Oneworld Emerald Benefits (& Other Things You Should Know About the Status)

Oneworld is the only one of the three major airline alliances to have three tiers of status (both Star Alliance and SkyTeam only have two), each offering a set of increasingly better benefits to frequent flyers. The alliance’s top tier status – oneworld Emerald – is, in terms of perks offered, the best alliance status out there.

Continue reading to see what benefits oneworld Emerald members can enjoy and whether the status is worth getting.

Oneworld Emerald
With oneworld Emerald, you can enjoy a bath in Cathay Pacific’s The Wing First Class Lounge even when flying in economy class.

What Is oneworld Emerald Status?

Airline statuses are earned directly with a frequent flyer program by collecting enough status miles or hitting other similar milestones in a predetermined period. Alliance statuses, on the other hand, are one of the perks provided to airline status holders – i.e. each airline status maps to a specific alliance status.

Alliance statuses do not typically provide benefits as extensive as the corresponding airline statuses do. However, the alliance statuses’ benefits apply across all of the alliance’s member airlines while the airline statuses’ direct benefits only apply on the program’s airline (and potentially some partners).

In the case of oneworld, there are three alliance statuses – Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. Of the three, Emerald is the most difficult to earn but also provides the most exciting set of benefits.

Oneworld Livery American Airlines 757
With oneworld Emerald status, you can enjoy frequent flyer benefits on all of the alliance’s airlines including on American.

Oneworld Emerald Benefits: A Complete List

What makes oneworld Emerald more exciting than the top tier statuses with the other two alliances – Star Alliance Gold and SkyTeam Elite Plus – is that on top of all the perks the two come with, it provides access to first class facilities.

Let’s go over the benefits that Emerald members get to enjoy.

(First and Business Class) Lounge Access

Lounge access is, without a doubt, one of the most valuable perks of airline (and by extension alliance) statuses.

Unlike top-tier Star Alliance and SkyTeam statuses, oneworld’s top-tier status – Emerald – takes this perk to the next level. That’s because Emerald members can access first class lounges like the excellent Cathay Pacific The Pier First Lounge at Hong Kong Airport and the JAL First Class Lounge at Haneda Airport even when traveling in business, premium economy, and economy class.

At airports and in terminals without a oneworld first class lounge (or even at those that do have them), Emerald members can also, of course, access oneworld business class lounges like the Cathay Pacific Lounge at Vancouver Airport and the Finnair Lounge (Schengen) at Helsinki Airport. Where neither is available, in most cases, there will be a contract lounge that those with Emerald status can use.

Emerald members can access lounges when departing on a oneworld member airline-operated flight departing on the same day or by 5:59AM the next morning at the latest. They can bring in one guest traveling on a oneworld flight departing within that timeframe too. The guest does not need to be traveling on the same flight as the member.

There are a couple of exceptions to this policy with the most notable being:

  • Those holding a oneworld Emerald status through American Airlines and Alaska Airlines cannot access lounges when traveling in economy class on itineraries within North America
  • Some first class lounges including the Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge at Doha Airport, American Airlines/British Airways Chelsea Lounge at New York JFK Airport, and British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow Airport are off-limits to oneworld Emerald members
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Lounge Wagyu Burger
With Emerald status, you can enjoy a nice meal in a first class lounge before departure.
JAL First Class Lounge Tokyo Haneda RED Suite
…or you can spend some time looking at various aviation memorabilia in the JAL First Class Lounge at Haneda Airport.

Priority Check-in

Where available, oneworld Emerald members can use first class check-in counters when checking in for a oneworld flight, regardless of the class they are traveling in. Thanks to this, if you are as an Emerald member, you will be able to save some time at check-in – even if you are traveling in business class – and spend more time in a lounge, for example.

In cases where there are no first class check-in counters for your flight, you will be able to use business class check-in desks instead.

Oneworld Emerald and First Class Check-in
JAL’s first class and oneworld Emerald check-in counter.

Priority Security Check

Another way being an Emerald will speed up your journey is by providing you with access to priority security check lanes. At some airports, they are called “fast track” and at others “priority lane” – in either case, they will oftentimes cut your wait time at security check considerably.

The one downside of this perk is that it is not available at all airports.

Priority Baggage Handling

Oneworld Emerald members also get their baggage handled with priority – i.e. their bags are theoretically meant to be among the first ones getting off the plane and onto the baggage belt at the arrival airport.

This benefit is not offered by British Airways. Also, while this is a good benefit in theory, in practice, its value will depend on how well it gets executed. That can vary a lot depending on the airline you fly with and the airports you fly through as in some cases the priority bags just get mixed up with non-priority bags.

Extra Baggage Allowance

Another benefit that’s useful if you tend to travel with checked baggage is extra allowance. Oneworld Emerald status holders get the following on top of their regular baggage allowance:

  • 20 extra kg on itineraries using “weight allowance”
  • 1 extra piece on itineraries using “piece allowance” (the maximum weight of the extra piece is the same as of the pieces included in the ticket)

Unfortunately, this perk does not apply to passengers traveling on British Airways’ “hand baggage only/basic” fare tickets.m

Priority Boarding

If you like to get on board your flights as soon as possible so that you have time to settle in or so that you can be sure there will be enough space for your carry-on, then you will appreciate that Emerald status offers priority boarding. This typically means boarding with first class passengers (or business class passengers if there is no first class on the flight) or in a group dedicated to oneworld Emeralds and potentially other status holders.

If you, instead, prefer to stay in the lounge as long as possible and board at the last minute, then this benefit will not be of much use to you.

Oneworld Emerald Priority Boarding
With oneworld Emerald, you can be one of the first ones onboard if you wish so.

Waitlist and Standby Priority

Personally, I find this to be the least useful perk 99% of the time. That said, if you do find yourself at an airport wanting to snatch the last open seat on a flight or if you want to be the first in line when a seat opens on a flight you want to book then the waitlist and standby priority can be useful.

At the very least it is more useful than with other oneworld statuses since being an Emerald will put you higher on the lists than Ruby or Sapphire would.

Advance/Preferred Seat Selection

The last in the list of oneworld Emerald perks can be a useful one. That said, the way it works – or even whether it is available at all – depends on each member airline. Having the status will, in some cases, allow you to choose seats in advance for free in cases where you would have to pay otherwise.

For example, British Airways will let you choose your seats for free right away when booking your flight. You will even be able to choose spacier emergency exit row seats.

Oneworld Sapphire vs. Emerald: How Do They Differ?

The list of perks offered by oneworld Sapphire and Emerald is, on the surface, similar. That said, there are considerable differences between the two which make the latter much more valuable in some cases. The main advantages that Emerald has compared to Sapphire include:

  • Access to first class lounges instead of just business class lounges where available
  • Access to first class check-in instead of just business class check-in where available
  • Access to priority security lanes where available
  • Higher extra baggage allowance
  • Earlier boarding group
  • Higher priority on waitlists and standby lists
  • Ability to choose better seats/to choose seats earlier on some airlines

Oneworld Status Benefit Comparison

Is oneworld Emerald Worth Getting?

If you are just a couple of flights short of being able to get a status equivalent to oneworld Emerald and you travel on oneworld member airlines often then chances are you will find it worthwhile to go a bit out of your way to earn the status.

In practice, however, whether or not oneworld Emerald is worth getting for you (compared to just sticking with the lower-tier Sapphire) will primarily depend on how often you fly from airports that have first class lounges or lounges dedicated to Emerald members (Hong Kong, Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda, Los Angeles, London Heathrow, Helsinki, etc.).

Other things to consider also include how frequently you use airports where a fast track is available at security, whether you tend to travel with a lot of checked baggage, and whether you value being able to get onboard a plane as soon as possible or prefer to wait until closer to the departure time.


Emerald is the best of the three alliance statuses that oneworld offers.

While the suite of perks is similar to those offered to the mid-tier Sapphire members, they are considerably improved. Oneworld Emerald members have access to first class lounges and check-in counters, get increased baggage allowance, and can board earlier than most other passengers. Additionally, they get access to fast track security where available.

With all that said, with the status being more difficult to earn than Sapphire but the incremental perks (first class lounge access in particular) really being only valuable at a small number of airports, it will depend on your travel patterns whether or not you should go out of your way to earn the oneworld Emerald status.

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