It’s been getting progressively more difficult or more expensive to redeem First Class awards on Emirates lately, with the airline removing redemption space in the cabin from most of its partner programmes (except Qantas Frequent Flyer).
Even in the Qantas case, Emirates award rates were hiked last year, mostly impacting Economy Class and Business Class, but still requiring around 5% more miles in the First Class cabin for most of our readers’ preferred itineraries.
Recently we also reported on the complete withdrawal of Emirates awards through the Alaska Mileage Plan programme from 1 August 2021, though First Class space had already been culled and what remained wasn’t great value anyway.
Emirates Skywards awards
Here’s how Emirates currently loads awards for Business Class and First Class, the two cabins of most interest to our readers:
- Business Class: Saver and Flex
- First Class: Flex and Flex Plus
If you’re booking a one-way award using Skywards miles, you’ll always pay the more expensive rate (Flex in Business Class or Flex Plus in First Class).
If you’re booking a round-trip award using Skywards miles, you’ll pay the cheaper Saver rate in Business Class or the Flex rate in First Class if there is availability, otherwise you’ll pay the more expensive rates for one or both of the sectors.
First Class Flex awards axed
Emirates has now announced that for any travel from 1st July 2021, First Class Flex awards will no longer be available.
This refers to your outbound travel date, so for a return routing you’ll have to be flying the first sector on or before 30th June 2021 to pick up a First Class Flex rate for both flights (regardless of return date).
“First Class Flex Classic Rewards will be available for travel until 30 June 2021.
“For travel from 1 July 2021 onwards, only First Class Flex Plus Classic Rewards will be available for all First Class one-way and return bookings.”
Remember, this will only affect those who made a saving by booking Emirates First Class awards on round-trip tickets.
One-way First Class awards using Emirates Skywards miles always priced at the Flex Plus rates, so there is no impact here. Effectively, Emirates is removing any incentive (25% discount) for booking a round-trip award in First Class.
Here’s the impact on award pricing for some example round-trip bookings between Singapore and Dubai, Frankfurt or New York on Emirates.
We’ve also shown Qantas Frequent Flyer rates alongside, since these are now your only other pass into this cabin on an award booking.
Emirates First Class awards from Singapore
The impact is around 25% more miles required for a First Class round-trip award, assuming First Class Flex awards would have been available.
Even if a First Class Flex award had only been available on one of the two flights in your round-trip itinerary, you’re still paying ~12% more under this new policy (e.g. SIN-DXB-SIN would previously have been 177,500 miles in this example).
For a round-trip between Singapore and Europe, it brings Qantas Frequent Flyer in at only 6% more expensive in terms of points required, though whichever programme you choose it’s quite a big outlay!
Don’t forget – if you redeem Skywards miles for one-way First Class awards on Emirates you won’t be affected by this change – you were always paying the Flex Plus rate anyway.
Loyalty Lobby is also reporting that Emirates is making some changes to eligibility and rates for some Business to First Class upgrades using Skywards miles.
“The airline has also discontinued the eligibility to advance upgrade from J Saver to first, but you still can from J Flex and J Flex +. The number of miles to upgrade from J Flex has also increased.”
We haven’t been able to check this, but it also sounds like bad news for those using their Skywards miles this way.
Emirates First Class
We were lucky to try out the new Emirates First Class Suite product on a flight from Geneva to Dubai in September 2018. It’s safe to say we had few complaints, and rate this as our favourite First Class experience.
On the Airbus A380 and most Boeing 777s, Emirates offers its older First Class suite, but the main draw here is the ability to have a shower at 40,000ft!
If you were hoping to use your stash of Emirates Skywards miles for a round-trip First Class Flex redemption with the airline, you’re probably out of luck, since your outbound flight would have to be in the next three weeks to be eligible.
It’s unfortunate to see a devaluation like this during COVID-19, especially with the options to redeem into Emirates First Class from partner programmes diminishing significantly over the last few months.
Qantas Frequent Flyer is still on the list – but its rates are rather eye-watering to say the least, since its own devaluation of the Emirates chart last year.
Ultimately with Etihad potentially not returning its A380s to service post-pandemic and Qatar Airways unlikely to fly its A380s again (the only type in its fleet with First Class), Emirates probably feels it will have little competition among the Middle East ‘heavyweights’ for this cabin.
Hat-tip to Loyalty Lobby.
(Cover Photo: Agent Wolf / Shutterstock)