For travellers from a lot of other countries, Emirates’ Skywards frequent flyer program represents good value due to their wide network reach and the lack of partnerships with most other frequent flyer programs and airlines for redemption.
In Australia, we’re luckier, because we have Qantas Frequent Flyer, which is a partner program and allows for redemptions on Emirates.
For travellers based in Australia, it is nearly always better to credit an Emirates flight to Qantas instead of Skywards.
It would take 7 return trips from Melbourne to Dubai in Economy Class on Emirates to redeem a one-way Business Class ticket on Emirates when crediting flights to Qantas, as opposed to 16 return trips if you credited the Economy flights to Skywards – that’s more than double the paid trips to get the same free flight!
However, you may find yourself with access to Skywards miles, the primary ways being through:
- choosing to credit Emirates flights to Skywards instead of Qantas Frequent Flyer
- holding an American Express or Citi Prestige card, which allow transfers to Skywards
- purchasing SPG Starpoints
So, not to be ignored, here are our eight favourite ways to use your Skywards miles balance.
If you haven’t already joined Skywards, you can do so for free here.
1. Fly to New Zealand in Emirates First Class for 54,000 miles one-way
We’ve written extensively about both the fantastic First and Business Class product that Emirates flies between the East Coast and New Zealand.
A nifty fact is that redemptions on these flights are exactly the same price whether redeeming through Skywards or Qantas, that is, 54,000 miles or points for a one-way First Class ticket or 36,000 in Business Class.
We recommend splashing the extra 18,000 miles on First Class, though, as you’ll get access to great First Class lounges in Melbourne and Sydney, a private suite in the air, and an onboard bar and shower (although sometimes it doesn’t operate on the short 3-4 hour flight).
Note that Emirates is cutting the majority of its Trans-Tasman flights between July 2017 and March 2018.
2. Fly to Southeast Asia in Qantas Business Class for 50,000-60,000 miles one-way
Travellers in Perth can fly direct to Singapore for only 50,000 miles one-way, although you’ll be flying on the dated Boeing 737 with angled seats.
Those on the East Coast are a bit luckier, with many flights to Southeast Asia operated by Airbus A330s with modern Business Suites, offering lie-flat beds and direct aisle access.
For 60,000 miles one-way, you can fly direct from Melbourne or Brisbane to Hong Kong, or Sydney to Manila, for example.
3. Fly to Singapore or Bangkok in Emirates Business Class for 120,000 miles return
Emirates really does service Australia well, with not only its direct flights to Dubai from our five major airports but also flights between Melbourne/Brisbane and Singapore, and Sydney and Bangkok (which then continue onto Dubai).
For 120,000 miles, you can fly return between any of our three biggest cities and Southeast Asia.
Check Google Flights to see if you’ll get a lie-flat seat on the Airbus A380 (currently on Melbourne – Singapore and Sydney – Bangkok) or an angled-flat seat on the Boeing 777 (Brisbane – Singapore) – the former is more comfortable.
4. Fly to Japan in Japan Airlines Business Class for 85,000 miles return
Japan Airlines has one of the best reputations for customer service of all of the airlines in the world.
You can take the direct flights between Sydney and Tokyo in Business Class for 85,000 miles return; or take a free stopover and fly onto Hawaii or Moscow for 125,000 miles; or the rest of North America, including New York, San Francisco or Boston, for 145,000 miles.
5. Fly to the US in Korean Air Business Class for 165,000 miles return
Korean Air services Sydney and Brisbane and has the most extensive network in North America of any Asian carrier, including Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth.
I was pretty impressed by their First Class product on a flight from Sydney to San Francisco via Seoul at the start of 2017, however, do make sure you check SeatGuru to see what kind of aircraft and seat you may be flying on, as the quality between aircraft does differ.
6. Fly between Europe and the US in TAP Portugal Business Class for 140,000-160,000 miles return
Over the past 24 months, Star Alliance airline TAP has been quietly upgrading its Transatlantic fleet to feature lie-flat seats with direct aisle access.
TAP has a pretty good network out of its Lisbon hub throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Western Europe, West Africa and across to New York, Boston and Miami.
Whilst the requirement to redeem a return ticket is onerous, if you do find yourself having to cross the pond in both directions, this may be a good option for you.
7. Fly to Dubai in Qantas Business Class instead of Emirates for 96,000 vs 132,500 miles one-way
Redeeming your Skywards miles on a one-way Qantas flight costs less than if you redeemed them for an Emirates flight on the same route.
This is because Skywards prices one-way redemptions on its own airline at the more expensive Flex level instead of Saver level for one-way redemptions on partner airlines like Qantas (return redemptions on both Emirates and partner airlines are priced at the cheaper Saver level).
So, if you are going to redeem your Skywards miles for a one-way flight from Melbourne to Dubai, you would save 36,500 miles by flying on a Qantas rather than Emirates flight.
8. Redemptions departing Europe to Australia are cheaper than the other way round
How is this for unfair?! Both one-way and return redemption rates are 30% cheaper on flights from Europe to Australia compared to flying in the opposite direction.
For example, a one-way Business Class ticket from Sydney to London, Paris or Frankfurt will set you back 176,000 miles, however, if you fly in the opposite direction you’ll pay only 123,750 miles – a saving of over 50,000 miles!
Similarly, a return First Class ticket from London to Sydney costs 270,000 miles but if you’re doing it the opposite way you’ll have to fork out 384,000 miles.
So, if you only have enough miles for a one-way redemption to or from Europe, try to use it on the way home but avoid flying out of London to reduce the taxes you are liable for.
Or if you want to book a return journey and are based in Europe, then you’ll be at an advantage too.
9. Donate miles to charity
Currently, Emirates partners with four charities, including CARE International, to whom you can donate your miles. This might be an attractive option for you if you have miles expiring and do not have another use for them.
Skywards miles can no longer be redeemed for stays at Emirates’ five-star Wolgan Valley resort in the Blue Mountains.
Two important limitations
Skywards redemptions on partner airlines are hard work!
- You need to fill out a request form online and wait for the customer service team to call you – and there are reports of this not happening, so it is best to be proactive
- Only return flights are available for redemption on most partners, including Japan Airlines, however, one-way redemptions are allowed on Qantas
How to earn Skywards miles
The Emirates Citi World MasterCard is the only direct-earn card in the market for Emirates Skywards, earning at least 1 Skywards mile for every $ spent and more for spend overseas and on Emirates flights. It is a card that is most appropriate for those who spend heavily on bookings directly with Emirates.
American Express cards that are classified in the Ascent Premium range, such as the Platinum Charge and Business Platinum Charge card, can transfer points at a rate of 1 Membership Rewards point to 1 Skywards mile.
Amex cards in the Ascent range, such as the Platinum Edge card, can transfer at the slightly lower rate of 1 Membership Rewards point to 0.75 Skywards miles.
If you’re a holder of the Citi Prestige Visa card, you can transfer your points at the paltry rate of 1 Citi Rewards point to 0.4 Skywards miles.
Finally, you can transfer SPG Starpoints to Skywards at a ratio of 1:1, with a 5,000 bonus for transfers of 20,000 or more.
As you can probably tell, Skywards doesn’t offer many good value redemption options or an easy way to redeem on partner airlines.
However, if you do find yourself with a substantial Skywards balance, you’ll be best off focussing your redemptions on Emirates, Qantas and Japan Airlines Business Class flights within Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.
Looking for more inspiration for how to spend your hard-earned frequent flyer points?
Here is a comprehensive list of all of our Best Uses of Points guides. There may be some overlap but each guide has its own twist.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Best uses of Qantas Points
- ‘Ultimate’ uses of Qantas Points
- Best uses of 60,000 Qantas Points
- Best uses of 80,000 Qantas Points
- Best uses of 100,000 Qantas Points
- Best uses of Qantas Points from Perth
Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Best uses of Velocity Points
- Best uses of 100,000 Velocity Points
- Five flight redemptions that maximise your Velocity points balance
- Best uses of Etihad Guest miles
- Etihad Guest vs Velocity for Virgin Australia flights comparison guide
American Express Membership Rewards
- Best uses of 100,000 American Express Ascent Membership Rewards points
- Best uses of 100,000 American Express Gateway Membership Rewards points