In early May the American Express Membership Rewards programme in Singapore unexpectedly removed Emirates Skywards as a transfer partner for its points earned through products like the Platinum, Rewards and Gold cards. That left Standard Chartered as the only bank offering transfers into Skywards from credit card points, at an unattractive conversion ratio.
Good news today is that Emirates is back on the partners list for American Express, so it looks like it was either a system glitch or an expired contract that has now been reinstated.
Strangely while re-adding Emirates Skywards to the fold today, American Express has also removed Thai Royal Orchid Plus as a transfer partner from its Singapore credit cards. Could this be another glitch or a permanent change?
Answer (2 June): System glitch – Thai Royal Orchid Plus has been re-added as a transfer partner after its brief 24-hour disappearance.
In other news, a couple of weeks ago Emirates significantly cut its fuel surcharge, reducing the amount you’ll now pay on top of your Skywards miles (or Qantas points for that matter) when redeeming. For example, Singapore to Melbourne in First Class has dropped from 85,000 miles + S$405 to 85,000 miles + S$62, a massive drop.
All your FFP transfer options
Here’s an update to our table of bank to loyalty programme transfer chart, reflecting this reinstatement from the Amex programme.
As you can see, transfers to the following airline frequent flyer programmes are now available using Membership Rewards points, with the re-addition of Skywards:
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- British Airways Avios
- Eva Air Infinity Mileagelands
- Emirates Skywards
- Malaysia Enrich
- China Airlines Dynasty Flyer
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
These all retain the regular transfer ratios of 450 Membership Rewards points > 250 miles, so don’t worry – Emirates hasn’t returned at a poorer rate!
You can also continue to convert your Amex Membership Rewards points into:
- Hilton Honors (1,000 MR > 1,250 points)
- Marriott Bonvoy (1,000 MR > 1,000 points)
Reduced fuel surcharges
Around two weeks ago Emirates took a knife to its sky-high fuel surcharges, which was always a sting in the tail on top of your miles outlay when redeeming.
Here are some one-way award totals from Singapore using Skywards miles on Emirates flights, with the total taxes and fees shown at previous fuel surcharge rates alongside the new rates.
|Singapore to Dubai||72,500
|Singapore to Melbourne||62,500
|Singapore to London||103,750
|Bali to Auckland||82,000
|Singapore to New York||131,250
Here’s how the same rates look in First Class, which also enjoys the same reductions in taxes, fees and charges as a result of the reduced fuel surcharge.
|Singapore to Dubai||98,750
|Singapore to Melbourne||85,000
|Singapore to London||141,250
|Bali to Auckland||112,000
|Singapore to New York||178,750
Interestingly many of the airline’s fifth freedom routes are now free of all fuel surcharges, including Singapore to Melbourne and Bali to Auckland.
That really cuts the cash component, with a First or Business Class award ticket from Singapore to Melbourne previously setting you back over S$400 in taxes and fees but now costing only S$62 on top of your miles outlay.
Unfortunately Emirates has axed its Singapore – Brisbane fifth freedom flight and the proposed new Singapore – Penang route now seems to be off the cards.
One Mile at a Time noticed that other fifth freedom routes including Milan to New York JFK and Athens to Newark seem to now have a very small fuel surcharge applied – around S$43-47 in those examples.
Ways to use Emirates Skywards miles
Now that the option to transfer your miles from a Singapore credit card issuer into Skywards (at a decent transfer ratio) has returned, here are some examples of how you can use them.
Redeem the new 777 First Class
Emirates Skywards is the only way for Amex members to experience the fantastic brand new Emirates First Class Suite on the airline’s latest Boeing 777s.
That’s because Amex does not support transfers to Qantas Frequent Flyer, the only other way to redeem these seats.
In our book these are the best Suites in the sky, fully-enclosed and fitted to the airline’s latest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. We tried them out in September 2018 and they really are quite something.
You can redeem this suite on a flight like Dubai to London Stansted for 85,000 Skywards Miles (expensive, but worth it we say!), though you typically have to jump on an empty seat 2-3 days before departure to do so.
Look for six First Class seats on the seat map, in a two-row 1-1-1 configuration, to ensure the new seats.
The product is regularly scheduled (outside COVID-19 times) on specific flights between Dubai and:
- Kuwait City
- London Stansted
- Tokyo Haneda
Take a shower at 40,000ft
Emirates offers the relatively rare opportunity to take a shower on board when you fly First Class on one of its Airbus A380s. These aircraft regularly serve the Singapore – Dubai route during ‘normal times’.
Indeed Emirates’ Airbus A380s are planned to be flying through Singapore again from July 2020, so this novelty is potentially within reach again soon, or at least later this year.
Unfortunately it comes in a little steep on the Singapore – Dubai sector, priced at 98,750 Skywards miles + S$150.
It’s worth considering on a Dubai – London flight though, at 85,000 Skywards miles + S$151, with a similar flight time but requiring 14% fewer miles.
Access the new Singapore Qantas First Lounge
A First Class flight on Emirates from Singapore is your ticket to (probably) the nicest new lounge at Changi Airport, with fantastic à la carte dining alongside a cocktail bar as its centrepiece.
Unfortunately the lounge is currently closed, with Qantas not planning flights at Changi until at least August 2020 at this stage. We’re hopeful it will re-open later in the year, probably when the Aussie carrier reinstates Singapore – London flights.
Check out our full review of the lounge here.
Upgrade on Emirates
Skywards Miles aren’t a bad value proposition for upgrading your Emirates flight in some cases.
For example if your company bought you an Economy Flex fare from Singapore to Melbourne, you could upgrade that sector to Business Class (subject to award availability) for 30,000 Skywards Miles.
Similarly a cash Flex or Flex Plus Business Class fare on the same route could be upgraded to First Class, if you fancy your own Suite on board after a Salt and Pepper Squid in the Qantas First Lounge at Changi, for 30,000 Skywards Miles.
Save miles on return award bookings
If you make a return award booking on an Emirates flight using Skywards miles, you’ll unlock a lower rate than two one-way itineraries, subject to saver award space being available on both flights (Flex in First Class).
You don’t need a saver award to be available for a one-way redemption as these are always priced at Flex Plus rates.
Saver / Flex Return Awards
|Singapore to Dubai
|Singapore to Melbourne
|Singapore to London
|Bali to Auckland
|Singapore to New York
First Class return to Melbourne for the equivalent of 67,500 miles each way (normally 85,000 miles) is a very nice redemption, now attracting only around S$70 in taxes and fees each way. You’ll also get access to the Qantas Melbourne First Lounge on a trip like that.
Redeem on partner airlines
Skywards Miles can also come in handy (or more valuable) when used to redeem on one of Emirates’ 15 partner airlines. For example:
- Bangkok Airways Economy Singapore – Koh Samui: 12,000 miles one-way (better timings than SilkAir)
- JAL Business Singapore to New York: 72,500 miles one-way
- JAL Singapore to Moscow: 62,500 miles one-way
- JAL Singapore to Honolulu: 62,500 miles one-way
- JAL Tokyo to Sydney: 42,500 miles one-way
- Korean Air Singapore to Los Angeles: 125,000 miles return (62,500 miles each way)
- Korean Air Singapore to London: 125,000 miles (62,500 miles each way)
Of course it’s worth noting that even at these ‘good rates’, Emirates will pass on the fuel surcharge of all three carriers to your ticket price. For the airlines above, these sadly haven’t been cut recently in the same way Emirates has done for its own flights.
They can range from around S$56 in the Bangkok Airways Koh Samui example right up to S$300-400 each way in the JAL / Korean Air ones (a more palatable S$140 on Tokyo – Sydney).
Some of those options are also available using Alaska miles (without the hefty fuel surcharges), however you’ll likely have had to buy those miles as there are no credit cards in Singapore transferring into Alaska.
Emirates Skywards miles still aren’t very good value for redemptions in Business and First Class on the airline’s own flights, though one of the major drawbacks was the large cash element still payable on top of the miles rate due to the excessive fuel surcharge added.
That’s now become a lot lower, more than halving the extra money you’ll pay on many redemptions.
Short of another double miles transfer offer from Standard Chartered, reinstatement by Amex Membership Rewards now makes this the best value way to convert your Singapore credit card points into the Skywards programme.
Don’t forget though that award tickets using Qantas Frequent Flyer points also benefit from the new reduced fuel surcharges on Emirates flights and there is the option to transfer into Qantas from Citi, DBS and Standard Chartered.
This unlocks lower award rates on some routes (e.g. SIN-DXB in Business is 68,400 Qantas points vs. 72,500 Skywards miles).
Emirates First Class on the Airbus A380, planned to be flying through Singapore again from July 2020, is one of your few opportunities to enjoy the experience of taking a shower at 40,000ft. It’s a novelty but we’ve got to say it’s worth doing once!
That’s worth considering on a Dubai – London flight for example, at 85,000 Skywards miles (+S$151) or 85,500 Qantas points (+S$151) under the new reduced fuel surcharge rates.
(Cover Photo: Emirates)