New United-Emirates Partnership Fails To Live Up To The Hype

United Airlines is launching a Newark – Dubai flight, returning to a destination they haven’t flown to since 2016, as part of a partnership with Emirates that doesn’t do much for MileagePlus members.

This new Emirates-United pact lets customers check in for United and Emirates segments on the same ticket and through-check bags – bare minimum levels of integration – but not a whole lot more. There’s been tremendous hype, but the truth is they didn’t do the rest of the work that would have been hype-worthy.

Sir Tim Clark, President of @emirates, is as feisty as ever. Speaking without notes today at a @united event, he said this new relationship between the airlines should “terrorize” their competitors. Wonder if @Delta execs watched a livestream.

— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) September 14, 2022

There’s nothing game-changing here. There’s two airlines that will modestly direct each other’s customers to each other in Dubai and the Mideast. This helps United sell flights to Pakistan, and Emirates sell flights to connecting cities beyond its U.S. gateways. But it doesn’t live up to the hype.

  • The partnership doesn’t do much. They’re going to codeshare and interline (for checking in onto each other’s flights and checking baggage). But most travelers aren’t going to experience this partnership in any meaningful way. United’s MileagePlus members aren’t even going to be able to earn and redeem miles on Emirates whenever they wish – just in conjunction with connections to and from United’s new Newark – Dubai flight they announced. And Emirates members won’t be able to redeem on United at all.

  • Codeshares almost always frustrate customers. United and Emirates are going to codeshare but it’s almost always simpler to book an airline’s own flight rather than a flight with a different airline’s code on it – for things like seat assignments, or making changes when schedules go astray or operations melt down.

  • This could have been actually good for customers. There were rumors that Emirates would join Star Alliance, and that would have meant recognition of elite status across airlines, as well as mileage earning and redemption.

  • Underscores the hypocrisy of big U.S. airlines. It’s a final burying of the hatchet over all of the unpleasantness where Delta, United and American tried to get first the Obama and then Trump administrations to limit flying to the U.S. by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. They wanted fewer choices and higher prices, despite actual treaties guaranteeing these airlines the right to fly. American has a closer relationship now with Qatar Airways (and still has its partnership with Etihad), and United with Emirates. Delta, of course, has long partnered with Saudia. (Remember when Delta’s then-CEO argued Gulf carriers shouldn’t be able to access the U.S. market because 9/11, yet was silent on Saudi Arabia’s state-owned airline?)

    “Just 7 years ago, you’d be throwing tomatoes at me!” – @emirates President

    — Jamie Larounis (@TheForwardCabin) September 14, 2022

  • If you want to redeem miles on Emirates, you’ll still use credit card points. The partnersip doesn’t change how you’re going to wind up redeeming miles for Emirates. The Emirates Skywards program partners with every major credit card transferable points program. So you can transfer points from American Express, Chase, Citi, Capital One and more into Emirates to redeem for travel. You’re not likely to be doing this with United miles any time soon, based on the current structure of the partnership.

Hopefully this partnership improves over time! But until there’s reciprocal recognition of elite status and real mileage earning and redemption we really just need to shrug our shoulders a bit.

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