Emirates devaluing first class awards in July by removing Flex awards

Jun 14, 2021

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As reported by One Mile at a Time, Emirates is eliminating first-class Flex awards effective 1 July 2021. This is one of the two types of first-class awards that the carrier offers on first-class award tickets.

The change is noted on Emirates’ Mile Calculator page underneath the calculator tool:

“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.”

Let’s take a closer look at why this change represents a devaluation to Emirates Skywards — and why this makes Emirates’ first-class awards harder than ever to book.

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This change makes Emirates first class awards more expensive

For some background, Emirates has two tiers of first-class award tickets: Flex and Flex Plus. Flex awards can only be booked as a part of a round-trip itinerary but offer a lower price than Flex Plus tickets, which can be booked one way.

Beyond being able to book one way, the only upside to booking a Flex Plus award compared to a Flex award is the lack of a cancellation fee. You’ll spend $50 to cancel and reinstate miles for a Flex award.

Here’s a quick price comparison. According to Emirates’ calculator, a round-trip ticket from New York-JFK to Dubai (DXB) costs 217,500 Emirates miles round-trip in Flex first class and 272,500 in Flex Plus. This effectively makes the award 55,000 miles more expensive.

Emirates calculator JFK-DXB round-trip
(Screenshot courtesy of emirates.com)

Further, Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai costs 310,000 round-trip in Flex Plus first class. This is 62,500 miles more than a round-trip award ticket in Flex first class.

Emirates calculator LAX-DXB round-trip
(Screenshot courtesy of emirates.com)

Since you can only book Flex tickets as part of a round-trip itinerary, one-way pricing is not affected and costs half what a round-trip Flex Plus itinerary costs. This means there is no longer an advantage to booking a round-trip Emirates award over a one-way award.

Related: Everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards

Emirates first class awards are harder than ever to book

Emirates new first class seat
Emirates’ stunning first-class product is getting harder to book. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For travellers, Emirates choosing to eliminate Flex award tickets now is particularly unfortunate. This announcement comes just months after Emirates stopped letting members of partner programmes book first-class award tickets. This includes programmes like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and JAL Mileage Bank.

This tells me that Emirates is trying to make its first-class product harder to book with points and miles. On the one hand, this makes sense — after a tough pandemic year, the airline wants more customers paying for first-class tickets outright or by way of paid upgrades.

On the other, this change makes Emirates Skywards less desirable. Now that it costs significantly more miles to book one of these tickets, travellers may be apt to book with another carrier, especially on its fifth-freedom routes to Europe.

But without partner programmes to compete with, Emirates can raise the price of its first-class awards as high as it’d like. After all, there are plenty of travellers who want to try the Emirates first-class experience without shelling out thousands of pounds on a paid ticket.

Bottom line

There’s no doubt that Emirates removing first-class Flex awards is a devaluation. And unfortunately, it may be just one of the many devaluations to come this year in the points and miles world.

Feature photo by M101Studio/Shutterstock.com.

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