement, made large cuts to the taxes and charges it adds to redemption flights.

Emirates Skywards, as a loyalty scheme, didn’t have much going for it.  As far as I was concerned, the best thing about it was the ability to redeem miles for VIP tickets to watch Arsenal from the Emirates box which I’ve done about 10 times now – the best positioned box in the stadium – and whatever other VIP sporting events the airline was sponsoring.

If these cuts are permanent, however, it looks like I may start recommending it for actual flights too!

Note that Emirates Skywards remains a poor deal for Economy tickets due to the number of miles required.  For Business Class, however, it is now looking attractive in certain circumstances.

The pros and cons of Emirates Skywards 

Emirates isn’t in an alliance, so the number of partners (and the seats made available to them) is limited.  This HFP article looks at some of the Emirates airline partner redemption options.  More importantly, taxes and charges had gone sky high over the years.  Emirates Skywards made British Airways surcharges look exceptionally reasonable.

There were only three upsides as far as I was concerned:

On the A380, Emirates has a good business class product on an amazingly quiet and impressive aircraft (and a bar – see photo above)

Reward availability was generally excellent, which is important if you have a family of four travelling on key school holiday dates

American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Emirates Skywards are INSTANT.  If the seats are showing for redemption, you can literally move the points across and book within five minutes.  There is no risk that the seats disappear whilst you wait for a transfer.

I have done numerous Emirates business class redemptions for the reasons above.  See the photo of my son below when he was a lot smaller!  I may have got a bad deal with the taxes, but I was getting the seats I wanted on the exact dates and flights I wanted, so I was happy.

It was a bit of a last resort, however.  For the last two years, we have returned from our annual October trip to the Middle East on Etihad.  The mileage required was the same but the saving in taxes and charges was huge, especially with four travelling.  I was willing to take the risk of Amex Membership Rewards transfers not making it in time because the saving was over £800 for 4 x one-way tickets.

Emirates Skywards has cut its taxes and charges sharply

Emirates Skywards has made substantial reductions to its taxes and charges.  Unfortunately I don’t have accurate details of what they used to be, except for two examples.

Last year, I flew THE best First Class suite on the planet – the new Emirates 777-300ER First Class Suite, reviewed here.

It is the most ludicrous thing you will ever fly, with £250 bottles of wine and £790 bottles of cognac, at UK retail prices, on the menu.

I said in that review that I paid 85,000 Emirates Skywards miles + £367 for the one-way trip from Dubai to London Stansted.  Emirates is not currently letting you book First Class redemptions for some reason, but when I checked last week the equivalent ticket was around £117.

Similarly, back in 2017 I paid £344 each in taxes for four x one-way Business Class flights from Dubai to London.  Today, the same flights would cost just £91 (Dhs 430) each – a saving of £1,012 for a family of four.

What sort of taxes do Emirates Skywards flights now add?

Here are some typical redemptions from the UK:

Economy Class, Heathrow to Dubai return: 77,500 miles + £162

Business Class, Heathrow to Dubai return: 125,000 miles + £340

Here is a comparison with Avios peak-date pricing when flying British Airways:

Economy Class, Heathrow to Dubai return: 40,000 Avios + £277

Business Class, Heathrow to Dubai return: 125,000 Avios + £549

As you can see, Emirates Skywards is a poor deal for Economy tickets.  A big cut in taxes can’t disguise that.  However, for Business Class, Skywards is now substantially better value than Avios with taxes and charges being £200 lower for the same number of miles.  This is before you factor in the seat and service itself, which is substantially better than British Airways, and the better availability.

If you book Emirates from the Netherlands to avoid Air Passenger Duty, it gets even cheaper:

Economy Class, Amsterdam to Dubai return: 77,500 miles + €105

Business Class, Amsterdam to Dubai return: 125,000 miles + €195

What happens if you connect beyond Dubai?

This is where it gets less attractive, unfortunately.  Let’s look at Tokyo:

On Emirates, from the UK:

Economy Class, Heathrow to Tokyo return: 140,000 miles + £248

Business Class, Heathrow to Tokyo return: 220,000 miles + £513

Here is a comparison with Avios peak-date pricing when flying British Airways:

Economy Class, Heathrow to Tokyo return: 60,000 Avios + £373

Business Class, Heathrow to Tokyo return: 180,000 Avios + £589

Again, Economy remains terrible value even with the reduced taxes.  In Business Class, you are saving £75 in taxes vs British Airways but you need 40,000 additional miles.  You’re getting a better seat and service but you’re also changing aircraft in Dubai.  I’d probably fly British Airways given this scenario.

Milan to New York looks good!

Emirates runs a ‘fifth freedom’ flight between Milan and New York.  This is an interesting way to try out the airline.

A return Business Class ticket from Milan to New York costs 125,000 miles plus €105.

This compares to 120,000 Avios plus a ludicrous £685 on British Airways although you also need to factor in the cost of getting to Milan.  There are also, of course, exceptionally low tax Avios redemptions on Iberia and Aer Lingus to New York if you are keen to keep costs down.

UK Emirates credit cards

Earning Emirates Skywards miles from credit cards

There are fewer options to earn Emirates Skywards miles from credit cards since the co-brand credit cards, pictured above, were closed a couple of years ago.

The highest earning rate is from the American Express Membership Rewards cards – either American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or American Express Platinum or American Express Rewards Credit Card.

These cards give you 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent, and they convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards.  This means that you are getting 1 Emirates Skywards mile for every £1 spent on Amex Gold, Amex Platinum or the Amex Rewards Credit Card.

These cards come with excellent sign-up bonuses.  Amex Gold comes with 20,000 points for signing up (a special offer until 29th June) whilst Amex Platinum comes with 30,000 points.   The Amex Rewards Credit Card comes with a bonus of 5,000 points.

Amex Gold is free for the first year whilst the Amex Rewards Credit Card is free for life.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express earns Emirates Skywards miles

A slightly worse option is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card.   You earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent, and these convert at 3:1 into Emirates Skywards miles.  If you convert in chunks of 60,000 points you get a 5,000 mile bonus, meaning that you are actually getting 0.83 Emirates miles per £1 spent.

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express has a £75 annual fee and comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (6,667 Emirates miles).

Conclusion

Emirates has made huge cuts to its taxes and charges, which is good news.

From a UK perspective, the sweet spot is flying in Business Class or First Class to Dubai.

Economy class redemptions remain a bad deal due to the number of miles needed, whilst connecting flights beyond Dubai tend to push up the taxes to a level where a direct British Airways flight is on a par.

Milan to New York remains a great deal for anyone who wants to try out Emirates Business Class without heading to the Middle East or beyond.

And, once services restart, if you can redeem 85,000 miles plus £117 for a one-way First Class flight from Dubai to London Stansted with the new suites, you will have the flying experience of your life.

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Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    I saw this yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. Previously a family of 4 (with a 1yo) was 500k miles plus £2.5k so now that’s down to about £1.5k it’s much more palatable. My question is what is better for J the A380 from Heathrow to Dubai or 777 from Stansted?

    • A380 would be my choice as you get the bar etc. More private too as 777 you would be sitting next to someone in J.

      F class – 777 is amazing and great to try if you have the opportunity, but would still prefer 380 as you then get use of the large shower room as well as drinking Dom Perignon at the bar 🙂

      There was talk of putting the 777 seats onto the A380’s which would be the perfect combination but not sure the latest on this.

      • Lady London says:

        I think I saw sonewhere they have stopped the showers for now

    • 777 is 2-3-2 in Business if you meant 3 who need a seat plus the baby then Stansted might be better as you would have a full row to yourselves. Seats are far less private than the A380 but, for a family with a baby, that’s probably better for you.

      It’s weird the new 777 has the worst business seat and the best First seat.

    • Wouldn’t an issue with the 777 from Stansted be that you’re stuck with the dreadful Escape lounge rather than the Emirates lounge at Heathrow?

      • Emirates has a cornered-off area at the back 🙂

        To be honest the Heathrow lounge isn’t up to much either, except the ability to board directly from it. No idea what they do at Gatwick.

        • Genghis says:

          I enjoyed the LGW EK lounge last year. V good food for a lounge.

        • ankomonkey says:

          I loved the BHX Emirates lounge the one time I got to use it about 7 years ago.

      • Jerrry Butler says:

        The good thing about the escape lounge is the view of the shuttle to the remote gates, I once had a long wait there and met a chap that went to the same school as my brother, he happened to be reading the new scientist, as I was, turned out that sadly we were not on the same flight, but nevertheless it made for an enjoyable three hour delay.

    • Not sure when your travelling – but it’s only the 777 from LHR, no A380’s.
      Loads are very very light at the moment as in several people in economy and no one or only a few in business 🙂
      They are using the 777 for cargo purposes so still works financially for EK.

  2. First not being bookable is a new development as it was towards the end of last wekk. Hopefully it is not EK limiting things and just a technical glitch rather than new policy.

  3. Richard Kenyon says:

    Note that the figures shown are for Flex rewards. Saver rewards are the same price, but require fewer points. Business class is 90k points, and you’d need 135k for F. There was plenty of F class available from AMS when I checked last week – €195!!!

  4. “when I checked last week the equivalent ticket was around £117.”

    I think that price is missing a digit or two. 🙂

    • On rereading that is the new tax – apologies I initially read that as the cost of a first class ticket.!

      • I thought that too at first glance, but reread it to say it was taxes

  5. Peter K says:

    Interesting read.

    Minor typo “Last flew, I flew THE best First Class”. I think it should be last year, I flew.

  6. Wonder if staff travel on EK will get reduced or is this purely a tax reduction reward flights?

  7. AndyF says:

    This is great news not that I have yet flown using miles with Emirates yet, surely this will mean other miles programs having to stay competitive and hence thinking a little harder before jacking up more redemptions fees and miles etc.

  8. Wapps68 says:

    Sounds great, except, are they still not doing a proper F&B service? If so, the benefits of flying premium are heavily eroded – eg the bar on the A380 becomes a bit boring!

  9. Matthew says:

    IIRC the twice daily Stansted service is supposed to resume on 01 Sep.

  10. ChrisC says:

    You were doing so well and using ‘surcharges’ in the title then immedialy went back to conflating surcharges with fees and taxes

    Come on it’s not that hard to be accurate!

  11. Aston100 says:

    Various travel blogs blogs seem to suggest Etihad and Singapore have the best first class suite.

    • I’ve done Etihad twice and don’t like it much. It’s actually too big and too enclosed. The drink is £20 per bottle at UK retail prices. Food is OK.

      Not done the new Singapore suite but I have been in it. Feedback is variable though due to the fixed seat which is exposed to the person opposite you. It can’t be beat if you have two suites and join them together in a double bed though, agreed. (And the Emirates one is terrible for a couple because you are literally locked away from each other.)

      • Keith says:

        As has been pointed out the article makes repeated reference to taxes being cut. The taxes will only be affected by Government or airport action, not by an airline. An airline might subsidise the taxes, as in some Ryanair sale prices, but they can’t cut them. There is nothing in the article to indicate that such subsidy is the case here and, even if there was, it would still not be a case of the airline cutting taxes.

        Regarding the principle of airline surcharges, these started out as a fuel surcharge. Clearly any fuel surcharge should now be a fuel discount, and hence todays surcharges are quite simply a hidden fare element. Since the contributors here love acronyms could you not devise a meaningful acronym for this element of the fare, and stop the incorrect references to taxes.

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