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Emirates Skywards vs Etihad Guest

Let's see which carrier takes you farther, higher, and with a bigger smile on your face.

Emirates Skywards

Earning miles

If you’re flying economy class to Beirut, Lebanon from Dubai, and you’re a Skywards Blue member, you’d accumulate 2658 air miles, and the same in tier miles. Silver members, however, earn 25 percent more air miles, and gold members earn 50 percent more, although they earn the same tier mile as blue members.

Alternatively, you can earn air miles by using credit cards, but we’ll leave that to you to research.

Air miles expire every three years, whereas tier miles expire every year.

Score: 8

Flight rewards

Let’s say you’re a blue member and you’ve accumulated 25,000 air miles, and you want to redeem your miles for a ticket to Beirut. According to the service center, you’d need 25,000 air miles to pay for the ticket, plus AED225 in taxes. The taxes, however, change regularly, so the total amount is subject to change.

That seems fair.

Score: 9

Non flight rewards

The number of air miles required to buy a non flight reward depends on the product you’re looking at (that’s obvious enough). However, the price of the product on the screen does not include the cost of delivery, which in some cases can be hefty. Delivery costs vary according to the product you’re purchasing and your address.

Furthermore, according to The Emirates High Street website, the price of a Canon EOS 5D with 24-105 mm Lens was $3,540 before discount, almost $250 higher than it was retailing in the market ($3,299).

Score: 1

Status upgrade

In order to upgrade from a blue to a silver member, you need to accumulate 25,000 tier miles within a single calendar year or 20 segments (or sectors). That’s a little under 10 return economy tickets to Beirut a year. In order to maintain your silver membership, you need to maintain that level of travel.

Similarly, to become a gold member, you need 50,000 tier miles or 40 segments, and to maintain the same miles or segments.

So you have to keep up the pace incessantly?

Score: 2

Complementary seat upgrade

Apparently, blue skywards member don’t get upgraded (unless there’s a major exception). According to the call center, you’re more likely to get upgraded if you’re a silver or gold member.

Score: 7

Final score: 27



  1. An Etihad Guest Member on July 30, 2009 5:38 am

    Well Done Etihad Guest. In my experience, it’s a clear winner – as proved by it’s showing in the Freddie Awards every year so far since it’s launch less than 3 years ago!

    Etihad Guest – we love you!

  2. Rick T on July 30, 2009 9:40 am

    What is the point in this article? The reason Etihad wins – it seems to me – is simply the 8 point spread you place on the Staus Upgrade catagory. Surely allowing people to retain their status for 2 years or more would be worth 10 out of 10, rather than a slight reduction in miles. Honestly, if you’re someone who flies 50,000 miles+ a year, you’re not going to struggle to get 40k the next.
    Cards on the table, I am an Emirates Gold Skywards Member and although I was initially upset at the change to the retention levels, looking at the benefits I receive, I’m more than happy. With regard to the “High Street” rewards, I would never bother as the key benefits for me are lounge access, miles upgrades and free upgrades.
    Imagine how nice it is to check in for a 16 hour flight from LA and be told you’re getting a lie flat bed and silver service.
    At the end of the day though, comparing the two isn’t really fair as I simply couldn’t be bothered with the extra effort of going to Abu Dhabi for each flight. When you place either of these reward schemes up agains British Airways and their One World Alliance Members, the choice becomes a very simple one!

  3. Arto on August 2, 2009 8:34 pm

    The fact that the lounge for Silver members in Skywards is in Terminal 1 is simply ridiculous.

    It is also quite disappointing the way they handle the complaints; they simply mean “this is done for you, be happy and grateful for it”….. I guess I should be happy and grateful to walk for 20 min. with my luggages, kids, etc. Read the official response I got, decide for yourself:

    “Thank you for your feedback regarding lounge access at Terminal 3.

    Shortly after the opening of the New Terminal 3 in Dubai, we became aware that the capacity in the lounges was not sufficient to ensure the comfort of our members. The Business Class Lounge in Terminal 1 was then opened to our Silver members, to offer the benefits and serenity of a Business Class Lounge without the inconvenience of overcrowding.

    We remain committed to the benefits offered to our Silver members. At Dubai Airport Terminal 3, a dedicated Silver check-in area, located in the economy check-in section, is available for your convenience. Around the world Silver members may check in at the Business Class counters, or at exclusively dedicated Silver and Gold check-in counters.

    Silver members also enjoy the 12kg additional baggage allowance, and the 25 percent Silver bonus miles, these additional miles allow the opportunity to redeem for free flights and upgrades at a much faster pace.

    We appreciate receiving your feedback and hope we have addressed your concerns satisfactorily.

    Yours sincerely,………”

  4. peter on August 21, 2009 6:33 pm

    with regard to status Status upgrade with emirates skywards is much easiyer than etihad well at first when sky wards started it was 50k for for new gold and retain 40k and silver 25k and 20k to retain
    as for emirates regardless on which fair u pay u get 100% mls which etihad does not 2 flight frm uk to akland in first class and i am gold how easy is that
    and with regards to Non flight rewards yes i agree with u they charge a lot but that is as VAT
    redeeming of mls i found it is easir on emirates then etihad but the was one of case
    but over all i think skwards is still the best here i think in days to come etihad will reviw the tier when they find out it was easy to get

  5. Frequent Flyer on November 14, 2009 11:38 am

    I have been using both earlines but for me it is obvious decision to go for Etihad. I have Citibank credit card and have been accumulating points and losing them with Skywards simply because whenever you try to use the business class you discover there is only peak economy ie you use and pay same number of miles for business but you get economy class (this is if you are lucky) and not forgetting that if you do not have the chance to use airmiles you lose them within one year.

    If you look at the high street redemption awards these should be called the high cost redemptions, there is no value for money and in many cases the prices are higher than market prices of those products. My feeling Skywards as is the case with emirates is just a successful marketing initiative with no real value added services.

  6. Ali Zaidi on December 12, 2009 7:12 am

    Emirates beats Etihad in all areas of service. I have traveled to Dubai, London and Pakistan from United States on Emirates multiple times as well as on other carriers. Emirates seems to care little more about their customers than Etihad.
    On my last trip to Lahore, I was dumbfounded by the fact that I dont have any reservation back to US. Upon providing all the docs, I was told its my fault because I did not re-confirm and guess what? Yeah- Etihad manager offered his help to get me on that plane by taking 40$ cash and refusing to provide a receipt. I will never never ever use Etihad.

    When I consulted their customer service desk in Abu Dhbai, they literally dont have any email address or complaint box to file a complaint. What a service! I found one email address on their web and still did not get a single response from Etihad for any of my emails what I sent about this incidient. Be careful if you are using Etihad while flying overseas.


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