If one of your post-pandemic goals is to try Emirates First Class (I know mine is), it’s going to cost you a bit more.
From 1 July 2021, Emirates Skywards will devalue its First Class awards by eliminating the Flex category, leaving only the more expensive Flex Plus awards. You’ll find this notice tucked away in the fine print on Emirates’ award calculator page.
First Class Flex Classic Rewards will be available for travel until 30 June 2021.
For travel from 1 July 2021 onwards, only First Class Flex Plus Classic Rewards will be available for all First Class one-way and return bookings
Emirates Skywards First Class devaluation
Emirates Skywards currently offers two types of First Class awards: Flex, and Flex Plus. Flex Plus awards are more expensive, but have increased flexibility (both award types come out of the same inventory).
|Routing||Round-trip only||One-way or Round-trip|
|Stay Period||3 months||1 year|
|Date changes||No charge||No charge|
To give you an idea of the difference in price, here’s how much a round-trip First Class award from Singapore to Dubai costs in Flex versus Flex Plus.
Emirates will be discontinuing Flex awards for First Class for any travel from 1 July 2021. Note how that’s “travel”, not “booking”. So long as your outbound flight departs from 1 July 2021 onwards, you won’t be able to book a First Class Flex award. Since it’s highly unlikely any of us will be able to fly by the end of the month, it’s pretty much a no-notice devaluation.
If it’s any consolation, this change won’t affect you if your plan was to redeem a one-way First Class award, since those were only available in Flex Plus in the first place. Expect to pay 98,750 Skywards miles + S$142.60 in taxes and surcharges for a one-way Singapore to Dubai award.
In our Singapore to Dubai example, the mileage requirement increases from 157,500 miles to 197,500 miles, or about 25%. Here’s a few more data points to illustrate the impact of the changes (since Emirates Skywards doesn’t have an award chart, you’ll need to use this award calculator to find the mileage requirements):
|Round-Trip Prices||Flex||Flex Plus|
|Singapore to London/ Paris/ Zurich||225,000||282,500|
|Singapore to New York||285,000||357,500|
|Singapore to Sao Paulo||300,000||375,000|
|Singapore to Los Angeles||315,000||395,000|
The impact seems pretty uniform- a 25% increase in the miles required for a round-trip award. To its credit, Emirates did reduce fuel surcharges significantly last year, but this looks like the other shoe.
Emirates has been making it harder to book First Class awards of late, closing off space to all partners except Qantas. I suppose they’re keen to sell more seats in this high-yielding cabin, but it does reduce Skywards’ attractiveness for redeeming aspirational travel.
I’m still determined to try Emirates First Class at least once, and have some AMEX Membership Rewards points earmarked specifically for this purpose. Let’s hope they have no more surprises up their sleeves.