United Airlines and Emirates have announced a new partnership that is currently more aspirational than practical, yet could evolve into a powerful new axis between former bitter rivals.
Details: United + Emirates Partnership
Today United and Emirates announced a new partnership at a hangar event at Washington Dulles. Live and Let’s Fly was present and two carriers put on quite a show. Announcing the news, United CEO Scott Kirby and Emirates’ Chairman Sir Tim Clark hailed the relationship as a new chapter in the once-fraught relations between the two carriers.
It was only a few years ago that United Airlines savaged Emirates for its “subsidized” Fifth Freedom service between Newark and Athens (what a difference a pandemic makes…) that threatened the viability of the route for United.
The two carriers have clearly kissed and made up and now embark upon a road that both sides hope will deepen in the months ahead. I’ll spare you the superfluous speeches, but both airline leaders expressed admiration for the vision of the other and both patted themselves on the back for more properly gauging the pandemic, specifically the return of demand, than many of their peers.
At the outset, the partnership will be limited, including the following:
- Emirates customers flying into Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), and Houston (IAH) – will have access to nearly 200 U.S. cities in the United network via an interline agreement
- In the future, codeshares are planned but require regulatory blessing
- United Airlines will also launch a new service between Newark (EWR) and Dubai (DXB) – more details on this in a subsequent report
- United customers who book from Newark to Dubai on United will be able to book Emirates or flydubai flight connections on a single ticket to 100+ destinations
- Emirates Skywards members will be able to earn miles when they travel on United
- United customers will be able to earn and redeem miles on Emirates flights if connecting from United’s Newark to Dubai flight
- United customers will have access to Emirates lounges when connecting to and from United’s new Dubai flight
Kirby promised, “Our partnerships are not partnerships of convenience, they’re not short-term deals,” and I do expect that to be the case. Right now, though, the partnership is more theoretical than practical.
Emirates and United have announced a limited partnership with interlines flights and the plan for codesharing in the months ahead. Limited reciprocal frequent flyer earnings have also been confirmed. While this is a conservative first step, it still marks a huge change from just a few years ago.