a bed in a plane

Emirates has removed a customer friendly option, which allowed travelers to redeem fewer miles to fly in its aspirational first class suites than other options. The airline is also making it more difficult to upgrade, too.

Ultimately, it’s a small change in the scheme of the program, but nonetheless one which will require travelers seeking the greatest reward, to spend more miles for the privilege, or spend more on a ticket to begin with.

During a pandemic, with many key routes closed off, the timing is certainly interesting, but not at all unsurprising, given a series of recent Emirates Skywards loyalty program changes, which seek to make Emirates First Class more elusive than it presently is.

Emirates First Class Champagne

Emirates Tightens Up First Class On Points

When everyone in first class is there on points, it’s a bit harder for an airline to justify the Dom Perignon 2008 flowing freely around the cabin. Loyalty programs are a game of constant give and take between member and program, and Emirates appears ready to take away a few of the easier avenues into the cabin.

From July 1st, Emirates is removing the “Flex” option for first class bookings using points. This means there’s no benefit, in terms of miles saved, for booking a round trip with points, versus a one way. Historically, you could get substantially lower prices for your points by booking a round trip, instead of a one way.

The airline will also discontinue the ability to upgrade discounted business class fares in the “special” or “saver” category to first class in advance, moving only to allow flex and flex plus tickets to be upgraded, which are typically more expensive.

From July 1st, only “First Class Flex Plus” will remain for those hoping to cash in points for luxury flying, which charges more points for a first class flight than the other “First Class Flex” option, which is being discontinued.

Here’s an idea of how many more points you’ll need to be prepared to spend, for a couple key routes. There’s no discount for booking a round trip.

New York to Dubai: Emirates charges 217,500 miles round trip between New York and Dubai in First Class with ‘First Class Flex’, and 272,500 for ‘First Class Flex Plus’. From July 1st, you’ll only be able to book at the higher rate. A one way will cost a minimum of 136,250 miles.

London to Dubai: Emirates charges 135,000 miles round trip between London and Dubai in First Class, using the ‘First Class Flex’ option. Since that’s being discontinued on July 1st, the same flights will then cost 85,000 points each way, or 170,000 round trip.

a bed with a woman on it

You can preview the changes by using Emirates ‘Miles Calculator’, and looking at the value charged for ‘First Class Flex Plus’, which will become the new price in miles for all first class flights, from July 1st.

*You can’t spend your Miles on Special or Flex fares in Economy Class and Business Class, including one-way flights. Special fares are not eligible for upgrades.

Economy Saver fares can only be upgraded at check-in and on board.

**You can use your Miles to upgrade one class.Emirates Skywards

a bed in a plane

Emirates First Class Becoming More Exclusive

First, Emirates began removing ways for people with miles outside of the Emirates program to redeem those miles for first class on Emirates flights. Now, the airline is making it more elusive, even for its own Emirates Skywards members.

Eliminating the option to upgrade paid business class tickets on the lowest fares to first class is very significant for premium leisure travelers. Requiring more miles for flights booked entirely with miles will also scale back the volume of people able to book using points.

Emirates is clearly looking to find a balance between people paying cold hard cash, and people cashing in points, and these changes will certainly make “first class for less” more difficult, for most loyalty members.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. We used to fly Emirates to Malaysia twice per year, 6 flights per holiday and every 3rd trip we could upgrade but then it changed, we gained less points per trip and needed more points to upgrade from economy to business class it was never achievable. Then we were delayed 3 hours going out from Dubai waiting for connecting passengers and on the way back we were delayed 20 mins into KL because of a storm and Emirates did not wait for us so the loyalty completely went and we have loved Qatar ever since. Giving your customers no reason to keep choosing you makes it easier for them to leave and choose someone else. I bought an expensive handbag with my remaining Emirates points and my other half had Oakley sunglasses.

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