Why Oneworld Emerald is the best status a frequent flyer can have

With apologies to Marilyn Monroe, Emeralds are a frequent flyer's best friend!

By Chris Chamberlin, February 5 2021
Why Oneworld Emerald is the best status a frequent flyer can have

Frequent flyers pack plenty of plastic in their well-worn wallets, but when we're asked which is the best card to aim for – the single shiny card that trumps the rest – it's any airline loyalty card that equates to the Emerald tier of the Oneworld alliance.

This covers the top rungs of the ladder in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme – such as Platinum and Platinum One – and equivalents in the likes of Cathay Pacific (Marco Polo Club Diamond), Malaysia Airlines (Enrich Platinum), Qatar Airways (Privilege Club Platinum) and British Airways (Executive Club Gold), to name a few of Oneworld's 13 current members.

Gemstones 101

To unify all those different status tiers, Oneworld has three alliance tiers of its own, each represented by a gemstone: from top to bottom they're Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby.

Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members are all part of the Oneworld Emerald club, noted by the presence of a green, emerald-like gemstone on the face of their membership cards, found underneath the Oneworld logo:

[You can click or tap on the image above for a closer look.]

Sapphire represents the more common Gold-grade frequent flyer status of most airlines (including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar) and there's no doubt it's great to have when you’re stuck in economy class.

But for high-flying corporates jetting about in business class, the typical Gold card offers very few benefits that aren’t already included with their business class ticket.

This applies to the competing Star Alliance Gold and SkyTeam Elite Plus tiers, too. You'll typically have access to the same airport lounges and priority queues at check-in and boarding as business class passengers: so when flying up the front, the experience isn’t much different with or without status.

Why Oneworld Emerald has the edge

Oneworld Emerald elevates the experience to a new level, primarily by opening the doors to the flagship first class lounge of most member airlines even if you're not flying in first class.

The airline you’re travelling with doesn’t need to be the airline operating the lounge, either.

This means Oneworld Emerald passengers flying from Australia with the likes of American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines would all normally enjoy access to the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney or Melbourne, when these facilities are open.

Access to the Qantas First Lounge is a great local perk for Oneworld Emerald flyers.
Access to the Qantas First Lounge is a great local perk for Oneworld Emerald flyers.

Another example: if you're in Hong Kong and flying with Qantas, Cathay Pacific or any other Oneworld airline, a Oneworld Emerald card normally gets you through the doors at Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class and The Wing First Class lounges.

(Even if you're a Qantas Platinum member flying Qantas from Hong Kong to Australia, your Oneworld Emerald status means you don't have to use the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge: you can visit one of the Cathay Pacific lounges instead.)

Naturally, also included as part of the parcel is the use of first class check-in counters and priority boarding lanes, where available.

By comparison, neither Star Alliance nor SkyTeam offer an alliance-wide, better-than-gold frequent flyer tier, which makes Oneworld Emerald – as sits a step above the Gold-grade Oneworld Sapphire level – a winner in our books.

Which status equals Oneworld Emerald?

The following airline frequent flyer tiers correspond to Oneworld Emerald, and unlock the same alliance-wide first class treatment as you’d get with a Qantas Platinum card:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage: Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: MVP Gold 75K (from March 31 2021)
  • British Airways Executive Club: Gold and Premier
  • Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club: Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation
  • Finnair Plus: Platinum
  • Iberia Plus: Platinum
  • Japan Airlines: JGC Premier, JGC Diamond, JMB Diamond
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich: Platinum
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club: Platinum
  • Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer: Platinum and Ambassador
  • Royal Jordanian Royal Plus: Platinum
  • S7 Airlines Priority: Platinum
  • SriLankan Airlines FlySmiLes: Platinum

Exceptions to the Emerald rules

As great as the first class perks of Oneworld Emerald can be, there are a couple of exceptions that high flyers should be aware of.

For instance, at London Heathrow and New York JFK airports, only passengers flying with British Airways in first class enjoy access to The Concorde Room lounges.

Want to visit The Concorde Room? You'll need a first class ticket (or a BA Concorde Room or Premier card).
Want to visit The Concorde Room? You'll need a first class ticket (or a BA Concorde Room or Premier card).

Oneworld Emerald cardholders in all other classes (with the exception of BA's own Concorde Room and Premier members) are instead given access to the Galleries First or first class lounges. Despite their names, these are mainly for Emerald-grade frequent flyers who aren’t flying first class.

BA's first class lounges are still positioned as being better than business class, of course – so your Oneworld Emerald card is still delivering perks over and above those of a normal business class ticket – just not quite the same pre-flight experience as you’d get as a true first class flyer.

Oneworld Emerald status also lacks punch at the Doha hub of Oneworld alliance member Qatar Airways, where the ‘first class lounge’ isn't intended for actual first class passengers (who instead visit the exclusive Al Safwa Lounge): only for Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers booked in economy.

Flying business class? You’ll want to disregard your frequent flyer status and wander over to the far superior Al Mourjan Lounge instead – which welcomes only business class passengers, but not Oneworld Emerald travellers booked in economy.

(In other airports with first class lounges operated by airlines other than Qatar Airways, such as Sydney and Melbourne where Qantas first class lounges exist, Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers traveling with Qatar Airways can access first class lounges as normal, when these are open.)

Some exceptions work in your favour, though: such as in Helsinki when travelling with Oneworld airline Finnair.

Here, the Nordic carrier runs two ‘non-Schengen’ international lounges: one for business class passengers (known as the Finnair Lounge), and the other for top-level frequent flyers, including Oneworld Emerald (being the Finnair Platinum Wing).

In Helsinki, frequent flyers get access to a nicer lounge than can be unlocked by a plane ticket alone.
In Helsinki, frequent flyers get access to a nicer lounge than can be unlocked by a plane ticket alone.

Even though Finnair doesn’t have first class on any of its flights, the Platinum Wing is significantly better than the Finnair Lounge next door: which is all your business class ticket will provide access to, unless paired with a top-level Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer card for Platinum Wing perks.

Despite the few inconsistencies above, we still rate Oneworld Emerald as a pretty powerful piece of plastic and the one that frequent flyers should aim for, if they have the chance.

While some of those benefits may not be available in the short term – such as access to Qantas First Lounges, which, like the international borders, remain closed for now – Oneworld Emerald still provides other great benefits where travellers can indeed fly.

This includes access to Qantas' domestic business class lounges, being the realm of top-tier frequent flyers and business class passengers, while all other lounge-eligible guests head to the lower-tier Qantas Clubs instead.

Also read: Oneworld moves forward with alliance-wide upgrades

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 366

I guess one worth mentioning is that with AA executive platinum, you don't even get lounge access if flying AA domestic only, but you do if you hold status with other OW partner, even if just sapphire. Bizarre!

Yeah, the USA operates on its own set of rules - but at least Oneworld Emerald members (with the exception of AA's own Exec Plats) get AA lounge access on domestic itineraries (AA ConciergeKey members do also get domestic lounge access, at least).

The same can't be said of SkyTeam Elite Plus, which affords no lounge access at all when flying domestic, which isn't exactly competitive to the rules of Oneworld and Star Alliance!

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 120

the US operates on its own set of rules about almost any imaginable topic. 

05 May 2016

Total posts 603

OWE is great! It's great being able to access First Class lounges even on the cheapest economy fares.


There are benefits that Emerald members get with the airline they are loyal to, over and above OWE benefits etc. QANTAS Platinum, Platinum One get upgrade priority on flights that are both QF operated and marketed. Can't use QF points to upgrade on OneWorld partners. There's also priority access to classic reward seats on QF flights when they're released.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

Best card = OneWorld Emerald, second-best card = OneWorld Sapphire especially if it's Qantas Lifetime Gold. OneWorld gives you access to a much wider and much better network of  lounges than Star Alliance, which probably needs to introduce a 'Star Alliance Platinum' tier to cover the many top tiers of Star Alliance airlines. Right now it's not hard to get to Star Alliance Gold and then there's nothing above that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 61

It's great globally, but parts of Europe I'm not so sure. I have plans to fly between France,Switzerland,Belgium and Denmark or Portugal .I'm currently struggling to leverage the network without potentially loosing half a day or so transiting through another country I'm not planning to visit (if I want to get the status credits and lounges) Be great if I was skyteam or Star alliance, but they might think the same about flying within Australia.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 11

Star Alliance and SkyTeam both have cornered the alliance market when it comes to European airlines. Although Oneworld does have a few European airlines in its membership - Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia (and S7 in Russia) - they are not always convenient or the most direct routings.

Going by your itinerary, it appears  SkyTeam (Air France, KLM) and Star Alliance (Brussels, SAS and TAP) are your best direct options. Unfortunately, you won't find any OW codeshares on these flights. (It sure makes me miss SK being a QFF partner on intra-European flights).

On a side note, it does pose an interesting hypothetical question (to everyone) - with SkyTeam and Star Alliance being so heavily saturated with European airlines, which one(s) would you dream to see switch to or join Oneworld, or just be a QFF partner?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 11

Similarly, Star Alliance and SkyTeam also have cornered the African market. There are very slim or no pickings of airlines for OneWorld to expand in Africa (if it wanted to). Even considering rumours of Royal Air Maroc wanting to join OW, it would still not be a convenient or direct way to get around Africa.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

Unless I guess a QFF is flying codeshare on EK in which case EK access applies?

Just re: Africa, if you're in need of a Oneworld airline, Comair (based in Johannesburg) is recognised as a Oneworld affiliate member as its parent company is British Airways (kind of like how Cathay Dragon, QantasLink and JetConnect are Oneworld affiliates), so when you travel on Comair on a Oneworld (BA) flight number you'll normally earn points and status credits at the usual rates, with status benefits too.

05 May 2016

Total posts 603

What about on Aer Lingus with a BA flight number? Can you access the BA Lounges if you do that?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2014

Total posts 112

Not in DUB, seperate terminals.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 607

As I understand COMAIR's ownership structure, it is a publicly trading entity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE:COM). It is the owner of LCC Kulula Airlines and a number of associated food companies.

Comair's arrangement with British Airways is that of a franchise partner, operating the British Airways brand on regional aircraft (namely B737-800, -400 and 1 -300 frames). Prior to May, 2020, British Airways held a small shareholding in Comair but was not Comair's parent company.

Comair entered bankruptcy reorganisation in May 2020. In September 2020, a consortium comprising seven named individuals and an investment vehicle called Luthier Capital, agreed a rescue deal which acquired 99% of the airline. Prior to reorganisation, it had 27 aircraft in it's fleet - and emerged with 20.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 607

I don't know what 'rumours' you're referring to, AviationGeek, but Royal Air Maroc is already a full member of oneworld. Further, RAM adds 105 destinations in 51 countries. Compare that with QF's 80 destinations in 20 countries

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 69

This article is originally four years old so AviationGeek was referring to a rumour that was relevant in 2017.

27 May 2017

Total posts 22

What if you are a oneworld sapphire (as am Qantas Gold) flying out of Doha on a oneworld airlines what lounge will you get access to?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 75

I believe you get to use the inappropriately named "Business Class Lounge", which like the "First Class Lounge" are just for elite frequent flyers in economy.


If you're flying in either Business or First then you use either the Al Mourjan Business Lounge or the Al Safwa First Lounge depending on your travel class, and only your travel class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

I just flew back from Heathrow to Perth with Cathay Pacific in Premium Economy which was the first time I've flown CP in 15 years.  The lovely Flight Manager came and said hello and had a chat for at least half-hour.  Very personal and even got the cabin crew to bring up G&T in actual glasses from down the J class end!  I never get that kind of thing happening on my usual Australian airline of choice!  Even though I'm PLatinum and Emerald card holder! So big tribute to CP!


05 May 2016

Total posts 603

As a OWE I got a drink in a glass just recently on a QF domestic flight in Y. I was at the front of the Y cabin though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

After almost 10 years as OWE, with three years at QF P1, my flying habits will make it difficult to requalify for OWE with QF in the next year so I'm hopeful the downgrade to LTG won't be too harsh :-(

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1006

Didn't mention the oneworld member arrivals lounges (ie, AA and BA at LHR and CX at HKG) where oneworld status doesn't get you in.

Arrivals lounges are excluded from all Oneworld alliance agreements, so being an airline-by-airline offering only, they're not an 'alliance benefit' for us to mention.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1006

People may see the lounge with a oneworld member branding and think it is a oneworld lounge?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

Re Africa One World: QR have good coverage as does BA and as a previous poster mentioned, But you won't get any First class lounges LOL. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 392

I think Qantas should stop Qatar passengers from using the 1st class lounge if they are not flying 1st, even if they are emerald. Tit for tat!

20 Sep 2017

Total posts 26

Under O/W rules, Qantas could only stop Qatar Emeralds using 1st lounge if they stopped their own Emeralds (i.e. Platinum and above). I certainly do not want that to happen!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 392

In case you didn't know BA don't allow OWE into Concord lounge if you are not flying first but they still have a very good 1st lounge. QR doesn't have equivalent to do that. Every OW airline allows OWE into 1st lounges. So if QR wishes to discriminate then same should be handed out to them. That's the point.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 392

Oh and PS.. Most of QR flights don't have 1st so it's not as if you are avoiding paying St and trying to take advantage of situation. I flew JFK-DOH-HKG and MIA-DOH-CPT and none of the flights had 1st yet I'm OWE. Any other OW airline would give me 1st class lounge access. I feel their so-called business lounge is a zoo.

20 Sep 2017

Total posts 26

Qatar don't even let in their own Platinum. I was Qatar Platinum and I experienced the so called 'First' lounge at Doha. I feel your pain. The issue is that they are playing by One World rules. At Doha the main lounge is their Business lounge and they even don't let Emerald's into that!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 22

Recently on a AA internal flight, Washington DC to Orldando Florida in Y the crew gave me the Exit row and came to me during this flight to check if there was anything they could get or do for me being aware of Emerald Status, a nice touch. Also if you are flying to LAX with a corresponding quick connecting flight with AA on F out of Sydney with them expect personalised service and getting you to the next flight, that included special ground vehicle service to the next departure gate. I was impressed with the service with a AA person with me the total time in LAX before boarding the next flight.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 21

Chris, in my experience I have always been allowed entry to the BA Concorde Room at Heathrow when connecting from a OW F class ticket (CX HKGLHR F and then BA LHRLIN C), I guess that is their rule as they never mentioned exceptions on that

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

Today I was looking at Qatar app preparing for my flight tomorrow from CMB to MIA via DOH and noticed on the App it now shows DOH First Lounge access is available for Qatar Plat's. Even when traveling J.


Has anyone had any experience of this as yet? I will of course be checking it out tonight and if I do gain access I will follow-up with another message here.

If you haven't experienced the QR First Lounge at DOH, it's another world.

20 Sep 2017

Total posts 26

Probably this one

20 Sep 2017

Total posts 26

I guess I can’t post links. Just Google “one world emerald lounge doha“

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

Question on the First lounge in Melbourne. Currently the QF website indicates the spa hours are 0800-1130 and 2000-2300. Are they planning to extend this a little later to cater for QF95? I realise there is no F on the 787, however there will still likely be quite a lot of Platinums flying on it given the superior J seating in particular.

I'm not sure that's correct: I had a 12:30pm appointment prior to QF95 the other week, and have also had a ~5pm appointment before the evening Emirates flight to Singapore.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

Thanks Chris, good to know. Looks like they've just forgotten to update the website!


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