When it comes to flying with style, the luxurious first-class cabins of Emirates are on many travelers’ bucket lists. And for a good reason: as the fourth-largest airline in the world (and the largest in the Middle East), the company offers some of the most elite flight experiences out there. But does its frequent flyer program — Emirates Skywards — live up to the company’s slogan “Fly Emirates, Fly Better”? Find out in our in-depth Emirates loyalty program review!
Membership Page – All The Essentials
Visiting the membership page of Emirates Skywards is already quite a pleasant experience — much like opening up a travel brochure. The main page gives you a brief rundown of how the program works, emphasizing limitless possibilities. This section doesn’t go into much actual detail, however, and visitors need to go out of their way to find dedicated subpages to learn concrete facts about partnerships in the program, find out how to spend & earn miles, and discover the tier benefits.
On the other hand, Emirates deserves praise for showcasing its frequent flyer program on the website’s main navigation bar. Many companies (both airlines and other businesses) make the mistake of not giving their loyalty programs enough exposure. What’s more, Emirates displays the login/enrollment panel on each subpage, ensuring that website visitors are always one click away from becoming a member.
Enrollment – Speedy Check-in
Speaking of enrollment, joining Emirates Skywards is a walk in the park. The process can be started by providing your email address in any of the enrollment panels showcased across the website. Then you’re taken to the next step, where Emirates asks for the essentials (title, name, birth date, residence, password and an optional referral code).
At this point, the enrollment process is finished and travelers can start earning miles. Profile completion, however, is only at 33%, and newfound members have the option to add more details, such as passport information and personal preferences. Completing the profile offers no monetary value, but by adding this information it is easier for members to book flights or receive more personalized offers.
It’s generally recommended to keep the enrollment process quick by asking only a few questions, then to incentivize members to add additional information later on. The incentivization should involve some kind of reward, though, especially if the questionnaire involves personal preferences, to keep people from skipping it.
Point Accrual – Collecting Miles
Miles (the airline loyalty program equivalent to reward points) are the cornerstone of the Emirates loyalty program. The most basic way for members to earn Skywards Miles is to book a flight with either Emirates or flydubai using their Membership ID.
Interestingly, the amount of Miles earned with each flight is dictated by the route, fare type, class of travel, as well as the member’s current tier. This demonstrates an approach different to Western airline loyalty program traditions, which often use the ticket price to calculate points.
It’s worth mentioning that Emirates isn’t part of any major airline alliances. Instead, they have partnered with over 15 airlines (including Copa Airlines, Malaysia Airlines & Jetstar) giving frequent travelers the option to convert their points into Skywards Miles.
One huge advantage of the Emirates loyalty program over other frequent flyer programs is that it allows point transfer between a network of major transferable points programs. In other words, if you’re using a specialty credit card from American Express you can boost your Miles balance via conversion from their point program.
An extensive partner network is definitely Emirates’ strong suit, as the company has partnered with a wide range of travel-related service providers. This includes major car rentals, dozens of hotel chains, as well as retail and lifestyle brands like Arabian Adventures and the Dubai Mall.
With such an impressive partnership network behind it, Emirates makes it extremely easy for travelers to earn Miles, especially when they include some of the aforementioned companies in their vacation plans.
Transactional & Non-Transactional Activities – Room to Improve
Unfortunately, the frequent flyer program by Emirates is fully transactional, leaving no room for travelers to earn extra Miles by engaging with the program (or the brand) itself, whether by completing the customer profile or downloading the mobile app. There’s no referral program either.
Rewarding lifestyle-related and non-transactional engagement with small bonuses is a great way to shape customer behavior. Doing so can prompt members to start using the company’s mobile app on a daily basis, watch educational videos to learn about upselling opportunities, or engage with social media campaigns.
Rewards – The Sky’s the Limit
Now that your balance is bursting with Skyward Miles, what can you spend them on? Worry not! Emirates provides multiple ways to get rewarded for your trips.
1. Free Tickets & Cash + Miles
First and foremost, you can use Miles towards future flight bookings. The company’s rewards program allows members to do so for any destination and in any class, though you need at least 15,000 Miles to begin. If you don’t have a sufficient point balance to pay for a full trip, Emirates Skywards allows you to book a flight with any combination of cash and Miles.
2. Partner Rewards
The company’s partnership with hotels, malls, car rentals and entertainment facilities works the other way around, too: Miles can be spent on acquiring reduced rental fees, getting coupons for safaris, or upgrading hotel bookings. However, the available offers vary for each partner, and some partners only support point accrual.
The four-level tier system is a major highlight of Emirates Skywards. Those who enroll into the program are instantly placed into the Blue tier, meaning they receive access to a small list of privileges immediately.
There are two ways for travelers to reach the more ‘Elite’ tiers: either acquire a minimum number of Miles (25,000 for Silver) or book a certain number of total flights (25 for Silver). This is an intelligent approach, because it gives both frequent, low-value fliers and infrequent first-class fliers a chance to level up.
As for the tier-specific rewards, the list is a long one, so here are a few fan favorites: complimentary seat selection, no point expiration, priority check-in and boarding, priority baggage delivery and complimentary lounge access.
Premium Subscription – An Unexpected Addition
On top of all the loyalty program features already covered here (and a separate Business Rewards treatment for organizations), Emirates has a premium subscription system, called Skywards+, for its most truly dedicated passengers. It consists of three packages, each of which require a monthly fee in exchange for premium benefits that even Platinum tier members do not have access to.
These rewards include a boost to the number of Miles earned during flights (on top of the percentage provided by ‘Elite’ tiers), a discount tickets purchased with Miles, preferential Cash+Miles rates, increased airport lounge access, as well as an increased check-in baggage allowance.
Adding a subscription model can be an effective way to capitalize on customer loyalty and ensure a high ROI for the loyalty program. However, it can only work if the subscription packages offer enough VIP privileges to be attractive without making the free version feel lackluster.
Emirates Skywards offers everything you would expect from a traditional airline loyalty program, and does so in an outstanding manner. Members can choose from a wide variety of partners, including airlines, hotels and entertainment facilities. There’s a large variety of options when it comes to earning Miles, and the list of rewards is huge.
However, Emirates Skywards doesn’t go the extra mile to truly engage customers when they aren’t booking. Non-transactional activities aren’t currently incentivized. Regardless of the company’s strong focus on incentivizing spend, travelers with both high and low lifetime value can be rewarded for being a member.
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