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earn Oneworld Emerald status
Who doesn’t love top-tier airline status? I know I sure do. While I’m on track to earn Delta Diamond Medallion this year, I can’t help but miss the time I enjoyed American Airlines Executive Platinum status. This was how I was able to also earn and enjoy Oneworld Emerald Status. While not an airline status, per se, this alliance status has its own set of benefits.
What is Oneworld Alliance Airline Status?
Oneworld Emerald status is the highest of the three Oneworld alliance status levels: Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. You typically earn it when you earn the highest possible status with Oneworld member airlines such as American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, and now Alaska Airlines.
As the top-level status among the three tiers, you can expect to enjoy the best benefits. Oneworld Emerald benefits include:
- Access to First and Business class lounges
- Access to First Class priority check-in
- Fast track through security at select airports
- Extra baggage allowance and priority baggage handling
- Priority boarding
- Access to preferred and pre-reserved seating
Of these benefits, the ability to access first class lounges is by far the nicest benefit. With Oneworld Emerald status, you’re able to enter the Qantas First Class lounges, Cathay Pacific First Class lounges, and American Airlines Flagship Lounges. I know things have changed substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m hopeful all of these lounges will fully reopen.
How to Earn Oneworld Emerald Status
Oneworld Emerald status is a benefit of earning top-tier status with Oneworld member airlines. You’ll be granted Oneworld Emerald status if you hold one of the following:
- Alaska Airlines – MVP Gold 75K
- American Airlines – Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro (Thanks Gary!)
- British Airways – Executive Club Gold
- Cathay Pacific – Marco Polo Club Diamond
- Finnair – Platinum Plus / Platinum Plus Lumo
- Iberia – Plus Platinum (and above)
- JAL – Global Club Premier / Diamond or Mileage Bank Diamond
- Malaysia Airlines – Enrich Platinum
- Qantas – Frequent Flyer Platinum / Platinum One
- Qatar – Privilege Club Platinum
- Royal Air Maroc – Safar Flyer Platinum / Ambassador
- Royal Jordanian – Platinum HAWK
- S7 Airlines – Priority Platinum
- SriLankan Airlines – FlySmiLes Platinum
As you can see, there are quite a few airlines to choose among to earn Oneworld Emerald status. Given that you’ll be earning and redeeming miles in the program you choose, you’ll want to check out the tier benefits and award ticket rates before choosing which to commit to.
Top 5 Ways to Earn Emerald Elite Status
The qualification requirements for earning top tier status vary among the Oneworld member airlines. Just know that you need to fly a lot (or find a way to earn a lot of miles/points) to earn the tier needed for Oneworld Emerald.
Here is a quick comparison table of the best options for earning Oneworld Emerald. I’ll expand a bit more on each afterwards.
|Alaska Mileage Plan
|75,000 elite miles (90,000 if using partner flights)
|Easiest option, and super valuable miles
|British Airways Executive Club
|1,500 tier points
|Need four BA flights
|Qantas Frequent Flyer
|1,400 status credits
|Only 1,200 status credits to keep
|100,000 EQMs and $15,000 EQDs
|Yes, and it’s high
|Can use AA credit card to earn some EQDs
|Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club
|1,200 club points
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska is a brand-new Oneworld member. After being an independent partner of multiple other Oneworld airlines, they are now a full member as of March 31, 2021. The Alaska Mileage Plan program is now one of the easiest programs through which to earn Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status.
There are two reasons for this. First, Alaska has lower requirements than similar airlines for qualifying for their top-tier status. You need to fly just 75,000 elite miles in a year, rather than 100,000 miles (reduced to 80,000 in 2021) you’d need with American Airlines. Do note that if you qualify on partner flight miles, you’ll need a minimum of 90,000 miles for Alaska MVP Gold 75K status.
The second thing that Alaska Airlines has going for it is the lack of qualifying spend requirement. American Airlines requires a whopping $15,000 in spend per year (reduced to $12,000 in 2021). Alaska has no such spending hurdle. You can qualify on cheap basic economy tickets. If you flew strictly their cheapest cross-country flights, you’d need ~30 one-way flights and would probably spend only $3,000 to $3,500. That way better.
If you travel across the U.S. frequently between cities served by Alaska Airlines, they are likely your best choice for earning Oneworld Emerald status. Oneworld Sapphire, which gives you access to business class lounges, is even easier, requiring just 40,000 elite miles flown with Alaska.
British Airways Executive Club
Depending on where you’re based, it might be feasible to qualify for British Airways Executive Club Gold. Unlike American Airlines, British Airways does not have a spend component for status. They also don’t award status based on miles. Instead, you earn “tier points” based on the flight distance per sector and airline fare class. There is a calculator for how many tier points you can earn.
Oneworld Emerald is awarded once you reach British Airways Executive Club Gold, which requires 1,500 tier points per membership year (based on the date you joined the program). Tier points expire at the end of your membership year, so make sure to track them well. Depending on your fare class, you can earn a lot of tier points in one trip. For example, traveling from JFK to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) via LHR in British Airways premium economy will earn you 360 tier points. This is enough for Bronze status out the gate, and you’re well on your way toward Gold. Four similar trips and one other small flight and you’re there. Considering that premium economy flights often cost ~$1,000, this is a whole lot less expensive than American Airlines.
British Airways does require you to fly with them in order to earn status. Luckily, you only need four flights with the UK flag carrier to qualify for Executive Club Gold, and therefore Oneworld Emerald.
British Airways does also offer a lifetime elite status program, but it requires 35,000 tier points for Lifetime Gold. That is a lot. But you are awarded top-tier status immediately.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
With Australia keeping their borders closed, who knows when you’ll be able to visit the land down under next. But that doesn’t mean their airline loyalty program doesn’t have value. There are some interesting niche uses for Qantas points, and they might not be a bad option for status either.
To earn Qantas Platinum you’ll need 1,400 status credits in a year. To keep your status, you actually only need 1,200 credits, which is pretty cool. Crediting American Airlines flights to Qantas is actually not a bad option. For example, a JFK-LAX nonstop round-trips in economy will earn 30 status credits. You’d need 28 trips (56 segments total) to earn Platinum. Yes, that’s a lot. But you’re almost certain to arrive at Qantas Platinum before you’d hit American Executive Platinum, unless you’re buying super expensive tickets. If we assume each ticket costs $300, that only $8,400, way less than the $15,000 AA requirement.
You also enjoy 100% bonus Qantas points as a Platinum Frequent Flyer. Nine of the quoted round-trips will earn you enough for a one-way business class ticket from JFK to LHR (~61,000 Qantas points). You’d have about half that crediting them to American as a top-tier AAdvantage elite.
I’d reasonably say that most people I know who have enjoyed Oneworld Emerald status have achieved it through American Airlines by earning their top-tier Executive Platinum status. With an extensive domestic and global network, American Airlines is the first choice for many people across the country.
The biggest hurdle with American Airlines is the spend requirement. Executive Platinum requires an Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) spend of $15,000. This has been reduced to $12,000 for 2021. But still. This is a lot. You can leverage American Airlines credit cards to get part of the way there, but you’ll still be shelling out more than what you would if you qualified with Alaska Airlines. You also need to fly 100,000 elite miles (reduced to 80,000 miles in 2021).
Using the same premium economy ticket example (JFK to TLV via LHR), you’d earn American status about as fast when crediting to American AAdvantage. The one-stop through London would yield about $2,270 EQDs and about 17,000 EQMs. You’d need a couple more round-trips to hit AA Executive Platinum versus BA Executive Club Gold.
Note that you won’t get American Airlines Flagship lounge access for domestic flights if you earn the status through the AAdvantage program.
The domestic travel benefits are obviously enormously appealing beyond the Oneworld status benefits, which surely makes American the default airline loyalty choice for some. You can’t discount the upgrade and other perks within the U.S. But this is focused on sorting through all the Oneworld airlines to see which are the easiest options for earning Emerald status. American may make sense for you. Or they may not, given the spending requirement.
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club is the airline’s elite program. Don’t confuse it with Asia Miles, which are the redeemable miles that you can earn and burn through Cathay Pacific. You can earn both Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club points when you credit flights to Cathay’s loyalty program.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Cathay Pacific as an option since it is definitely not as ideal as British Airways in terms of the points you earn. You do only need 1,200 Club points for Diamond status; however, the same premium economy example used above (JFK to TLV via LHR in British Airways premium economy) would only earn you 60 Marco Polo Club points. You’re an abysmal 5% of the way to top-tier status, where you’d be over 20% of the way there with British Airways.
Honestly, I thought Cathay was going to be a better option than it is. I rank them last.
Many of the other Oneworld partners have requirements that are either too cumbersome or don’t represent an advantage over using a U.S. program. This includes Royal Jordanian, which requires a minimum of 20 sectors on Royal Jordanian flights, and SriLankan FlySmiLes, which requires a minimum of 30,000 tier miles on Sri Lankan Airlines. No can do.
If you fly to Russia at all, S7 Airlines actually has fairly low requirements for their top-tier status. You just need to fly one flight with them. But given that they don’t fly outside Europe and Asia, this isn’t exactly easy. It’s also pointless compared to Alaska Airlines, which has similar requirements for their top-tier status. Yes, I looked into nearly all of these.
Earn Oneworld Emerald Status- Thoughts
I’m not saying you should go out chasing status just to chase status. For most people, it only makes sense in the context of business travel, unless you’re a very avid leisure traveler. But I just want to offer some different options if you travel a good amount but might fall short of top-tier status in American’s program, for example.
After putting a lot of research into this, I landed on the “typical” airlines as the easiest with which to pursue top-tier status for Oneworld Emerald. Unlike the Star Alliance, which has some interesting options for earning alliance Gold status, you pretty much want to stick with either Alaska or British Airways for earning Oneworld Emerald status if you need to avoid the spend requirement with American Airlines.
Alaska seems to really be the best option by far. With both lower qualification requirements and no spending requirement, you can get to Oneworld Emerald pretty quickly. This would be my go-to if you’re able to be choosy about your airline program. My worry now is that they will add in a spend requirement to their program, and/or a higher status level to match other airlines. But until then, Alaska is your best bet!