Emirates Skywards’ Overzealous Account Audits

Emirates Skywards’ Overzealous Account Audits

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Emirates Skywards seems to be taking frequent flyer account audits to the extreme, and it’s something to be aware of if you’re converting points from a transferable points program. My friends at Juicy Miles have passed on some concerning data points they’ve had for client bookings, which I wanted to summarize here.

Emirates auditing many frequent flyer accounts

Airline frequent flyer programs generally have one-sided terms & conditions:

  • To join a program, you have to agree that the airline actually owns the miles you earn, and that your membership in the program can be terminated for any reason
  • While these terms are quite one-sided, in a vast majority of cases airlines act in good faith
  • It’s not unusual to see airlines audit frequent flyer accounts, especially when they suspect that members have bought, sold, or bartered miles, which is a violation of virtually any program’s rules

That brings us to Emirates Skywards, as the carrier’s “data integrity team” seems to be very busy in recent months, baselessly auditing Emirates Skywards accounts. Members subjected to an audit can’t log into their Skywards accounts, and generally receive the following email:

At Emirates Skywards, we carry out periodic routine checks on our members’ accounts to ensure the accuracy of profile information and that transactions are in line with the Emirates Skywards Programme rules. Your Emirates Skywards account was placed under audit in order to do so.

During this period, Miles from your account cannot be redeemed and your Miles flown within this time may not be auto-tracked to your Emirates Skywards account. You will also not be able to access your account on emirates.com. Any Miles due to expire will not be re-instated.

To commence our audit and allow us to validate your profile, we require the following documents:

— A clear copy of your passport along with the signature page; or a valid ID, for verification purpose.
— A signed letter providing us with your contact details i.e. e-mail address, contact number/s and mailing address.

You may scan and attach the documents in your e-mail response.

We wish to remind you of the relevant policies relating to our routine audit checks. The full version of the Emirates Skywards Programme Terms and Conditions is also available on our website Emirates Skywards Programme Rules.

Thank you for your patience during the period of audit.

Emirates seems to be auditing lots of frequent flyer accounts

What’s really going on with Emirates’ audits?

Frequent flyer account audits are fair if there’s a valid reason for them, but based on everything I’ve seen, Emirates Skywards is going way over the top. Are there some people out there selling Skywards miles who should be audited and have their accounts closed? I’m sure there are, and they absolutely should be held accountable.

But with these audits, Emirates Skywards largely seems to be targeting people who open a Skywards account, then transfer points from a partner (like Amex or Chase), and then book a ticket. On the surface I could see how this could be suspicious if you’re constantly transferring points and booking tickets for others (but never yourself), but in this case there are many reports of people transferring their own Amex points to Emirates Skywards, then booking a ticket for themselves and a companion, and then being audited. Huh?!

I’ve had one correspondence shared with me where the audit started in early June. The member quickly complied by sharing the requested info, and then over four months later, in October, the audit was completed.

The conclusion? The tickets booked with miles were canceled, with no explanation:

We have completed our review and come to the conclusion that there are activities in your account which are in violation of the Emirates Skywards Programme Rules.

Please note we have cancelled the itinerary on booking reference XXXXX, ticket numbers XXXXXXXXXX have been suspended from travel. Please be informed, your account will continue to remain under audit.

That’s it — there’s no further explanation. For the record, this person had booked a honeymoon trip for himself and his fiancé at the time.

Emirates is canceling some tickets without explanation

My take on this Emirates Skywards audit

Over the years I’ve had a countless number of people contact me, say “my frequent flyer account is being audited and I did absolutely nothing wrong, help.” At first I’d always engage and try to help, but then I realized over time that people were almost always omitting important details, and in a vast majority of cases, there actually was something shady going on. Of course I’d only find that out 20 emails in. So I’m generally skeptical of people claiming to have their accounts audited without having done anything wrong, because airline auditing departments are typically pretty sharp.

That being said, in this situation I feel extremely confident in saying that Emirates Skywards is crossing the line. Simply transferring points from a partner and then booking a ticket (even if it’s for someone else — especially since many people have different last names than their significant other), shouldn’t be suspicious. The algorithm that Emirates is using to audit Skywards accounts simply seems to be broken.

If Emirates Skywards wants to do these audits, at least do them quickly. Taking over four months to audit an account, only to inform someone that their ticket is being canceled without an explanation, is unprofessional and unethical — Emirates is getting paid by a partner when points are being transfered, only to essentially tell members to pound sand when they try to redeem them.

Back in 2015, Air France-KLM’s Flying Blue program was notorious for auditing accounts for similar reasons — the program audited members who transferred points and then booked tickets. Fortunately that’s not an issue with the program anymore.

Emirates is acting out of line here

How do you avoid Emirates Skywards audits?

You shouldn’t have to do any of these things, but if you want to minimize your odds of having your Emirates Skywards account audited in conjunction with a mileage transfer:

  • Open an Emirates Skywards account well before you make a transfer, rather than same day
  • Ideally have the Skywards account holder and traveler be the same person

I’ve seen plenty of reports of audits even for those who did the above, but it does seem like opening an account, quickly making a transfer, and then quickly booking a ticket in someone else’s name, is one of the main causes of these audits.

Try to avoid making bookings with new Skywards accounts

Bottom line

Emirates Skywards seems to be aggressively auditing accounts for members who transfer points from a program like Amex, Chase, or Citi. While frequent flyer account audits are normal across programs, typically the standard for triggering these is a bit higher.

In the case of Skywards, the program seems to be auditing people simply for transferring points and booking a ticket (gasp!). Emirates then doesn’t allow people to access their miles or accounts, in some cases for months, and then occasionally cancels tickets without explanation.

I’ll be passing on this post to Emirates to see if the company has anything to say about this practice. I’m a huge fan of Emirates and the value of the Skywards program, but I find the number of data points of account audits to be alarming.

Have any OMAAT readers been impacted by these Emirates Skywards account audits?

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  1. jeff

    wondering if you opened the account the same day you transferred points and that's what triggered the audit? if you used a company that helps you use your own frequent flyer miles to book the ticket/travel agent and that's what triggered the audit? either way none of these is grounds for account to be held in some sort of purgatory! i'm going to contact american express. this is ridiculous.

  2. Bernd

    This post is almost exactly the same as it happened to me. I have collected my Skywards Miles over many years and then transferred them to a Skywards account created on the Amex website. Then I booked a flight for a total of 4 friends. I wanted to book a ticket for myself because my miles weren't enough for all of us.

    One day later, an audit with a mountain of documents was required. Everything...

    This post is almost exactly the same as it happened to me. I have collected my Skywards Miles over many years and then transferred them to a Skywards account created on the Amex website. Then I booked a flight for a total of 4 friends. I wanted to book a ticket for myself because my miles weren't enough for all of us.

    One day later, an audit with a mountain of documents was required. Everything taught to get the mail again one day later. At the end there would be "activities in your account which are in violation of the Emirates Skywards Program Rules."

    There were no activities whatsoever on my account except for the transfer of miles and the booking.

    This is simply criminal

  3. jeff block

    yep, same thing here. points transferred in from american express. bookings totally legit. all information provided. audit found we did something wrong but there was nothing that violated any rules. and now, we're left having to buy tix. not sure if we should file suit, contact amex, what we should do.

  4. Gabrielle Fenoglio

    Can someone advise if Qantas FF program is still affiliated with Emirates. I am hoping to book a ticket for 6months time using points.

  5. Chandan Bhat

    Unrelated, but hey, I know you're into boarding music and Etihad just got a new one, thought you might be interested :
    https://youtu.be/XNUoM_OQZTU

  6. Dustin

    Think amex and chase would have something to say about this

  7. lbk

    I really appreciate this heads up. I was shortly going to book a trip for my father and myself to the UAE and Oman by transferring his Amex points to an EK account in his name, that I probably would have signed him up for day of transfer. Now I need to rethink this plan! Or at least register him for Skywards right now and do the transfer later.

  8. Markus

    I transferred my points from prestige card to Emirates. All names matched. I didn't even book a ticket and I got audited, they are claiming fraud and won't open my account. I spent years accumulating miles and then they just block the account. It's criminal

  9. Patrick S

    My career is Information Security and this smells of a data breach that has gone yet undisclosed. For every breach you read about in the news, there are at least a dozen that are never disclosed.

    Mark my words: Someone hacked into the Emirates system and ran away with all the account information. This is their attempt at trying to stop hackers from now selling tickets to the public -- that were booked with...

    My career is Information Security and this smells of a data breach that has gone yet undisclosed. For every breach you read about in the news, there are at least a dozen that are never disclosed.

    Mark my words: Someone hacked into the Emirates system and ran away with all the account information. This is their attempt at trying to stop hackers from now selling tickets to the public -- that were booked with miles from innocent customers -- for-profit on the dark web or through online travel agencies. I'm 98% sure.

    1. AZTravelGuy

      I really don't disagree with you. While not as confident as you, this does seem like there's some cybersec issue that hasn't been disclosed. I still think they might be responding overzealously but I can't know without knowing what (if any) attack/breach occurred.

      However, my reply is because you sounded like a riff on the meme "THIS LOOKS SHOPPED / I CAN TELL FROM SOME OF THE PIXELS AND FROM SEEING QUITE A FEW SHOPS...

      I really don't disagree with you. While not as confident as you, this does seem like there's some cybersec issue that hasn't been disclosed. I still think they might be responding overzealously but I can't know without knowing what (if any) attack/breach occurred.

      However, my reply is because you sounded like a riff on the meme "THIS LOOKS SHOPPED / I CAN TELL FROM SOME OF THE PIXELS AND FROM SEEING QUITE A FEW SHOPS IN MY TIME."

      Hope you get the reference. I chuckled.

  10. Elias

    Emirates used to be my airline of choice, but now I refuse to fly them. Their service, food, pretty much much everything has gone down the drain. The last straw was forcing me to throw out my duty free shopping at Dubai airport during my connection because they re-weighed my carry on, and the combined duty free bag weight was a few pounds over the carry on allowance.

  11. polarbear

    It is nice how auditors, people who have something to do with information security ask to respond with passport scan attached to email.

  12. David

    You mean, Emirates runs their loyalty program like how UAE runs their country? Great when things are going well, but when you're randomly targeted, you find yourself with no due process and little recourse.

  13. jerefle

    On point. I am a travel advisor and a client of ours is currently in the middle of an audit. So far, it's been 3 weeks with no further feedback. At least when client followed up, they responded that they are "still working on it" (gee, thanks!). Client opened an account under his name, transferred from Amex and booked a ticket for himself and his girlfriend. Now, clients have to refrain from booking and flying...

    On point. I am a travel advisor and a client of ours is currently in the middle of an audit. So far, it's been 3 weeks with no further feedback. At least when client followed up, they responded that they are "still working on it" (gee, thanks!). Client opened an account under his name, transferred from Amex and booked a ticket for himself and his girlfriend. Now, clients have to refrain from booking and flying Emirates for -who knows how long. This seems extremely unfair and unreasonable and defeats makes me EXTREMELY skeptical to transfer from credit cards to EK. Hope some higher-ups can do something to improve this (flawed) process soon.

  14. AAM

    Yep - I have a friend in exactly this position. Transferred in 130k points from his bank, then booked two business class seats on mxp-jfk - one for himself, and one for his boyfriend. Exactly as described, Emirates locked his account and stated they were “Auditing” it. He provided his passport scan and other details well over a month ago and still hasn’t heard back.

    The credit card is in his name as well. Pretty ridiculous.

  15. D3kingg

    Good report. Now I’m considering Singapore first FRA-JFK or Lufthansa first again instead of Emirates first MXP - JFK. I don’t like hassles.

    1. Paul

      I was going to transfer points in myself after opening an account w/ the Expo2020 bonus, but now going to pass. This is ridiculous what they're doing.

    2. D3kingg

      Well I can always purchase a one way economy ticket outbound on Emirates from jfk to mxp and then use points to fly first on the return. I’m giving them business. Sorted.

    3. Donato

      Avoid dealing with Singapore/SIA and Krisflyer. In my experience they play dirty. I had a valid ticket booked with soon to expire miles. When weather caused the need to rebook on a different flight they promised they had to return the miles to my account and then rebook. The instant the miles were refunded they were erased as past the deadline. What was really dirty is that, when I complained, the phoned me at 3...

      Avoid dealing with Singapore/SIA and Krisflyer. In my experience they play dirty. I had a valid ticket booked with soon to expire miles. When weather caused the need to rebook on a different flight they promised they had to return the miles to my account and then rebook. The instant the miles were refunded they were erased as past the deadline. What was really dirty is that, when I complained, the phoned me at 3 AM every other night for the duration of my concern. My sanity required that I drop the complaint but they are, in my opinion dishonest and abusive.

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David

You mean, Emirates runs their loyalty program like how UAE runs their country? Great when things are going well, but when you're randomly targeted, you find yourself with no due process and little recourse.

polarbear

It is nice how auditors, people who have something to do with information security ask to respond with passport scan attached to email.

Markus

I transferred my points from prestige card to Emirates. All names matched. I didn't even book a ticket and I got audited, they are claiming fraud and won't open my account. I spent years accumulating miles and then they just block the account. It's criminal

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