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Emirates Boarding Process and Groups – Everything You Need To Know

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Andrew Kunesh
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Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

69 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 28U.S. States Visited: 22

Andrew’s a lifelong traveler who puts in over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew’s worked at Th...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

35 Published Articles 3228 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
& Kellie Jez
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Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

6 Published Articles 1178 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 10U.S. States Visited: 20

Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s c...

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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 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 (EWR) to Athens (ATH) and New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) without a stop in Dubai (DXB), 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 and 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 from airport-to-airport, but this is the standard you should expect across the board.

Boards First

  • Families with infants and 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, and 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 at 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 Emirates’ 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 at 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.

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 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 7 transfer partners: American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

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The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.

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The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!

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The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

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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!

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Miles it takes to earn each tier of Emirates Skywards status:

  • Skywards Silver: 25,000 Tier Miles OR 25 flights
  • Skywards Gold: 50,000 Tier Miles OR 50 points
  • Skywards Platinum: 150,000 Tier Miles

What U.S. airports does Emirates service?

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

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Who boards an Emirates flight first?

Passengers with disabilities, families with infants, 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.

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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. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.

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