Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards: which is better?

By John Walton, February 15 2013
Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards: which is better?

Now that Qantas and Emirates are forging forwards with their alliance, which takes effect from April 1, frequent flyers are considering which of the two airlines' programs makes more sense for Australians — Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards?

With a new Platinum Skywards tier granting benefits equivalent of Qantas' Platinum level, plus the return of the ability to bring guests into Emirates' lounges when flying economy, Skywards might look like a bright new option if Qantas Frequent Flyer has lost its lustre for some business travellers.

After discussing what frequent flyers think of the new benefits from the Qantas-Emirates allianceAustralian Business Traveller continued mulling things over with one of Emirates' most frequent flyers — newly minted Skywards Platinum and moderator of the Emirates Skywards forum on points-and-miles website Flyertalk, Australian Simon Chen.

Australians should stay with QFF...

"I would always recommend a person who is based in Australia to stick with Qantas," says Chen, who recently relocated to the US from Singapore. "Qantas awards lifetime status credits, and being Gold or Platinum on Qantas allows for lounge access globally."

"I achieved Lifetime Gold on Qantas 10 years ago, and I think this is one of the most important benefits because I can use my Qantas card to gain entry into the American Airlines lounges in the US (or BA, Cathay and other oneworld lounges elsewhere)."

Plus, it takes at least twice as much flying to qualify for Emirates Platinum compared with Qantas, Chen notes. "For example, to achieve Platinum on Qantas would take you 6 round trips Melbourne to Singapore in Business. To achieve it on Emirates would require 12 round trips."

The reciprocal Platinum benefits are better with Qantas Frequent Flyer as well, given that it's part of the oneworld alliance.

If you fly enough to qualify, "Platinum on Qantas would allow you First Class lounge access here in Australia, Business lounge access domestically, and then give you Emerald status across oneworld, meaning first class lounge access where available right throughout the oneworld network," Chen points out.

By contrast, Chen observes, "Platinum on Emirates only provides first class lounge access in Australia and Dubai," with the rest of the world either a joint business/first Emirates Lounge or a less impressive contract offering. 

...unless they fly over 90% long-haul

The exception to his general advice, Chen says, is if you fly enough to earn status and rack up a large balance of Skywards miles to spend.

"In terms of cost, benefits, and more importantly redemption availability, Emirates offers a lot more options from Australia to Europe," Chen outlines.

Those benefits are partly based on Emirates network, which "flies large capacity aircraft (meaning more reward seats) and you can upgrade any fare (unlike Qantas)."

Australians outside Sydney and Melbourne — who won't be able to upgrade with Qantas Frequent Flyer points on the long leg to Dubai or any other Emirates flights — would do well to consider whether that's a benefit that they're likely to find useful.

And "Emirates is far more generous with operational upgrades," those elusive 'congratulations, you've been bumped up a class' moments beloved of business travellers, "because its business model is very focused on running high economy loads."

But do the earning-and-burning calculations first

With the new system, "my sense is that most people are totally confused and bewildered at just what flight will earn what points/tier miles or status credits," Chen says.

Remember: Qantas frequent flyers will earn full points, status credits and tier points when booking with Qantas for flights beginning with QF, even if the plane used is an Emirates bird.

But if you book with Emirates and your flight number says EK, you'll earn points at reduced rate — and no status credits at all.

The complexity of the system, Chen predicts, will lead to "a lot of arm waving by members who thought they should have received the status credits but didn't."

What's your plan — sticking with Qantas Frequent Flyer or moving wholesale to Emirates Skywards? Or are you considering a third option? Share your thoughts and learn from other readers' strategies in our comments section below.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

Personally I will be sticking to QF for now due to most of the reasons mentioned (easier to obtain Platinum status, part of OW, lounge access around the world). Redemption on QF is horrible at times which is my biggest pet peeve. Award prices are outrageous, on the other hand, I love their any seats award option earning you sc and miles.

EK has as big pro that it has a great network which is obviously good when you want to redeem mileage and to get upgrades etc. I am still waiting to see how things will work out when trying to book award tickets with QF mileage on EK operated flights.

I also contemplated joining Exec Club (BA), as I think they might start up again now that the partnership with QF is dissolved. However, as with QF, redemptions (and fuelcharges) are outrageous and I do not see any benefits of switching from QF. Being from Europe, in the longer term it might be an option.

For proper redemption best thing is to credit to AA, but lack of credit card earn and to a lesser extend the fact you cannot use lounges in the US when holding AA status put me off.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

I'll stick to QF... The QF program is a good one and I don't really see any benefit in moving. Plus I am Platinum One at the moment so will hopefully see some additional benefits of that coming my way this year.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 211

 I'll be sticking with QFF as well. Not sure that Platinum One has all that many 'real' benefits. I'm in my second year and yet to see any of the 'special' treatment promised in the PR tickets to special events, not sim sessions. The only thing I noticed was that initially they were very welcoming on board the aircraft and did the 'welcome back, I'm X the CSM...please let me know if we can do anything for you... now even that has dissappeared. Oh well, first world problems I guess. :)

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Ha... First world problems indeed!

I'm not actually expecting any additional benefits... Nice to think that there might be some though!

Qantas - Platinum One

18 Jan 2011

Total posts 82

Isn't the lack of acknowledgement of Skywards on purely domestic QF bookings a massive turn-off for Australian-based frequent flyers as well?

Certainly is for me...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

Good point SDWYLIE ! I easily overlook that one as tend to fly VA domestically to maintain top status in both programs. but obviously a big let down of the program rules.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 3

Surely the fact that booking a flight via seems to carry a minimum 10-20% surcharge over booking the same flights via emirates would be a factor? certainly for personal /  holiday travel. Looking at an economy return PER - MAN, QF was $400 (per person) more for the same flights on the same aircraft, which for a family of 3  certainly adds up!


19 Dec 2011

Total posts 49

To me the real game changer will be when qatar joins oneworld at the end of the year. This is a great airline whom I've flown business many times. This along with malaysian, now in oneworld, certainly puts QF frequent flyer in the box seat from my point of view.

As I am already flying qatar, malaysian & cathay in business to europe this puts the QF oneworld ff way ahead of EK. Qatar & CX are offering very good product out of australia. Redemption is also improving on QF as Air Berlin is now showing up as bookable through QF awards & according to QF, malaysian will show up in the next couple of days.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

Indeed a good point. QR is fantastic and combined with MH and CX it is potentially a game changer for QFF in particular and OW as a whole. You can earn miles and SC on MH, CX and QR flights (not the necessity to book a QF flightnumber which can cost up to 100% more I have noticed, esp when you fly premium). I am still waiting to see what awards will be available for booking.

Only drawback is it will take a while before QR joins however....

in my noob views, id stick with Qantas. One World alliance, plus you can accumulate for lifetime gold and able to redeem across 1W alliance.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2013

Total posts 5

QF has tried and is doing a great job in my opion.I am delighted the way Qantas treats they members of Qantas Club and what they offer on they loyal programs...Ek too is a great airline and we all will see the benefits in long term will be great...We as Qantas lovers need to give time for the development in these areas...Even what is put out in April is not meaning is  to stay. Qantas or EQ would not do any thing to encourege they members to change the new partner....Lots of great things will happen in my opion as these are 2 fantastic airlines.Keep up great work Qantas flying kangaroo...

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

Tough call. I am looking at flying now to London 8 times per year from Adelaide. The ability to upgrade with points to business is a big plus and staying with Qantas would still mean flying Emirates the entire trip anyway. However not being able to use Skwards miles for Qantas flights is just dumb. It means probably having to keep a Qantas FF account going as well (at least you would get lounge access with Qantas due to Emirates status), or keeping all domestic flights with Virgin. Anyone else in this predicament (NOT flying from Melbourne or Sydney to Europe constantly)?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Apr 2016

Total posts 1

I am moving to Emirates. I keep losing so many points because northbound leg out of Dubai is EK. I travel a lot, but barely at all inside Australia Having looked at the Emirates program it looks like I can achieve gold more easily than with Qantas. 

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