Emirates flights, Skywards Miles, and upgrades

Emirates is a great airline and I've booked many enjoyable flights with them. However when it comes to using points and upgrading flights, the information I've obtained from Emirates customer services has always been a little fluffy. There's been contradicting information from various customer service staff, and it all gets a bit confusing. After a few flights and many calls to customer services, I've finally gathered some useful information about how Skywards Miles can be used for upgrades, and how individual accounts and family accounts work separately.


If you are short of Skywards Miles when wanting to upgrade your flight, you can use American Express points to convert them to Skywards Miles to be able to upgrade (if you have enough). There's some rules around transferring miles between individual and family accounts, and you can only transfer a maximum of 50,000 points per year.

Photo by Tim Dennert / Unsplash

Firstly, you obtain Skywards Miles by flying frequently, and/or by using an American Express card where you accumulate points and can convert them into Skywards Miles. If you have an individual account, you can use these miles to upgrade your flight to business class. There are 3 options to do this:

  • Upgrade with miles
  • Upgrade with miles and cash
  • Upgrade by purchasing a promotional ticket
Passion Passport
Photo by Amir Hanna / Unsplash

Economy Tickets

If you have an economy saver ticket, you can upgrade only by miles. You need 82,000 miles per person to do this.

Flexi Tickets

If you have a flexi ticket, you need 50,700 miles per ticket to upgrade to business class.

Flexi Plus Tickets

If you have a flexi plus ticket, you need 39,000 miles per ticket to upgrade to business class.

If you are short of miles you can purchase them at $20 per 1,000 miles. You can also have a friend or family member transfer you miles at a cost of $15 per 1,000 miles from their individual account and you're allowed to transfer a maximum of 50,000 miles per year.

Here's the kicker - you cannot transfer miles from a family account to an individual account. When doing an upgrade only the head of the family account can perform the upgrade by miles through their account. Your contribution level must be set to 100% if you'd like all earned miles to go into the family account rather than your individual account, or you can choose your contribution level if you will be using miles from your individual account. You cannot transfer miles between your individual account and family account.

Some Tips

If you are short of miles in your family account and there's more than 1 person in your family account, if they have an American Express card linked and they have points on there, they can transfer points to their account and if their contribution level is set to 100%, the miles will go into the family account. This will allow any member to use the miles in the family account. Please always ask permission from the family head if you'd like to use the family miles to purchase an upgrade.

With the American Express card, you can only link one Skywards account to your card per year. This limitation is in place to prevent transferring points to multiple accounts.

If you're looking for an American Express card, the American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card is a great choice where you can collect points from your spending and use them as Skywards Miles, or you can get a statement credit and make other purchases.

Please note: the American Express links are my referral link - you will receive point for signing up and spending within the first 90 days. I also receive points if you satisfy their criteria. Please see their T&Cs on the link.