Emirates Skywards – why you have even less chance of an upgrade

Emirates Skywards – the (existing) case against

As readers may know, Emirates Skywards isn’t one of our favourite airline loyalty programs.

As an airline, Emirates are not bad at all. As an airline loyalty program, there’s a few things going against Emirates Skywards :-

  • Lack of partners to redeem miles with
  • Availability of seats for award flights is minimal
  • ‘Value’ of miles is questionable. All things being equal, for the spend to attain Emirates Skywards miles the redemption/upgrade options are expensive
  • One way award flights/upgrades can only be done at Flex level (rather than Saver) so approx. 40% more Miles are needed.
Emirates A380 Business Class DXB-MAN_cabin 2 - now harder for upgrades with Emirates Skywards

Emirates A380 Business Class DXB-MAN_cabin 2 – now harder for upgrades with Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards – the perk that is now a handicap

As Emirates Skywards members probably know, the chance of an operational upgrade used to be pretty fair. On high-traffic routes (such as Dubai to United Kingdom, Europe or Asia) economy/coach was often overbooked, so the chance of Emirates automatically you to Business Class was pretty good.

Even in Dubai, most expats have been upgraded at least once, if only on their summer flights to/from the United Kingdom, due to this.

However, all that looks like it has now finished. It appears that Emirates – like other airlines – is about to prioritise full-fare-paying casual customers as a priority for operational upgrades.

So, an Emirates Skywards member – Silver, Gold or even Platinum – will be less likely to be upgraded if there is a one-off flyer (not in a loyalty program) that’s paid a higher fare type. For example, an economy passenger flying on a Flex fare with no loyalty is preferential to a frequent flyer with Skywards status who may only be on a Saver fare.

Emirates Skywards – how to increase your chances of an operational upgrade

Emirates effectively has four flight types, as explained here :-

  1. Special (lowest cost, least benefits)
  2. Saver
  3. Flex
  4. Plus (highest cost, best benefits)

Note – Benefits include earning rate of miles, rebooking, redemption cost of upgrade/award flights etc.

Simply, the higher your fare type, the higher cost you will pay – but you will have more chance of an operational upgrade.

In addition, if you were an Emirates Skywards member, you would earn more miles and also have the opportunity to redeem/upgrade for less miles.

However, if you were only interested in the lowest cost, then Special or Saver fare types are the way forward – although you’re far less likely to be upgraded.

Going forward, should Emirates implement Premium Economy (as suggested in Emirates Premium Economy: Coming Soon?) then it may become worth flying in PE rather than Economy. More comfort, earn more miles, and more chance of an upgrade!

What do you think of Emirates policy regarding operational upgrades? Have you been upgraded on Emirates before? Will you likely spend more money on a fare type, and if so, why? We’d love to hear your thoughts using the comments below…..