Emirates first class upgrade guide

By Chris C., January 5 2018
Emirates first class upgrade guide

Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.

For a little luxe on your next journey with Emirates, why not use your hard-earned Skywards miles for an upgrade to first class?

Whether you’ve earned your Skywards bounty from flights or through credit cards such as the Emirates Citi World MasterCard, you’re clear to use them for an upgrade on most business class tickets booked directly with Emirates.

Between Sydney and Dubai, you're looking at 54,000 miles from the pricey 'Flex' and 'Flex Plus' fares or a higher 70,200 miles on 'Saver' tickets.

However, you won't be able to upgrade to first class using miles from business class 'Special' tickets, or when travelling in economy: Emirates upgrades are all one-class only, so you can't skip business and hop into first class.

Stuck in economy? Upgrade to Emirates business class

Onwards from Dubai to destinations such as London, Paris and Frankfurt, passengers can upgrade for either 30,000 or 39,000 miles depending on their fare type… but, if you’re in for the long trek from Australia to Europe, it’s better to upgrade the full journey rather than one sector at a time.

For example, from Sydney to London it’s only 62,500 or 81,250 Skywards miles to spend the entire journey in first class – a saving of up to 27,950 miles over requesting each upgrade separately.

Upgrade your entire Sydney-London journey from just 62,500 Skywards miles...
Upgrade your entire Sydney-London journey from just 62,500 Skywards miles...

Just note that Emirates miles can't be used to upgrade to first class on Qantas flights, even if you book under the EK flight number – nor can Qantas Points be used to upgrade on Emirates flights.

Read: Qantas first class upgrade guide

Emirates first class upgrades

To remind, Emirates upgrades are all single-class – which sees economy passengers moving forward into business class, but only business class travellers have a shot at the on-board ‘shower spas’ at the pointiest of pointy ends, which we’ve tried and tested.

Definite 'wow' appeal: the first class shower suite on Emirates' Airbus A380
Definite 'wow' appeal: the first class shower suite on Emirates' Airbus A380

Skywards upgrades can be requested through the Emirates website and if available, can be locked in straight away: although the number of upgrades offered on each flight doesn’t necessarily match the number of vacant seats.

Emirates often leaves room for high-value, last-minute sales – but if an upgrade is available on your flight and you request it online at least six hours before take-off, it's yours to enjoy.

You can also try your hand at a seat in first class when checking-in, or even on board where Silver, Gold and Platinum members of Skywards can nudge the crew for a better seat, as long as they’re willing to cough up enough miles.

That can be your only option if you've booked your Emirates flight via another airline as the website and check-in team may say no, but the crew may still be able to upgrade you once on board.

Booking your upgradeable flight

If you're planning to upgrade, you'll first want to ensure that the fare you're booking is indeed upgradeable – the Emirates website makes this very clear and even shows how many miles are required to upgrade from each fare type:

[Click the image above to enlarge it.]

On this sample trip from Sydney to Dubai, we can see that 70,200 miles are needed for a first class upgrade from the $4,771.55 fare, but that only 54,000 miles are needed to upgrade the $4,896.55 Business Flex ticket.

In other words, paying $125 more in cash saves 16,200 miles at upgrade time and also earns an extra 3,724 miles, leaving you with a mileage balance after the flight of nearly 20,000 miles more than if you took the marginally cheaper Business Saver option.

But keep in mind that upgrades are again subject to availability: you'll want to either call Emirates or use subscription-based software like ExpertFlyer to check what's available on your particular flight before booking, if getting that upgrade is highly important to you.

Requesting your Emirates first class upgrade

Whichever flight you choose, simply load up your reservation through the ‘manage existing booking’ section of the Emirates website and look for the 'Upgrade with Miles' option on the right-hand side:

The online system will automatically try to upgrade every passenger on your booking – so if you're being joined by colleagues and need a little tranquillity of your own, give Emirates a call on 1300 303 777 and ask the agent to leave everybody else in business class.

If upgrades aren't available on your flight, try again as soon as online check-in opens, at the airport check-in desks and or again on board for Silver, Gold and Platinum Skywards members to maximise your chances.

Emirates also allows passengers to purchase upgrades online, but this typically involves paying the fare difference from business class to first class rather than upgrading at a discount, so it's more akin to changing your fare than upgrading in the traditional sense.

Also read: Emirates Boeing 777 first class flight review

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Platinum (Lifetime Gold)

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 55

In late June I flew first on Emirates using QF frequent flyer points BNE-DXB and was surprised I was the only one in the cabin.  I wondered at the time where the upgrade passengers were, why hadn't EK moved others up.  Why not add some other passengers to the mx rather than my 3:1 staff passenger ratio?

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Emirates first class upgrade guide