Despite having 172 partnerships globally, 85% of Emirates Skywards members still redeem their miles on flights
Emirates airline and Flydubai is offering its Skywards members the opportunity to earn double the tier miles on all bookings for the next seven days.
Members who book Emirates and Flydubai flights from today until December 3 (inclusive) for travel between now and March 31 next will earn double the amount of tier miles.
The offer is the first major promotion since the Flydubai adopted Emirates Skywards as its loyalty programme in August this year. The integration took almost 12 months, with a large number of Flydubai customers already members of the Emirates programme.
“We don’t do a lot of these tier mile offers,” Dr Nejib Ben Khedher, senior vice president, Skywards, told Arabian Business.
“We do Skywards miles offers, but tier miles is different. This can accelerate your access to the benefits of silver, gold and platinum, which I think should be attractive to the members.”
Emirates Skywards is proving hugely popular around the world, with 23 million global members, growing at a rate of 16% each year, according to Khedher.
Its largest member base is in the UK, with 3 million members, followed by the US with 2,2 million. Australia is third on the list with 1.8 million, followed by the UAE (1.6m) and India (1.6m).
Fifty percent of Emirates Skywards platinum members are in the UAE, Khedher revealed, adding that they recently announced that miles belonging to members this tier will not expire - encouraging people to maintain their top level status.
Despite having 172 partnerships globally, Khedher said 85% of Emirates Skywards members still redeem their miles on flights.
Of that number, 20% spend then on classic rewards, while 45% are on upgrades to Business or First Class.
“For those that don’t have the miles, cash-plus-miles is really the next best thing,” Khedher said.
“We’ve just had an offer where you get one cent per mile. Most of the people had less than 10,000 miles, but were getting $100 discount. 30% of them we’re inactive, meaning they didn’t take a flight [with Emirates] in the last 12 months.”
Khedher, a keen advocate of using data, said he is keen to move away from emailing offers to customers, and instead present customers with offers when they are booking a flight.
“This the best time for us to put an offer in front of you. Either in form of a reduced upgrade offer, or in the form of a special cash plus miles rate,” he said.
Emirates Skywards rolled out the offers to a select number of customers recently, and found it very successful. As it grows, the offerings will become more sophisticated and varied, he said.
It also launched a paid tier upgrade programme recently, again to a select number of customers. The offer was “around $800 for gold membership for a silver member that’s really at a certain level”, Khedher said.
While coy on the exact revenue Emirates Skywards brings to the airlines, Khedher said the growth was in double digits each year. He said Emirates Skywards members account for almost half of the airline’s revenue (Emirates), and bring a higher yield than non-Skywards members.
With further developments to come, he said there’s plenty of scope for significant growth.
“We do bring ancillary revenue to the airline in terms of sales of miles, and it’s a business that we’re growing. Other airlines are much more advanced and have focused on this ancillary revenue from a loyalty programme perspective.” he said.
“Our main purpose continues to be to drive more loyalty with the airline and provide commercial value.
“Skywards members represent today with regard to Emirates - we're working on the Flydubai numbers - 48.5% of the total commercial revenue. Our goal is grow that and have more members flying with us,” he added.
Apart from customers building miles through the traditional method of booking flights, the success of the programme has grown on the number of partnerships that Skywards has - most notably the 13 co-branded debit and credit cards it currently has.
Emirates Skywards just added a fourth co-brand card in the UAE, with Dubai Islamic Bank, adding to Emirates NBD, Citibank and Emirates Islamic.
Khedher said other banks can also convert their rewards into miles.
“We are working currently with many other banks in the UAE to make that happen, so you will see more opportunity for people to acquire miles,” he said.
Emirates Skywards embarked on a transformation over two years ago, targeting growth of members and, as a result, revenue. This would be done through digital engagement with members and leveraging the data that it has to the benefit of members, with targeted offers. Emirates Skywards also partnered with Dubai Mall to link purchases with earning Skywards miles.
“Since we launched it in mid-June 56,000 members - mostly UAE-based - have engaged with the programme. In terms of transactions, it’s 350,000 so far,” he revealed.
There are also partnership with taxis - Careem locally and Cabforce globally, all of which is on offer within the newly launched Skywards Cabforce app.
He revealed Skywards is looking to expand its taxi partnership locally.
“We’re in talks with Dubai RTA, and other partners in the UAE who have their own rewards programme, where we could just talk about conversion points,” he said.
Skywards also launched a two for one app with The Entertainer - Emirates Skywards Go - allowing members to buy access to offers in exchange for miles.
More recently, Emirates app has been updated with new offers to allow customers booking hotels to earn miles, with Rocketmiles - a sister platform to Booking.com - offering up to 10,000 miles, depending on stay.
Increasing its offering to family members, Emirates launched an increased family pooling offering that allows up to eight family members to pool up to 100% of their miles, which can then be redeemed for flights and other awards.
“It allows a pool of miles that can be used by any of the family members,” said Khedher. “It has been very successful with 85,000 [family] accounts created since we launched it this summer, and we’re looking to improve it.”
Emirates also leverages its sponsorship of sporting teams and events around the world by offering tickets in exchange for miles - ticket to see Arsenal costs from 10,000 miles. They also offer a chance to bid for unique tickets - like a chance to be on board a charter flight with Real Madrid.
“The highest bid was 250,000 miles for somebody to get a ticket on that flight flying with the players on an A380 from Madrid to here,” Khedher said. “These are the ‘money can’t buy [but miles can] experiences that you can have access to. In Formula One it would be going behind the scenes and meeting some of the drivers.”