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. With these reductions all we need now is
    1) Sainsbury’s/Nectar to offer a points redemption for Emirates Skyward miles as they have no airline partner
    2) Sainsbury’s Bank to issue an Emirates Credit Card

    You can but dream !!!!!

  2. Peter North says:

    I have a particular fondness for Emirates. I saw a very interesting documentary on them getting their first A380 several years ago. The logistics of operating such a beast are fascinating. I recorded the programme, for reference, but sadly lost it when I upgraded my sky box a couple of years later, along with several other programmes, including several episodes of springwatch amongst others.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Am i right in thinking you only need to book by the skywards expiry date, not actually fly by the expiry date?

  4. old bob says:

    Open to individual interpretation, I would be looking at the small print in the T&C’s, conditions of carriage if I were you. http://www.emirates.com/uk/english/information/terms-and-conditions/

  5. Kartik Dhawan says:

    Howcome Virgin redemptions are so much better than both emirates and BA? and given that they are, why aren’t they mentioned in this article? I understand virgin offers significantly less destinations but it still isn’t that bad.

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