Emirates Boarding Process and Groups – Everything You Need To Know

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Emirates has been long known as one of the most luxurious airlines in the sky. Its fleet of all wide-body aircraft features some of the best first and business class products in the sky, with its A380 aircraft going so far as to include in-flight showers for first-class passengers.

The airline is becoming increasingly more popular too. It’s expanding its fleet with new Boeing wide-body aircraft, and opening up new routes around the world in the process. So even if a vacation to Dubai isn’t in your immediate future, you may find yourself on one of its jets when flying to Africa, the Middle East, or Asia from the U.S. or Europe.

The airline even operates a handful of direct routes from the U.S., too. Most notably, you can fly Emirates from Newark Liberty International (EWR) to Athens International (ATH), and John F. Kennedy International (JFK) to Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) without a stop in Dubai, making the airline an attractive way for many East Coasters to fly across the pond.

While the airline is known for its top-tier service, the airline has a somewhat untraditional boarding process, especially when compared to American and European carriers. So here’s the complete guide to Emirates’ boarding process and boarding groups.

Here, you’ll find how the Emirates boarding process works, saving you time and confusion at the airport. Then, we’ll take a look at other special considerations you should keep in mind before boarding an Emirates plane.

Sound good? Let’s get started!

Emirates Boarding Groups & Process

Emirates A380
Emirates A380. Image Credit: Emirates

As stated earlier, Emirates doesn’t board zone-by-zone. Instead, the airline takes a slightly different approach to board the plane. While premium cabins and elite status holders still board first, the economy cabin is boarded based on where you sit on the plane.

Emirates boards the economy cabin from back-to-front. This means that passengers at the very back of the plane will board before economy passengers at the front of the cabin. Of course, this doesn’t apply to those with Emirates Skywards status as these passengers have priority boarding regardless of class of travel.

Boarding priority isn’t a well-known fact of flying Emirates, so the more people that know, the faster the plane will board. We’ve heard reports that this process varies slightly airport-to-airport, but this is the standard you should expect across the board.

Boards First

  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Passengers with disabilities

Emirates notes that persons with disabilities will board ahead of general boarding, so if you or someone you’re traveling with falls into this category, make sure to get in contact with Emirates before your flight to make arrangements. This will make for a more comfortable journey and ensures that the airline can assist in any way needed.

Further, Emirates does allow unaccompanied minors to fly on all of its flights. However, you’ll need to get in touch with Emirates before your child’s flight to make arrangements. An Emirates employee will accompany your child around the airport and take him or her to a dedicated lounge for unaccompanied minors. Your child will also board the plane first.

Boarding at Leisure

  • First class passengers
  • Business class passengers
  • Emirates Skywards Silver/Gold/Platinum status members

Passengers in these classes can board at their leisure and are given priority at the beginning of the boarding process. This means you can board first, or wait in the lounge a little bit longer if you’d like. Note that if you fall into one of these classes of travel or status tiers, you do not need to wait for your row to be called — even if you’re in economy class.

Economy Passengers Board Back-to-Front

Like mentioned earlier, economy passengers without Emirates Skywards status will board back-to-front. With that in mind, show up to your boarding gate on-time and wait for your row to be called.

Hot Tip: Flying Emirates in economy class and want to board early? Pick a seat towards the back of the plane.

While this practice may seem foreign to those used to flying on American and European carriers, it can actually be quite efficient. This is especially true when boarding one of Emirate’s many double-decker A380 jets.

Boarding Cutoff Time

All Emirates flights cut boarding 20 minutes prior to departure. However, get to your plane far before this time to ensure that you can board your flight without issue. To be safe, you may want to show up to your boarding gate around your plane’s boarding time.

How to Build Up Your Emirates Skywards Balance

Emirates Inaugural World's Shortest A380 Flight Business Class Seat 16K - Cherag Dubash
Emirates A380 business class – Seat 16K. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Itching to get on an Emirates flight without footing the full cost of a business or first-class ticket? Don’t sweat — just start accruing Emirates Skywards miles that you can use to redeem for Emirates flights in all classes.

Hot Tip: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles can also be used to book Emirates award tickets in all classes. It’s more expensive in terms of points, but you’ll generally pay less in taxes and carrier-imposed fees. Learn how in our guide to booking Emirates first class for more info.

There are great ways to earn Emirates Skywards miles. One of the most straightforward ways to earn Skywards miles is by flying on Emirates or one of its global airline partners like JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Qantas. When flying one of these carriers, simply attach your Emirates Skywards number to your ticket and you’ll earn miles.

However, the easiest way for most travelers to earn Skywards miles is by transferring in points from a credit card or hotel partner. As of the time of writing this article, Emirates Skywards has 3 transfer partners: American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy.

American Express Credit Cards

American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to Emirates Skywards miles at a 1:1 transfer ratio. You can transfer miles in increments of 1,000, and American Express sporadically runs transfer bonuses to make this ratio even more attractive.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

If you’re a business owner, see our post on Amex’s business cards.

Capital One Credit Cards

Capital One recently gave cardholders the ability to transfer miles from their Capital One accounts to airline transfer partners. One of the transfer partners is Emirates Skywards, and points transfer in at a rate of 2:1, so you’ll technically lose points on the transfer.

While this may sound bad on paper, transferring miles will likely save you miles versus booking an Emirates business class flight through the Capital One Travel Portal. Here are a few cards you can use to boost your Capital One points balance:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card - The big brother of the VentureOne and it's packed with a lot more benefits and perks. Earn a 50,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening — and 10X miles per $1 spent across thousands of hotels. We recommend this as a no-brainer card if you even semi regularly stay at hotels.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card - This is an excellent card for those looking to earn 10x miles per $1 across thousands of hotels. With a 20,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $200) after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months and no annual fee, it's a strong choice.

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

Likewise, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Emirates Skywards at a 3:1 transfer ratio. Plus, for every 60,000 points you transfer to an airline partner, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 airline miles.

Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business - This no annual fee card has a 20,000 mile sign up bonus after meeting the minimum spend of $3,000 within the first 3 months. Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.74% - 22.74% variable APR after that.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business - Earn 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that.

Final Thoughts

As Emirates continues its worldwide expansion, there’s a good chance you’ll end up on one of its planes as you travel the world. No matter if you’re in first, business, or economy class, you’ll be greeted with a friendly staff, and industry-leading service.

In this article, you learned all about the Emirates boarding process. Keep this information in mind next time you board an Emirates flight, and you’ll save yourself time and confusion in the process.

And as always, safe travels!


FAQ

How do I earn Emirates Skywards status?

Emirates Skywards status is earned based on how much you fly on Emirates and its partner airlines. Here’s how many flights or tier points it takes to earn each tier of Emirates Skywards status:

  • Skywards Silver: 25,000 tier points OR 25 flights
  • Skywards Gold: 50,000 tier points. OR 50 points
  • Skywards Platinum: 150,000 tier points

What U.S. airports does Emirates service?

Emirates flies to the following 12 U.S. airports:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington DC (IAD)

Who boards an Emirates flight first?

Passengers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors board the plane first, followed by first and business class passengers as well as those with Emirates Skywards status.

Can I purchase priority boarding on my next Emirates flight?

At this time you cannot purchase priority boarding when seated in economy. The only exception to this rule is if you upgrade your ticket to first or business class.

Andrew Kunesh

About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City. He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt.

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