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The Qantas/Emirates alliance has raised the awareness of Emirates' Skywards frequent flyer scheme among Australian business travellers.
Despite a general 'perks parity' between the Qantas and Emirates rewards programs under the airline partnership, there are many reasons why even some of the Red Roo's rusted-on customers will want to consider working their way towards Skywards status.
With that in mind, we've put together this introduction to Emirates' Skywards frequent flyer scheme.
Although Emirates isn’t a member of a global alliance, Skywards members can earn miles when travelling with Qantas, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Virgin America, along with five other airline partners, and of course, Emirates itself.
Membership is free – to start earning miles, just head to the Emirates website to enrol.
Miles automatically expire three years from the month that they were earned, and as you begin flying with the airline, you’ll receive your Skywards membership pack in the mail.
Along with an Australian passport and a spare passport photograph, you can then choose to register for the UAE’s e-gate passport processing facility on the ground in Dubai.
The system is similar to Australia’s SmartGate – rather than queuing to be processed through passport control, you can self-process into and out of the UAE, which is a great entry-level perk.
Beginning at the Blue tier, you’ll progress to Silver, Gold and Platinum as you travel more frequently and rack up what Emirates calls Tier Miles.
Unlike standard Skywards Miles, which can be redeemed for flights or upgrades, Tier Miles are exclusively used to measure your status.
If you’ve familiar with Qantas Frequent Flyer, think of Tier Miles as your Status Credits – you’ll earn more on flexible fares and for travel in business and first class, and less on cheaper tickets in economy.
After reeling in 25,000 Tier Miles or taking 25 Emirates flights in a year, you’ll move up from Blue to Silver.
Handy perks like access to the Emirates business class lounges in Dubai, earning 25% more Skywards Miles on flights and an extra 12kg of baggage are all on tap.
Priority check-in and boarding and the ability to redeem Skywards Miles for upgrades once you’re on board also become available, which can be handy if you’re pressed for time or booked a flight at short notice.
With benefits like worldwide lounge access and 50% more Skywards Miles on Emirates flights, Gold is the ‘sweet spot’ in the Skywards program.
The status itself is relatively easy to obtain – either 50,000 Tier Miles or 50 Emirates flights will get you across the line.
In practical terms, that’s only two return trips to London each year in business class.
Along with seating and newspaper preferences, Skywards Gold members can store a favourite drink in their frequent flyer profile. It sounds a little gimmicky, but when it lands on your tray table without having to ask, you do feel right at home.
Up to 16kg of extra baggage can be checked and handled with priority, while express path/fast track immigration cards are also given to Gold members where available.
Better yet is access to domestic Qantas Clubs and Qantas’ international business class lounges whenever flying with Emirates or Qantas – including the Red Roo’s new lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong.
While members at the other tiers can enjoy priority check-in and boarding, Platinum members can use the first class desks and queues, which means less time standing and more time spent in the lounge.
Baggage allowances are boosted by 20kg, Skywards Miles can be earned with a 75% bonus on flights and lounge access is even more comprehensive, which makes Platinum worth the effort if you travel frequently.
Members can access the Emirates first class lounge in Dubai before any Emirates or Qantas flight – even when flying in economy – and can also use the luxe Qantas First Class lounges in Sydney or Melbourne before flights with the same airlines.
On the domestic front, access is granted to Qantas’ business class lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, in addition to all Qantas Clubs.
To qualify for Platinum each year, you’ll need to earn 150,000 Tier Miles on Emirates flights, which is three times the threshold for Gold-level members.
Regardless of how frequently you travel, Tier Miles can only be earned on EK-coded flights – so when flying with partner airlines, it’s best to make sure you always book on the Emirates (EK) codeshare.
(If you’re instead trying to earn status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, you’ll need to stick to QF-coded flights.)
Earning Skywards Miles
On a return trip from Sydney to Dubai, the number of points you’ll earn depends on the type of fare you’ve purchased and the travel class you’ve booked.
Flexible business class tickets hoover up a total of 30,100 Skywards Miles on the return journey, while the cheaper economy fares earn just 8,600 miles.
At the pointiest of pointy ends, first class passengers rake in 43,000 miles on flexible fares – and in all cases, the Silver/Gold/Platinum mileage bonuses are served on top.
The number of Tier Miles earned on the trek from Australia to the Middle East is the same as the Skywards Miles figures above, although status-based bonuses don’t apply to Tier Miles.
Redeeming Skywards Miles
Miles can be redeemed for travel on Emirates and its raft of partner airlines, and bookings can usually be made directly through the Skywards website.
Like revenue tickets, both Saver and Flex fares can be booked using miles (with a co-payment for taxes and surcharges), with Saver fares naturally the best value.
On that same Sydney-Dubai-Sydney journey, Saver economy costs 96,000 Skywards Miles and business class sets you back 192,000 miles, although to enjoy the luxury of Emirates' Airbus A380 ‘shower spa’, it’s a hefty 288,000 miles.
If you’ve already paid for your tickets outright, 57,500 miles could see you upgraded from a Saver, or just 45,000 miles from a flexible fare in each direction.
Upgrades are all one-class, so you’ll be shuttled into business class if you've booked an economy ticket, and if you’re already in business, that’ll see you in first.
Where upgrades are offered on your flight, they can be processed from most fare types as soon as the booking has been made.
However, some of the cheaper Saver fares aren’t upgradeable until online check-in has opened for the flight, so do check the website for the upgrade rules when booking flights.
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