Emirates Upgrade Changes Hit Qantas Flyers


Qantas frequent flyers have enjoyed many benefits when flying Emirates since the Qantas-Emirates alliance was established in 2013. One of the most popular benefits, albeit an unofficial one, has been the free upgrades.

Emirates has become renowned for dishing out generous operational upgrades, and Qantas flyers with Platinum or Gold status have been the beneficiaries of many of these. Operational upgrades are given when a flight is oversold in a lower class of travel, but vacant seats remain in a higher class. As Emirates has a habit of frequently overselling Economy, there have even been flights where more than half of the Business class cabin has been filled by Economy-ticketed passengers enjoying a free upgrade!

In cases where Economy is oversold, free upgrades have traditionally been given to top-tier frequent flyers. This means Platinum members of the Emirates Skywards program receive first priority, followed by Gold members. And thanks to the Qantas-Emirates partnership, Qantas flyers receive equivalent priority to their Skywards counterparts. This has made for some very happy Qantas customers!

Unfortunately for these loyal customers, priority in the Emirates upgrade queue will now be based on the price a customer has paid for their ticket. Among customers that have bought the most expensive ticket type, secondary priority will be given to top-tier flyers. But the changes mean that a Silver member flying on a “Flex” fare will receive an upgrade over a Platinum flyer booked on a less expensive “Saver” fare.

Naturally, many of our members are disappointed with these changes.

Well that’s annoying. I suspect my EK op-up success rate will drop substantially.

Such a shame. I was hoping for a J to F upgrade tonight on EK404. Looks quite full due to JQ8 cancellation. Will be my last chance for an upgrade as I very rarely fly EK on Mel-Sin-Mel route. Not sure I like the new upgrade procedure, but thems the breaks.

The good news for less frequent flyers is that buying an expensive ticket will now increase your chances of getting upgraded. In the meantime, frequent flyers on less expensive tickets will need to hope that Emirates continues to oversell Economy class – and that the majority of the other Economy passengers have bought the cheapest discounted tickets. Thankfully, both of these outcomes are still real possibilities with Emirates.

With EK they don’t follow those rules and love to fill every seat, even if that comes through operational upgrades through overselling Y in the QTY of how many spare seats they have left in J or F.

EK don’t sit on their last 20% of seats requiring anyone wanting them to buy the most flexible ticket as most airlines do. They seem to monitor all flights on a daily basis and make more inventory in certain buckets to be available on a daily basis, with a lot of management in the 5 days prior to a flight – and will do what they need to do to fill the plane.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]