While Emirates’ blingy first-class cabins and onboard bar and shower have caught the eye of almost every award traveler, the carrier’s Skywards frequent flyer program has historically been an afterthought. Simply put, there have been cheaper ways to book Emirates awards with miles you could earn more easily.
Unfortunately, many of these have changed significantly, and even Emirates Skywards underwent some notable devaluations over the last couple of years. That said, the program still offers some appealing options. TPG values Emirates Skywards miles at 1.2 cents each, and many of the best credit cards partner with Emirates to allow transfers directly to your Skywards account.
Here is everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards loyalty program.
How to earn miles with Emirates Skywards
There are a number of ways to earn Emirates miles — not just by flying but also through the carrier’s various partners.
Earn miles via credit cards
As with most airlines, the fastest way to earn a meaningful amount of miles is by leveraging the right credit card welcome bonus and transfer options.
Emirates does offer a pair of cobranded credit cards in the United States, but even if you don’t have one of them, Skywards miles are among the easiest to earn, as Emirates is one of the only airlines to partner with all the major transferable points currencies. This means that no matter what points program you’ve built your credit card strategy around, you should have an easy way to transfer miles to Emirates.
The following cards all currently offer strong welcome bonuses that you could easily convert to Skywards miles:
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Check to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000-point welcome offer through CardMatch (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees): Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees): Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Citi Premier® Card: (see rates and fees).Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
However, be sure that transferring your rewards to Emirates makes the most sense before doing so, as transfers are irreversible.
Earn miles by flying Emirates
If you’re a frequent international traveler, you could also earn miles by crediting flights on Emirates or one of its partner airlines to your Skywards account. Emirates awards miles based on the distance flown and fare class, not the cost of your ticket, like U.S. airlines do.
There’s no earnings chart published anywhere, so you’ll have to rely on Emirates’ miles calculator to see how much you’ll earn. Just as an example, if you book the cheapest fare available in each cabin, here’s how many miles you’d earn on a round-trip flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Dubai International Airport (DXB):
- Economy (special): 1,800 miles
- Premium economy (flex): 13,200 miles
- Business class (special): 13,200 miles
- First class (flex or flex plus): 30,000 miles
Earn miles on partner flights
Emirates partners with the following airlines, allowing you to earn Skywards miles when you credit flights on those partners to your Emirates account:
- Air Canada
- Air Mauritius
- Bangkok Airways
- Copa Airlines
- easyJet (spend partner only)
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Malaysia Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Portugal
- United Airlines
With all partners, your earn rate is based on a combination of your flight distance and the fare class you book. Unfortunately, Emirates’ partner accrual charts aren’t especially generous, with all partners capped at between 1 and 2 miles earned per mile flown – even for premium cabins.
Earn miles with rental car partners and hotel partners
There are several ways to earn Emirates miles beyond flights and credit cards, starting with the airline’s numerous rental car partners. Emirates partners with most of the major car rental companies around the world, allowing you to earn either a fixed bonus of up to 10,000 miles per eligible rental (which TPG values at $120) or bonuses of up to 6 miles per $1 spent. This works out to a 7.2% return based on TPG’s valuations.
Normally, you’re best off booking hotels directly to make sure you earn hotel points and have your elite benefits honored. But if you travel less frequently, you might decide that booking with a third party and earning airline miles is better. Emirates partners with several major booking platforms and individual hotel chains like Hyatt, Intercontinental, Atlantis The Palm and The Luxury Collection.
Instead of transferring points between accounts, Emirates’ “My Family” program lets you and up to seven family members (including children) create a joint “My Family” account to combine miles. Every time you fly with Emirates, you can select how many miles to credit to your My Family account, with the remainder going into your Skywards account.
This can be a great way for couples and families to combine their efforts and save up miles for awards faster.
Emirates Skywards Elite status
Emirates offers four elite status tiers in its Skywards loyalty program, starting from Blue (general members) up through top-tier Platinum. You can qualify either by earning a set number of tier miles or taking a certain number of flights each year:
- Blue: Entry-level member
- Silver: 25,000 tier miles or 25 flights
- Gold: 50,000 tier miles or 50 flights
- Platinum: 150,000 tier miles and take at least one qualifying flight in business or first class.
All elite members (i.e., Silver and above) receive complimentary lounge access and priority check-in. Meanwhile, Gold and Platinum members receive perks like guaranteed seats on full flights and priority baggage delivery. Platinum status also provides first-class lounge access. Each tier also comes with a mileage bonus, with Silver members earning 25% bonus miles, Gold earning 50% and Platinum earning up to 75%.
How to redeem Emirates miles
Redeem miles for Emirates flights
Given that Emirates is not a member of one of the three major airline alliances, your dream Skywards redemptions may be for Emirates-operated flights.
Emirates flies from its hub in Dubai (DXB) to hundreds of destinations worldwide and has enjoyed incredible success serving as a connecting hub for passengers flying between Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and even North America.
Unfortunately, the Skywards program underwent a slew of devaluations in 2022 — raising award rates and fuel surcharges in February, increasing fuel surcharges again in March and June, and finally raising award prices yet again in December.
Since Emirates doesn’t publish an award chart, you’ll need to check the airline’s mileage calculator to search prices for each route you want to travel. Note that this calculator claims to indicate the number of miles you’ll earn on Emirates flights, but it also displays the redemption rates.
While most programs that allow one-way awards will price these at 50% of the cost of a round trip, Emirates prices most one-ways above 50%.
Here is the cost of some of the most popular North American routes (one-way and round trip):
|New York to Dubai||Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Dubai|
|Economy||62,500/72,500 miles||71,250/82,500 miles|
|Premium economy||78,300/156,600 miles||89,100/178,200 miles|
|Business||138,000/174,000 miles||157,500/198,000 miles|
|First||163,500/327,000 miles||186,000/372,000 miles|
Emirates currently operates two fifth-freedom flights from the U.S, flying an A380 daily between New York-JFK and Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and a 777-300ER daily between Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) and Athens International Airport (ATH). This can be a fun way to get to Europe if you don’t wish to fly all the way to Dubai.
Unfortunately, these flights jumped in price in early 2023, but they can still provide some decent value. You can book one-way/round-trip awards on either route at the following rates:
- Economy: 38,750/45,000 miles
- Premium economy: Not currently available
- Business: 87,000 miles/108,000 miles
- First: 102,000/204,000 miles
Unfortunately, with last year’s changes, fuel surcharges on most Emirates flights booked through Skywards are quite high. A round-trip flight from the U.S. to Dubai will typically include roughly $450 in taxes and fees for economy — though business- and first-class award tickets will tack on over $1,700 in addition to the required mileage.
Thankfully, the European routes detailed above are still reasonable, only adding a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees.
Redeem Emirates Skywards miles for partner awards
You can redeem Skywards miles on all of the airline partners described. Fortunately, Emirates does publish a simple distance-based award chart for all partners. Here are the costs one-way, per person.
These prices are largely in line with other loyalty programs. For example, United often charges 26,000 miles in economy or 64,000 miles in business class to fly from the East Coast to the United Kingdom. If you are looking at round-trip flights to Europe, then you’ll be charged less for the Emirates-operated fifth freedom flights listed above.
Emirates first class remains one of the most aspirational bucket list items for many award travelers. That hasn’t changed in recent years, but after several devaluations from partners like Alaska and JAL, Emirates first-class awards are generally easiest to book with the carrier’s own Skywards program — especially with many U.S. transfer partners to pick from.
That said, these flights do require a large number of miles and have hefty fuel surcharges, so be sure to check total costs for your desired dates before going all-in with Emirates Skywards.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg