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United Airlines & Emirates announce a partnership – but may not include redemptions

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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.

United Emirates launch partnership

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 or use the United app to book a flight from Newark/New York to Karachi, Pakistan or go to 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.

United Polaris Cabin PR

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

From Edinburgh:

  • 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)

From Ireland:

  • 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.

Our core article on how to earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles from credit cards if you live in the UK is here.

How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards

How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (December 2023)

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:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

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.

Comments (7)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • BJ says:

    Unoted pilots reportedly unhappy about it so potentially trouble ahead.

  • Tomgold says:

    I was fantasizing of being able to book a Fly Dubai/Emirates flight using and enjoy the Amex offer. but not an option

  • memesweeper says:

    I’ve found United to have useful amounts of award availability on their own flights, including transatlantic. Whilst it would be good if Emirates miles got you access to this inventory, it would be even more useful if Amex or HSBC partnered for transfers of points into United miles.

  • Rand says:

    “… new-ish Polaris seat unveiled in 2016, which is slowly being fitted across the United fleet.”

    Others may know better but I think rollout of Polaris on international long-haul is complete (or almost complete?).

    Would be nice to see a review here. The seat is not revolutionary but perfectly comfortable. Screen is small and dated but otherwise IFE content is very good. Food is horrible. Last but not least, all of the LHR-EWR flights are operated by dated 767s…

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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