A complete guide to Emirates Skywards business class upgrades

Put your Skywards miles to good use by upgrading to business class with Emirates will make for a more comfortable flight.

By Staff Writers, June 17 2016
A complete guide to Emirates Skywards business class upgrades

When discussing the best business class experiences in the sky, it’s virtually impossible not to include Emirates in the conversation.

Upgrades can be requested on many Emirates economy bookings, including award seats originally booked with Skywards miles.

If buying your seat with cash, upgrades are possible on all fare levels except Economy Special. As the least expensive seat available, it’s the most restrictive and leaves you powerless to pay your way forward.

The number of miles needed for an upgrade depends on whether you’ve purchased a Saver, Flex or Flex Plus fare.

Between Sydney and Dubai, you’ll churn 95,000 Skywards miles to bump up from a Saver seat; 70,200 miles from Flex or 54,000 miles from Flex Plus. As previously mentioned, the cheapest Special fares can't be upgraded with points.

Onwards from Dubai to the likes of London, Paris and Frankfurt, passengers can upgrade for either 57,500, 39,000 or 30,000 miles depending on the fare purchased – but if you’re making the day-long trek from Australia to Europe, you’d be wise to upgrade the full journey.

Swap that cramped economy seat for a lie-flat bed for 171,000, 81,250 or 62,500 Skywards miles from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Europe, and you’ll save up to 27,950 miles compared to upgrading sectors separately.

Emirates upgrades can be confirmed in advance – unlike Qantas Classic Upgrade Rewards, where this feature is only available on domestic flights.

Emirates business class upgrades

Emirates upgrades are all one-class – meaning the following:

  • Economy class passengers can upgrade to premium economy
  • Economy class passengers can upgrade to business class
  • Premium economy passengers can upgrade to business class
  • Business class passengers can upgrade to first class

Miles can be swapped for a better seat through the Skywards website. A boost to business class opens access to Emirates’ famous inflight bar, while a push from business to first class enables the opportunity to enjoy its indulgent shower spa. 

The number of available upgrades is limited on every flight, but if there's one available and your request is made at least six hours before take-off, it can be yours.

Upgrading to business class brings all the perks with it, including access to the inflight lounge.
Upgrading to business class brings all the perks with it, including access to the inflight lounge.

Even as late as boarding, Skywards members of any tier can nudge the crew for a better seat for themselves and any companions, as long as they’re willing to cough up enough miles.

Requesting your upgrade

Most tickets can be upgraded immediately after the booking has been finalised, although the Economy Class Saver fares don’t permit this until check-in, with the cheaper Economy Special ones not allowing it at all.

The Emirates website makes it very clear when making a new booking, so you’ll see this if your flights can’t be upgraded until closer to departure:

Top tip: In this instance, the best value is for a Flex fare, and here’s why.

By paying an extra AUD$255 compared to the Saver fare, it more than halves the number of Skywards miles you’d need to part with to secure a confirmed upgrade to business class as soon as the ticket has been purchased.

It also more than doubles the number of Skywards miles you’ll bring in for future use.

To get things moving, load up your reservation through the ‘manage existing booking’ section of the Emirates website and go from there.

The site will automatically attempt to upgrade every passenger on your booking, so if you’re travelling with colleagues, give Emirates Contact Centre a call on 1300 303 777 and ask the agent to leave your workmates in economy.

If you’re late to the game and only ponder an upgrade after pulling up at the curb – or even once you’re in the air – just speak to a check-in agent or a member of the crew for assistance.

Roll back your seat into its lie-flat position for the evening hours in the air.
Roll back your seat into its lie-flat position for the evening hours in the air.

Whether confirmed in advance or bumped up on board, upgrades cost the same number of miles.

In some cases, government taxes and fees can differ between business class and economy – in which case you’ll also be asked for a credit card to cover the difference.

Emirates also offers an ‘auto upgrade’ option, which can be found in your Manage my Booking section. This feature is essentially like waitlisting an upgrade. 

If a seat becomes available and you have sufficient miles in your account, your upgrade will be automatically processed.

A few pitfalls...

While an upgrade to business class is wonderful, the number of Skywards miles and tier miles you’ll earn will be as per your original economy fare. There’s no shortcut to a higher status here.

Also, online upgrades aren’t available when travelling on Emirates flights sold by other airlines, including Qantas, even if an Emirates (EK) code appears on the booking.

That same principle applies to partner frequent flyer award tickets – so if you’ve used your Qantas points to book an economy flight with Emirates, you can’t then use Skywards miles to upgrade.

However, Silver, Gold and Platinum Skywards members can side-step these restrictions by requesting their upgrade on-board, on all but the lowest Special tickets.

Emirates business class upgrades: FAQs

Can I check if an Emirates business class upgrade award is available before purchasing my flight?

Yes, simply give Emirates Contact Centre a call on 1300 303 777 and they’ll let you know of any available upgrade reward.

Once upgraded to Emirates business class, will I get all the benefits of the upgraded fare?

Yes, once upgrading a booking you’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of the class of travel to which you have upgraded, including lounge access, extra baggage allowance, and inflight meal service (subject to availability).

Can I use the miles earned on an Emirates flight booking towards an instant upgrade on that same flight?

No. Since Skywards miles are only credited to your account once the journey is over, you won't be able to count with these miles on the flight you are currently taking. 

Can I upgrade an existing Emirates booking using Cash + Miles?  

In short, no. Emirates’ Cash + Miles option is only available when booking a new flight. Save it for your next journey.

thanks Chris, these are handy tips! :)

Skywards Gold

21 Apr 2011

Total posts 54

I struggle to fing any upgrade availability between Syd-Dxb... begining to think its non existent or minimal.. Any comments on how many seats they release on each flight?

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

I did a lot of research on this after the July 2013 changes to upgrade policies, using Expert Flyer and a gigantic Excel spreadsheet to monitor changes week by week.

The pattern for upgrade availability on the SYD-DXB and MEL-DXB runs shows that outside of low season it's very difficult to get an upgrade on the direct flights to DXB, but a little easier on the flights that go via SIN, KUL and BKK. The latter flights are all on 77W's as opposed to A380's, so the bed isn't as good, but it's a nice backup option.

In most instances though, and especially if there are only 10-12 (or less) unsold J seats on the 380 in the days leading up to the flight, you've really got to wait until the final 24 hours before departure for seats to become available, if at all.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 233

Upgrades are sometimes available but they still have the worst Business Class seats around.


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

17 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

On  our first return flight with Emirates  my husband & i were given an upgrade on the Dubai - Brisbane flight .It was exceptional circumstances as my husband fell ill.He was moved to First class .when we reboarded on the Singapore / Brisbane continuation flight we were both given boarding passes for Buisness Class.  Thought this would never happen again but a year later on the dubai / London flight sector from Brisbane we again got upgraded to Buisness class . Enjoyed the experience & never used skyward miles .You enjoy the upgrade so much more when you recieve it before asking.

22 Jun 2013

Total posts 97

I'm not sure I would agree that the Qantas upgrade system is more like a lottery. Yes you often don't know until the eleventh hour, however, the designation to CL, P1, P, Gold, Silver, Bronze and finally bidders seems pretty sequential to me, rather than being a random process.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Lottery simply in that you don't know if you'll 'win' or not, not a granular analysis of the process.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Feb 2016

Total posts 5

Has anyone successfully asked on board and got upgraded (with points)?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jul 2016

Total posts 1

That last sentence in your article. Do you mean gold and platinum members in Emirates or Qantas?  I am asking because we bought tickets recently Perth/Oslo from Qantas and booked EK flight nr so we could ask for upgrades with our Emirates points. We are gold and platinum in Qantas and just Blue and Silver in Emirates.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

"Upgrades (prior to departure) can be requested on most Emirates economy bookings with a 176 ticket number" – booking through Qantas means you'll have a 081 ticket number, not a 176 ticket number, so your only option to upgrade will be if the Skywards Silver member asks on board and upgrades both travellers.

(There's no harm asking earlier at check-in, but expect to be told it's not possible.)

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 53

Has anyone had much luck with cash upgrades on EK? One of my friends had an offer for $500 for a MEL-SIN from Y. When trying the offer had expired, but it seems like an awfully cheap way to upgrade.

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