Turkish Airlines vs. Emirates: Which Is Better?

Turkish has a network unrivaled in scope. Emirates dominates on luxury. Neither airline is likely to disappoint.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Emirates and Turkish Airlines are among the most well-known airline names in the world. Both carriers offer great in-flight service, delicious meals and comfortable seats on their planes.

Both serve several global destinations, and it’s likely you’ll be presented with a choice between Emirates and Turkish Airlines one day.

If there’s no difference in the ticket price and travel time is roughly the same, in a head-to-head competition of Emirates versus Turkish Airlines, which one should get your vote?

Here's some help to make your decision.

Where they’re based and where they fly

Most convenient for U.S.-based travelers: Turkish Airlines

Emirates route network 

Emirates is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and serves more than 160 destinations worldwide.

The airline flies into 13 U.S. cities, including:

  • Boston.

  • Chicago.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Los Angeles.

  • New York City.

  • Orlando, Florida.

  • San Francisco.

  • Seattle.

Turkish Airlines route network

Turkish Airlines is based in Istanbul and flies to 12 destinations in the U.S. Despite a slightly smaller footprint in the U.S., the airline's route network is extensive.

Turkish flies to more than 272 destinations in 120 countries — more than any other airline.

For this reason, Turkish wins this round indisputably.

Airline rewards programs

Winner for ease of miles: Turkish Airlines

Emirates loyalty program

The Emirates loyalty program is called Emirates Skywards. The number of miles you earn on an Emirates-operated flight depends on the route you fly, fare type and class of travel.

Having elite status helps you earn a bonus at the following rates:

  • Blue: 0% bonus.

  • Silver: 30% bonus.

  • Gold: 75% bonus.

  • Platinum: 100% bonus.

If you’re taking a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Dubai, here’s a look at the number of Skywards miles you’ll earn as a Blue member (or a general member with no status) versus a Platinum Skywards member. 

Class of travel

Blue Skywards member

Platinum Skywards member

Economy Special

2,100.

16,100.

Economy Saver

4,200.

18,200.

Economy Flex

10,500.

24,500.

Economy Flex Plus

14,000.

28,000.

Premium Economy Flex Plus

15,400.

29,398.

Business Special

15,400.

29,398.

Business Saver

17,500.

31,500.

Business Flex

24,500.

38,500.

Business Flex Plus

26,600.

40,600.

First Flex

35,000.

49,000.

First Flex Plus

35,000.

49,000.

When it comes to redeeming miles for award flights, Skywards miles have devalued recently and offer sky-high redemption opportunities for Emirates flights.

A round-trip business class flight from Los Angeles to Dubai will set you back 315,000 Skywards miles and $1,700 in taxes, fees and carrier-imposed charges. 

If you’re a U.S. traveler looking to get your hands on Emirates miles quickly to book a business class flight, you can transfer the following flexible currencies to Skywards:

Turkish Airlines loyalty program

The Turkish Airlines loyalty program is called Miles&Smiles, and it allows you to redeem miles for flights operated by Turkish and other Star Alliance partners.

Miles&Smiles members earn redeemable miles for international flights based on the flight distance, the class of service and the fare code. Domestic flights within Turkey earn a fixed number of miles based on the fare class booked.

Another way to earn Turkish Miles&Smiles miles is by transferring Capital One Miles or Citi ThankYou Points to the program at a ratio of 1:1. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer 3:1.

As for redemptions, Turkish offers some of the most favorable rates on its award flights to many regions. For example, a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Turkey costs 90,000 miles in business class.

You should expect to pay a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees, but it’s far from the thousands of dollars Emirates charges for a round-trip flight.

Classes of service

Winner for premium seating classes: Emirates

Emirates premium seating

Emirates features economy, premium economy, business class and first class cabins on its international flights. It uses Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft. 

Emirates economy class seats. (Photo by Sally French)

And while even economy class tends to rank among the best of any international airline, Emirates really stands out for its classes beyond that.

Emirates premium economy. (Photo by Sally French)

Emirates premium economy is almost always worth the upgrade thanks to its 19.5-inch wide seats with 40 inches of legroom pitch (for comparison, Emirates economy seats provide 32 to 34 inches of legroom pitch and are 17.5 inches wide).

A lie-flat seat in Emirates business class. (Photo by Sally French)

Things start to get really fancy once you upgrade to business and first class, where lie-flat seats, soft leather fabric and gourmet meals are a staple. If you’re flying in a premium cabin on the A380, you can order drinks at an onboard cocktail lounge for seats in both classes.

A seat in Emirates first class. (Photo by Sally French)

A fully enclosed, private suite is waiting aboard both aircraft for first class passengers. You'll find à la carte fine dining, an onboard lounge and complimentary chauffeur-driven transfers between flights — not to mention Dom Perignon Champagne. And if you're flying on an A380 aircraft, first class Emirates passenger can access one of two shower spas on the upper deck. The shower cubicle offers water temperature control, and there are even heated floors.

If you’d like to experience true luxury in the sky, Emirates first class is it.

Turkish Airlines premium seating

Unfortunately, Turkish doesn’t feature a first class cabin on its international flights, but its business class cabin and the service that comes with it are still worth talking about.

Business class passengers enjoy a lie-flat seat, in-flight candle-lit meals cooked by a flying chef, Denon noise-canceling headphones and access to the Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul Airport. If you’re flying on a Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft, every one of the 30 business class seats has direct aisle access.

Extra fees

Airline fees are brutal. Luckily, both Emirates and Turkish Airlines keep them to a minimum.

Winner for lowest fees: Tie

Emirates fees

Emirates allows you to purchase extra baggage weight or additional bags online or at retail and contact centers for a 50%-60% discount up to four hours before departure.

At the airport, you’ll pay:

  • Extra baggage allowance per kilogram: $15 to $50.

  • Additional piece of luggage: $100 to $250. 

You’ll get to choose your seat for free at the time of purchase when you fly first class, business class saver, flex or flex plus, or premium economy. Specific Skywards tiers also waive seat selection fees

In economy, you can select a seat for free 48 hours before departure, or pay to select a seat at checkout.

Fees vary across flights:     

  • Regular seat selection: $15 to $40.

  • Preferred seat: $25 to $100.

  • Twin seat: $35 to $135.

  • Extra legroom seat: $55 to $250.

Turkish Airlines fees

Miles&Smiles members are allowed extra weight or baggage depending on their tier. Otherwise, for adult passengers, the following fees apply: 

  • Extra baggage allowance: Starts at $5.  

  • Additional piece of luggage: $160.

  • Standard seat selection (domestic): $2.

  • Extra legroom seat (domestic): $4.

  • Emergency exit seat (domestic): $3.

  • Standard seat selection (international): $9 to $39.

  • Extra legroom seat (international): $19 to $139.

Turkish Airlines vs. Emirates: which airline should you fly?

When it comes to premium class, Emirates has quite the lead. It’s not every day you get to sip on vintage Champagne in the sky.

Having said that, Turkish Airlines serves more destinations and has a more customer-friendly loyalty program, so for the everyday traveler, this may be a better choice.

If you’re flying in economy class on a paid flight and the prices are comparable, neither option will disappoint. At the end of the day, go with the carrier that offers your preferred flight times or itinerary.


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