A complete frequent flyer guide to Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards allows you to earn and spend miles around the world on flights with a variety of global partners.

By Staff Writers, September 15 2020
A complete frequent flyer guide to Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards is the frequent flyer program for Dubai’s Emirates Airline and is one of the most popular loyalty programs anywhere in the world.

Along with being one of the most popular partners of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, the Skywards scheme also operates entirely independently, with members able to earn and spend miles with a wide range of partners both in the air and on the ground.

In fact, you don't need to be a regular Emirates customer or even a regular international traveller to earn and spend Skywards miles.

In addition to Skywards miles, flying with Emirates and partner airlines will also earn Tier Miles which determine which of the four branches in the status tree you sit on, potentially unlocking perks such as airport lounge access, seat guarantees, priority baggage allowances and much more.

What is Emirates Skywards?

Skywards is the loyalty program serving both Emirates frequent flyers and frequent buyers, allowing members to earn miles on flights, hotels, car hire, credit card spend and more, all around the world.

While Emirates isn't a member of a global alliance like Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam, it does maintain its own network of domestic and international partner airlines, on which members can earn and spend miles, and in some cases, enjoy tier benefits like lounge access.

How to join Emirates Skywards

The Skywards program is free to join – visit the Emirates website and submit the online form.

New applicants to Emirates Skywards will start in the Blue tier.
New applicants to Emirates Skywards will start in the Blue tier.

Once complete, you’ll immediately join the Blue tier, opening entry-level benefits such as the ability to earn miles, lounge access for a fee and waitlist priority over non-members, but not much of real use.

Where and how can I earn Skywards miles?

Even if you don't regularly fly with Emirates, you can earn Skywards miles around the globe, both in the air and on the ground.

Earn Skywards miles on flights, hotels, ground transport

In addition to eligible Emirates flights, Skywards miles can also be earned on eligible flights with Qantas, Jetstar, Flydubai, Air Mauritius, Bangkok Airways, Air Canada, Copa Airlines, GOL, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, South African Airways, easyJet and TAP Portugal.

Earn miles through hotel stays booked through Skywards Hotels, such as at One&Only The Palm Dubai.
Earn miles through hotel stays booked through Skywards Hotels, such as at One&Only The Palm Dubai.

On the ground, earn up to 12,500 Skywards miles per night spent in hotels booked via Emirates Skywards Hotels.

Hotel loyalty program points can also be converted into Skywards miles from Accor Live Limitless, Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and more, at varying conversion rates.

Members holding Skywards Silver status or higher who link their Skywards and Marriott Bonvoy accounts can also earn one Skywards mile per US dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, in addition to any normal Marriott Bonvoy program points.

Emirates also partners with car hire companies Avis, Budget, CarTrawler, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt, allowing Skywards members to earn miles on eligible rentals.

Earn Skywards miles on credit cards and shopping

Outside of the UAE, the Gulf carrier is affiliated with a number of credit card issuers, through which cardholders can convert their credit card points into Emirates miles.

In Australia, those credit card (and charge card) issuers include American Express and Commonwealth Bank. These two financial institutions allow members of their own rewards programs to manually convert points into Skywards miles at the following rates:

  • American Express Membership Rewards - 2 points for 1 Skywards mile
  • Commonwealth Bank CommBank Awards - 4 points for 1 Skywards mile

(Citibank Australia used to offer a direct-earning Emirates credit card – the Emirates Citi World Mastercard. However, as a result of Citigroup's sale of its Australian operations to NAB, the card is no longer available for new applicants).

When shopping online, you may also be able to earn Emirates Skywards miles via the Skywards Miles Mall, although this is currently limited to stores in the United Kingdom, United States and United Arab Emirates.

For a full list of Emirates' Skywards partners, head to the Skywards website and explore all your opportunities for earning miles. 

How many Skywards miles can I earn?

The number of Skywards miles on offer will depend on how you're earning them.

In the air, for example, miles are broadly calculated based on the distance of your flight, the type of fare you've purchased, and the cabin flown on each flight.

Expect to earn more miles on business class or first class flights, on flexible airfares (including in economy) and on longer routes, versus shorter journeys booked in the lowest-priced economy fares, on which you'll earn fewer miles.

On a return trip from Sydney to Dubai, for example, flexible business class tickets hoover up a total of 31,500 Skywards Miles, while for the same journey on Emirates’ cheapest economy special fare earns just 2,700 miles.

Even in business class, different fares will change how many Skywards miles you'll earn on your journey.
Even in business class, different fares will change how many Skywards miles you'll earn on your journey.

At the pointiest of pointy ends, first class passengers rake in 45,000 miles on flexible fares – and in all cases, the Silver/Gold/Platinum mileage bonuses are served on top.

On the ground, the number of Skywards miles you'll collect is more closely linked to the number of dollars spent, such as with hotel partners, on car hire, or on eligible credit cards.

For example, in Australia, car rental companies Hertz and Avis & Budget offer up to 5 and 8 Skywards Miles, respectively, per dollar spent.

Through other partners, like banks, you would instead earn points in the issuer's own loyalty program – based on dollars spent – and could then convert those points into Skywards miles.

Under that scenario, the more you spend, the more Skywards miles you could access.

Skywards doesn't limit the number of miles you can earn in total across all categories and methods, although some partners may apply individual caps or limits on Skymiles earn – such as credit card points capping or tiering, or car hire providers setting a limit on how many miles can be earned from a single rental. 

What are Skywards Tier Miles?

In the Skywards program, members can earn both 'Skywards Miles' and 'Tier Miles'.

Skywards miles are those referenced above, being miles you earn from all kinds of activities that can later be spent on a variety of rewards, such as flight bookings and upgrades.

Your Skywards miles can upgrade you to first class.
Your Skywards miles can upgrade you to first class.

Tier Miles, however, are the Emirates equivalent of Qantas Status Credits, and exist solely to determine your eligibility for an elite rank in the Skywards program: such as Silver, Gold or Platinum membership.

Unlike Skywards miles, Tier Miles can only be earned from eligible Emirates and Flydubai marketed flights. 

What are the Emirates Skywards membership tiers?

Skywards has three elite tier levels – Silver, Gold and Platinum – above the entry-level Blue status.

Emirates also has an invitation-only tier, 'iO', for which the qualification criteria is not published. However, these memberships are typically extended to Emirates' most frequent premium flyers.

In any case, here's how you can earn these tiers, and how you can retain them.

Tier / requirements

How to earn

How to retain

Skywards Silver

25,000 Tier Miles or 25 flights

25,000 Tier Miles or 25 flights

Skywards Gold

50,000 Tier Miles or 50 flights

50,000 Tier Miles or 50 flights

Skywards Platinum

150,000 Tier Miles

150,000 Tier Miles

iO (Invitation Only)

By invitation only

By invitation only

Emirates uses a rolling 12-month window to assess membership upgrades. This means that you can accrue either the Tier Miles or the required number of flights at any time over a consecutive 12-month period, and be upgraded once you've achieved one or the other.

Importantly, you don't need both – so if you've earned the required number of Tier Miles for a higher level of status but haven't also accrued the number of 'flights' shown above, you'll still be upgraded.

Platinum status, however, is only available upon reaching 150,000 Tier Miles, regardless of how many eligible flights you've taken.

The more Emirates flights you take, the faster you'll ascend through its status tiers.
The more Emirates flights you take, the faster you'll ascend through its status tiers.

Once you reach an elite tier, your account will instead move to a fixed 12-month membership year for the purpose of retaining that status.

That is, once you've earned Silver, you need to earn either 25,000 Tier Miles or complete 25 flights within a new 12-month window to maintain your Silver membership for a further year.

It's also worth noting that once status has been earned, you have 14 months to enjoy the benefits, even if you won't retain that status for a longer period.

However, as membership years are linked to 12-month periods (as opposed to 14-month windows), this essentially means that at the end of your 12 months of membership, you'll simply hold onto your tier for two months longer before you drop down, if you haven't retained it for another year.

What are the benefits of Skywards status?

As soon as you sign up to the Skywards program you will be eligible to earn Skywards Miles whenever flying with Emirates and its partner airlines – as well as with its web of partners on the ground.

On top of that, Skywards offers elite members a suite of generous benefits, with even Silver-level members enjoying some form of unlimited airport lounge access.

Here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to:

Skywards Silver: 

  • Enjoy complimentary unlimited access to Emirates' business class lounges in Dubai when travelling with Emirates
  • Earn 25% bonus miles on Emirates flights
  • Use miles to upgrade after boarding a flight

Skywards Gold: Benefits of Silver, plus

  • Global access to Emirates' business class lounges when flying Emirates (plus domestic Qantas Clubs and most Qantas international business lounges when flying Qantas)
  • Complimentary economy class seat selection

Skywards Platinum: Benefits of Gold, plus

  • Access to Emirates' first class lounges in Dubai International Airport, Qantas' first class lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore (LAX is excluded)
  • A 75% bonus Skywards miles on Emirates flights
  • Guaranteed business class seats
  • Complimentary Gold card for a spouse, partner or friend

In addition to its top-tier rewards, Emirates also offers Skywards+,  a paid frequent flyer subscription service that delivers customised rewards and privileges throughout the year, with personalised benefits such as bonus Skywards Miles, bonus Tier Miles, discounted upgrade rewards, airport lounge access, and preferential Cash + Miles rates. 

For the full list of benefits, head to the Skywards website.

Do Skywards miles expire?

Yes, Skywards miles do expire, with a lifespan of at least three years from the time you first earn them – and sometimes, a little more.

Expiry takes place once per year at the end of the month in which you were born.

So, if your birthday is in September, any miles earned from October 2022 through September 2023 would expire on 30 September 2026, and so on.

This provides you with several years in which to use your miles, but unlike programs such as Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer, simply earning or spending a mile isn't enough to keep your balance alive.

Don't let your hard-earned points disappear. There are ways to prolong their life.
Don't let your hard-earned points disappear. There are ways to prolong their life.

Of course, when you redeem, miles that have been in your account for the longest period of time are redeemed first, so you don’t need to worry about spending newer miles and watching as older accruals disappear.

There are ways to prolong the life of your miles if you either can’t spend them in the three-year period or are saving for something bigger.

  • Extend them - Provided your miles have at least three months of life left, you can give them a further 12 months for USD$20 for every 1,000 miles you wish to extend.
  • Reinstate them - Any unredeemed miles you’ve lost less than six months earlier can be resurrected, also for USD$20 for every 1,000 miles you wish to bring back. Once reinstated, points will be yours again to spend within a 12-month period.

If you’re aiming for a particular reward but your balance falls just short, miles can be purchased or transferred to or from another account up to predetermined annual limits.

From time to time, Emirates will also extend opportunities to multiply miles on your next eligible flight. Again for USD$20 per 1,000 miles, your haul can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled to help you reach your next reward faster, up to a certain annual limit.

How do I spend and redeem Emirates Skywards miles?

Many of the ways that you earn Skywards miles are also ways that you can spend them: such as on flights with Emirates, Qantas, and its broader web of partner airlines.

On a return Sydney-Dubai trip, for example, saver economy costs 83,800 Skywards Miles and business class sets you back 192,000 miles, although to enjoy the luxury of Emirates' Airbus A380 first class, complete with its ‘shower spa’, it’s a hefty 361,000 miles.

The first class shower spa was a concept ahead of its time.
The first class shower spa was a concept ahead of its time.

Miles can also be spent on the ground, such as on hotel stays and car hire, although often, these do not provide the best redemption value.

Upgrades using Skywards miles are also possible on Emirates flights, subject to availability.

Your upgrade options will vary depending on the type of fare originally purchased, and the cabins offered on your flight.

Such upgrade options may include:

  • Economy to premium economy
  • Economy to business class
  • Premium economy to business class
  • Business to first class

On that same return Sydney-Dubai journey, 147,500 miles could see you upgraded from saver economy to business, or just 70,200 miles from a flexible fare in each direction.

Upgrades from economy straight to first class are not possible. You also can't complete a 'double upgrade', such as by trading an economy class seat for business class, and then upgrading again from business class to first class.

It's not possible to upgrade on Qantas flights using Skywards miles, but you can use them to buy your desired seat on Qantas flights, subject to availability.

What's the best way to spend Skywards miles?

Skywards miles offer great value when used towards things like flight bookings, but only average value towards other uses such as for activities on the ground.

Some of the best ways to redeem Skywards miles are generally considered to include business class and first class travel, on both Emirates and its partner airlines.

Skywards miles can be redeemed on Korean Air's business class.
Skywards miles can be redeemed on Korean Air's business class.

For example, some Emirates partner airlines offer great rates on business class flight awards – such as Japan Airlines and Korean Air, particularly on flights to and from Australia.

Do I need a Skywards membership card?

Skywards primarily uses digital membership cards, particularly at the Blue, Silver and Gold tiers, which you can access and present via the Emirates website or mobile app.

Platinum members (and above) typically receive a physical membership card by mail, along with their branded Skywards baggage tags: which Silver and Gold members can also request at the airport in Dubai from one of the Skywards membership counters.

While a membership card is nice to have, all you really need to access your benefits is your Skywards membership number. Link this to your booking and your Skywards status will be reflected on your boarding pass, making things like lounge access and priority boarding easy.

Frequently asked questions

In a way, yes. Emirates allows members to set up a 'My Family' account with Skywards, and to then link this with their own Skywards profile, and those of their family members.

Use your Skywards miles for a first class upgrade when travelling overseas.
Use your Skywards miles for a first class upgrade when travelling overseas.

Each family member can choose whether to contribute miles to the My Family account, by setting the percentage of miles in their account preferences.

For example, a member may wish to redirect 100% of the miles they earn into their shared My Family account, or select a 50/50 split – retaining half the miles they earn in their own account, and sharing the other half with the My Family account.

Percentages can be changed at any time, and the miles in a My Family account can be used to book flights and other activities, just like regular Skywards miles.

Can you use Skywards miles to upgrade on other airlines?

No, it's not possible to use Skywards miles to upgrade on airlines other than Emirates.

This includes codeshare flights booked on an EK flight number, including those operated by Qantas, which cannot be upgraded using Skywards miles.

Can you convert credit card points into Skywards miles?

Absolutely, provided that Skywards is an eligible transfer partner of your credit card reward program, and your card is a type eligible for such transfers.

As different card issuers may adopt different conversion rates, minimum conversion amounts and other rules and limitations, contact your credit card issuer to verify your eligibility and the latest rules and rates as apply to your account.

Can I use a combination of Skywards Miles and cash to book an Emirates flight?

Yes, with Emirates' Cash+Miles you have the possibility to convert your Skywards Miles into cash and use them to reduce the cost of your flight. 

How do I track my Skywards Miles balance?

To check your Skywards Miles balance, simply log into your Emirates Skywards account on the Emirates Website. Once logged in, your current miles balance will be displayed on your account's dashboard. 

Additionally, you can also download the Emirates App on your smartphone to view your balance on the go.

How do I claim missing Skywards Miles? 

To claim missing Skywards Miles, log into your Emirates account and navigate to the "Claim Miles" section. Once there, you'll be prompted to enter the Emirates ticket number and booking reference corresponding to the flight for which you did not earn miles.

Then, simply click 'submit' - and if the information entered matches Emirates' records, your miles will be credited instantly.

It's important to note that there are certain conditions and time limits for submitting miles claims. For instance, if you are a new Skywards member looking to claim miles from past flights, you'll only be able to claim those from flights taken two months prior to your joining date. 

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