One of the best perks of working for any airline isn’t usually the pay (which, quite frankly, is rarely that great) but rather the deeply discounted flights that employees have access to. Known as ID90 tickets because they are sold at a 90 per cent discount, airline employees can fly around the world for a fraction of the price that the average passenger would have to pay.
The way in which these benefits are offered to employees, though, can vary massively from airline to airline. Some have incredibly generous policies that extend the same privileges that employees enjoy to their family and even friends. A number of airlines will upgrade employees to the highest available cabin if seats are available and even strike deals with their competitors so employees can travel for the same price between airlines.
Emirates has a good concessional travel scheme but it couldn’t be considered the best in the world. Many staff, including cabin crew for example, would never be considered for an upgrade and have to travel in Economy even if there’s space available in a Business or First Class cabin.
The benefits are also only extended to immediate family members like parents and siblings – there’s no possibility of buying an ID90 ticket for a friend.
But Emirates did offer what it called ‘Special Tickets’ – essentially a variably priced concessional ticket that the airline’s employees could extend to their wider family and some friends. Depending on how busy a flight was, the Special Ticket could either be sold at a steal or with only the most minor saving compared to a commercial ticket.
Special Tickets were introduced in 2014 and proved to be popular amongst Emirates’ staffers and their friends. Unfortunately, it’s a perk that has apparently proven too popular and now the Dubai-based airline is going to axe the perk.
In an internal memo, the airline blamed Special Tickets for having an impact on the company’s revenue.
“As we head into 2020, it is becoming clear that while many people have enjoyed these benefits, there has been an impact on our revenue,” the memo reads.
“We need to ensure that as many seats on our aircraft as possible are sold commercially, at the best price per market at any specific time,” the memo continues. “Therefore, we are withdrawing Special Tickets with effect from 31st December 2019.”
Thankfully, Emirates will honour any Special Tickets purchased before this cut-off.
Instead of a non-limited number of Special Tickets, staffers will now be allocated 15 non-confirmed discount tickets per year which can only be used by wider family members such as cousins and aunts and uncles. These standby tickets are sold at a discount but just like ID90 tickets will depend on aircraft loads as to whether the passenger is accepted for travel.
Perhaps realising this change won’t be seen as a positive move by most employees, the memo preempted criticism, going onto say:
“Please take the time to understand the reasons behind the change, and the benefits of creating a financially strong, future-proof business”.
Last month, Emirates said its revenues had dropped 3 per cent in the first six months of the financial year. Profits, however, saw a 282 per cent improvement to $235 million.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.