After weeks of rumours (and obvious teases) United Airlines and Emirates have finally announced a partnership.
The announcement was surprisingly thin on details and appears to be a statement of intent rather than a fully-fledged partnership from day 1. Crucially, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits have not yet been specified so we will have to wait for further details on that.
The pair are unlikely bedfellows, but business is business and American Airlines has jumped into bed with Qatar Airways. Remember that United Airlines joined Delta and American Airlines in accusing Emirates of receiving ‘massive government subsidies’ in 2015, to the extent that Emirates even published a 210 page rebuttal.
Here are the key points that were announced:
A direct flight between Newark and Dubai for United
The one firm part of the anouncement was that United will launch a direct flight from Newark to Dubai in March 2023. This will connect it to Emirates’ hub for the first time since 2016, when it flew from Washington DC.
It is the only direct flight connecting the two hub airports and should be a significant boost to connectivity.
Flights will operate daily with a scheduled flight time of around 14 hours on a Boeing 777-200ER.
New interlining agreements
The partnership also involves deeper interlining co-operation between the two.
An interlining agreement is one of the most basic forms of co-operation between airlines. It is a watered down version of a codeshare. Here is how IATA describes it:
“Interline is a relationship between airlines which allows one airline sells services to a customer that are provided by another airline. Airlines use interline to sell itineraries that they would otherwise not be able to serve alone.”
Fundamentally, it allows airlines to create connecting itineraries across two airlines on a single booking reference. The flights are still operated and marketed separately, but it means your bags are checked in to your final destination and you do not need to check in again for the second flight.
In this case, the agreement will let United customers connect onto Emirates or flydubai flights in Dubai. Emirates customers can connect to almost 200 US cities on United flights.
Emirates will be able to interline customers from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, LA, Miami, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.
United, meanwhile, will be able to interline passengers onto Emirates flights from Boston, Dallas, LA, Miami, JFK, Orlando, Seattle and Washington DC.
Here are two examples from the press release:
“Travelers will be able to visit United.com or use the United app to book a flight from Newark/New York to Karachi, Pakistan or go to Emirates.com to book a flight from Dubai to Atlanta or Honolulu.”
As the partnership matures, it’s likely that a number of these interline agreements will become codeshare agreements, which would allow each airline to place its own flight number on flights operated by the other airline.
Are there any frequent flyer benefits?
Frequent flyer benefits are limited, at least for now, and will be restricted to earning opportunities on connecting flights.
United MileagePlus members will be able to earn miles on connecting Emirates or flydubai itineraries. Emirates Skywards members can earn miles on connecting United flights.
This stymies the partnership, at least from a passenger perspective. Things could become a lot more interesting if and when a full earn-and-burn partnership is announced. For now, though, it’s not clear if that will happen.
How useful is this partnership?
Right now, it’s not a huge game changer, especially from a UK perspective. Not many of us will be connecting between United and Emirates in Dubai or the US, or hopping on a direct flight from Newark to Dubai.
It will become significantly more interesting if the two introduce full reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. This would let you redeem Skywards miles on United Airlines flights and make United redemptions significantly more accessible. Emirates Skywards is an American Express Membership Rewards partner, whilst United isn’t, and generally does not add huge surcharges to partner rewards.
Where does United fly from the UK?
As a reminder, here is an up-to-date list of all of United’s routes from the UK and Ireland. In total, there are 27 flights daily, reducing to 21 daily flights over the Winter season. We have listed the flights from the Summer season below:
- Heathrow – Newark: 6 daily flights, Boeing 767 and 777
- Heathrow – Washington Dulles: 2 daily flights, Boeing 767 and 777
- Heathrow – Chicago: 2 daily flights, Boeing 767
- Heathrow – San Francisco: 3 daily flights, Boeing 777 and 787
- Heathrow – Houston: 2 daily flights, Boeing 777 and 787
- Heathrow – Denver: 2 daily flights, Boeing 787
- Heathrow – Los Angeles: 1 daily flight, Boeing 787
- Heathrow – Boston: 1 daily flight, Boeing 767
- Edinburgh – Newark: 1 daily flight, Boeing 757
- Edinburgh – Washington Dulles: 1 daily, Boeing 767 (summer only)
- Edinburgh – Chicago: 1 daily flight, Boeing 757 (summer only)
- Dublin – Newark: 2 daily flights, Boeing 767 and 757
- Dublin – Washington Dulles: 1 daily flight, Boeing 777, 767 or 757
- Dublin – Chicago: 1 daily flight, Boeing 757 (summer only)
- Shannon – Newark: 1 daily flight, Boeing 757 (summer only)
All flights feature Polaris service and bedding on board. All Heathrow flights feature the new-ish Polaris seat unveiled in 2016, which is slowly being fitted across the United fleet. We are hoping to take a look at this soon.
Flights from Edinburgh and Ireland feature a different, older business class product, that doesn’t have direct aisle access, albeit it is still a flat-bed seat.
How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (October 2022)
Emirates Skywards does not have a UK credit card. However, you can earn Emirates Skywards miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.
Cards earning Membership Rewards points include:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 20,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with two free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Emirates Skywards miles
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 10,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for life.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles which is an attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.