Emirates Skywards returns to American Express transfer partners

After going AWOL for a month, Emirates Skywards returns to American Express once more.

A few weeks after mysteriously vanishing from the American Express Membership Rewards portal, Emirates Skywards has returned to the list of transfer partners. 

emirates skywards

This, coupled with Emirates’ recent decision to dramatically cut fuel surcharges, creates some potentially interesting opportunities.

What happened to American Express transfers to Emirates Skywards?

Last month, Emirates Skywards disappeared from the American Express Membership Rewards portal. At the time I speculated the removal might only be temporary, because banks have historically removed partners for innocuous reasons like contractual or technical issues. 

Sure enough, a few weeks later and Emirates Skywards has returned. An American Express spokesperson confirmed to me that Emirates was still a Membership Rewards transfer partner, and its temporary absence was indeed a technical issue. 

What’s interesting is that previously, Emirates Skywards transfers were limited to a maximum of 624,500 Membership Rewards points (390,000 miles for AMEX Platinum Charge/Centurion, 347,000 miles for others) per calendar year. 

emirates skywards previous restrictions

That restriction has since been removed. 

emirates skywards transfer amex

Emirates has significantly cut fuel surcharges on awards

A week ago, it came to light that Emirates had significantly cut the fuel surcharges on all its tickets, both revenue and awards.

Here’s an example of how the cost of round-trip Emirates Business Class itineraries changed: 

Round-trip Business ClassBeforeAfter
SIN-DXB105K+
S$686
145K+
S$304
SIN-MEL90K+
S$825
125K+
S$143
SIN-DXB-JFK190K+
S$1.6K
262.5K+
S$753
SIN-DXB-LHR150K+
S$1.5K
207.5K+
S$902
SIN-DXB-ZRH150K+
S$1.2K
207.5K
+S$552
SIN-DXB-GRU200K+
S$1.6K
275K+
S$748
First Class taxes and surcharges for these destinations will price the same as Business Class

Why do awards now cost more miles but less cash? That’s because Saver awards have gone AWOL for the moment, which has led to a de facto increase in the number of miles required. For example, notice how Singapore to Dubai used to cost 105,000 miles + S$686 cash (Saver award). This has now become 145,000 miles + S$304 cash (Flex Plus award). 

No matter what dates I look at, I cannot find any awards at the 105,000 miles Saver level.

Emirates not offering saver awards

This may simply mean that Emirates has not allocated any seats to the Economy and Business Saver fare classes, and hence awards are not possible. For what it’s worth, some posters on Flyertalk believe the absence is only temporary. We’ll have to monitor this closely, because the loss of Saver awards would be a significant devaluation to the Skywards program. 

Emirates has cut back on First Class frills

Emirates First Class suite
Emirates First Class Suite | Photo Credit: TPG

Even if you’re willing to pay the higher award prices just for the thrill of experiencing Emirates First Class, you might want to wait till things improve.

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As per Executive Traveller, the Covid-19 situation has led to Emirates cutting back on a lot of First Class frills. Gone are the showers and cocktail bar on the A380s, meal service will be a simpler tray-based affair, and interactions with cabin crew will be kept to the bare minimum. You’re basically getting a nicer seat and alcohol, and it won’t be anywhere near the heyday of pre Covid-19 days. 

Heck, it’s not even clear if you’ll be able to enjoy the Qantas First Class lounge in Changi, because that’s been shuttered indefinitely. That’s a shame, because it offered hands down the best dining experience anywhere in Changi Airport. 

Qantas First Class Lounge Changi
Qantas First Class Lounge Changi

I do hope this improves before November, because I’m currently booked on my first-ever Emirates A380 flight to Dubai…

What else can I do with Emirates Skywards miles?

Emirates Skywards miles can also be redeemed on:

  • Air Mauritius
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Bangkok Airways
  • Copa Airlines
  • easyjet
  • GOL
  • Japan Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar
  • Korean Air
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • S7 Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Portugal
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Note that only selected partner airlines (namely Qantas and easyjet) can be booked online. For all other partners, you’ll need to call up customer service or fill in an online form.

Here’s a few potential routings that may interest you:

  • Singapore to Melbourne/Sydney on Qantas for 60,000/90,000 miles in one-way Business/First Class
  • Domestic USA flights on JetBlue from 7,500 miles in one-way Economy (connecting flights price as two separate awards, so look for non-stops)
  • Domestic Brazil flights on GOL from 4,500 miles in one-way Economy
  • Singapore to North America on JAL for 125,000/185,000 miles in round-trip Business/First Class

Which American Express cards can I use to earn Emirates Skywards miles?

As a reminder, the following American Express cards can earn Emirates Skywards miles.

Emirates says that Skywards miles are valid for three years from the date they’re earned. In reality though, the validity can be up to 4 years, thanks to a very strange expiry policy: In the calendar year that Skywards miles are set to expire, they expire at the end of the month in which you were born.

American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire, and transfer fees are waived for Platinum and Centurion cards. 

CardTransfer Ratio
(MR Points: Miles)
amex centurionAMEX Centurion 400:250
amex platinum chargeAMEX Platinum Charge400:250
amex platinum reserveAMEX Platinum Reserve450:250
amex platinum credit cardAMEX Platinum Credit Card450:250
amex rewardsAMEX Rewards450:250

Conclusion

American Express rejoins Standard Chartered as the two credit cards offering transfer to Emirates Skywards. While I don’t think this should be the default frequent flyer program for someone in Singapore, it’s worth exploring as a backup or even third choice, now that fuel surcharges have been greatly reduced. 

You can always refer to this comprehensive list of points transfer partners in Singapore for all the latest details. 

Will you be transferring points to Emirates Skywards?

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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