All you need to know about Emirates Skywards frequent flyer

Emirates Skywards allows you to earn and spend miles around the globe through a wide variety of partners.

By Staff Writers, April 2 2024
All you need to know about Emirates Skywards frequent flyer

With over 30 million members, Emirates Skywards is one of the largest frequent flyer programs in the game. And it’s a big game indeed, with travellers and shoppers racking up points not only through regular flights but a heady mix of global partners. 

On that list you’ll find 18 carriers including Qantas, Air Canada and United Airlines, hotel partners such as Hilton, Marriott, and Accor, plus car hire companies Sixt, Hertz and Avis, to name a handful.

Emirates' refurbished Boeing 777 first class.
Emirates' refurbished Boeing 777 first class.

In addition to Skywards miles, flying Emirates and its partner airlines can earn you Tier Miles, which determine where you sit on the status ladder and unlock a raft of benefits in the process. 

What is Emirates Skywards?

Skywards is the loyalty program of Dubai-based carrier Emirates, one allowing members to earn miles on flights, hotels, car hire, credit card spend and more.

While Emirates isn’t a member of a global alliance like Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam, it does maintain its own network of partner airlines. 

How to join Emirates Skywards

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

Once complete, you’ll immediately join the entry-level Blue tier. This delivers 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. 

Skywards Miles and Tier Miles: what’s the difference?

Members can earn ‘Skywards Miles’ and ‘Tier Miles’.

Think of Skywards Miles as points, which can be earned from a range of activities and later redeemed for rewards, such as flight bookings and upgrades.

Tier Miles, on the other hand, are the Emirates equivalent of status credits, and they exist solely to determine your eligibility for an elite rank in the Skywards program: such as Silver, Gold or Platinum membership.

Tier Miles can be earned through travel and cobranded credit card spend.
Tier Miles can be earned through travel and cobranded credit card spend.

Unlike Skywards miles, Tier Miles can only be earned from eligible Emirates and Flydubai-marketed flights, or through select Skywards cobranded credit cards.

Thanks to its long-running partnership, Qantas-operated flights carrying an EK flight number also accrue Tier Miles.

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.

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.

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.

Tier Miles earn rates are determined by route, travel class and the fare purchased.
Tier Miles earn rates are determined by route, travel class and the fare purchased.

Platinum status is only available upon reaching 150,000 Tier Miles – no exceptions. You also have to take at least one qualifying flight in first or business class. 

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.

Emirates Skywards: status benefits

Here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to in the Emirates Skywards program:

Skywards Silver: 

  • Enjoy complimentary unlimited access to Emirates’ business class lounges in Dubai when travelling with Emirates
  • Earn 30% 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)
  • 75% bonus Skywards miles when flying Emirates 
  • Complimentary economy class seat selection

Skywards Platinum: Benefits of Gold, plus

  • Access to Emirates' first class lounges in Dubai International Airport, plus Qantas’ first class lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore (LAX is excluded)
  • 100% bonus Skywards miles on Emirates flights
  • The ability book economy or business class Flex Plus reward tickets on any Emirates flight, so long as there are still seats available 
  • Guaranteed business class seats
  • Complimentary Gold card for a spouse, partner or friend

Emirates also offers Skywards+,  a paid frequent flyer subscription that delivers customised rewards and privileges throughout the year, with personalised benefits such as bonus Skywards Miles, bonus Tier Miles, discounted upgrade rewards, and airport lounge access. 

Skywards+ has three subscription levels.
Skywards+ has three subscription levels.

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

How to earn Skywards Miles

Even if you don’t regularly fly with Emirates, you can still rack up a healthy balance of Skywards miles around the globe.

Earn Skywards miles on flights, hotels, ground transport

In addition to eligible Emirates flights, Skywards miles can be earned on flights with Qantas, Jetstar, Flydubai, Air Canada, Air Mauritius, Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, Bangkok Airways, Condor, Copa Airlines, easyjet, GOL, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Portugal and United.

On the ground, earn up to 12,500 Skywards miles per night spent in hotels booked via Emirates Skywards Hotels. That is, 10,000 standard miles plus a bonus of 2,500 when paying with an Emirates Skywards credit card. 

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

Members earn 2 Skywards Miles for every USD 1 spent at IHG Hotels.
Members earn 2 Skywards Miles for every USD 1 spent at IHG Hotels.

Members holding Skywards Silver and above can earn one Skywards mile per US dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, in addition to any normal Marriott Bonvoy program points, by linking their Skywards and Marriott Bonvoy accounts.

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

When shopping online, you may also be able to earn up to 129 Skywards Miles for every AUD $10 spent via the Skywards Miles Mall.

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 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. 

You'll be smiling once those business class miles land in your account.
You'll be smiling once those business class miles land in your account.

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.

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 2024 through September 2025 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.

Emirates first class is an experience worth savouring.
Emirates first class is an experience worth savouring.

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.

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, while the luxury of Emirates’ Airbus A380 first class, complete with its ‘shower spa’, is a hefty 361,000 miles.

Showering above the clouds.
Showering above the clouds.

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, 295,000 miles could see you upgraded from economy saver to business, or just 182,520 miles from a flexible fare.

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.

Business class on Emirates partner Qantas.
Business class on Emirates partner Qantas.

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.

However, you really need to keep an eye on Emirates’ notoriously-high carrier charges, which can sometimes add thousands of dollars to your redemption booking in fees alone. And, unfortunately, this charge can’t be offset by chucking in more of your hard-earned points. 

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.

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

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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