United Airlines and Emirates Reveal Unexpected New Partnership: Here’s What It Means for Travelers

United Airlines and Emirates Reveal Unexpected New Partnership: Here’s What It Means for Travelers

United Airlines and Emirates have announced a new partnership that includes new connections, direct flights to Dubai from the U.S. and shared perks.
Dubai skyline from plane window

On Sept. 14, United Airlines and Emirates announced a new partnership. Their agreement will add new routes around the world for both airlines, including access for Emirates flyers to 200 more U.S. cities through major United hubs: Chicago, San Francisco and Houston. United flyers will expand their reach with greater access to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including a direct flight from New York/Newark to Dubai starting in March 2023. Beyond expanded flight routes, these airlines will also share several perks, including lounge access and the ability to earn and redeem miles through both airlines.

While this partnership stands to benefit both United and Emirates customers, it comes as a major course correction from previous decades when tensions roiled between U.S. and Middle Eastern carriers. In the mid-2000s, the "Big 3" U.S. air carriers, United, Delta and American, ended their existing relationships with several major Persian Gulf-based airlines, claiming they were receiving unreasonable aid from the U.S. government. However, in 2014, JetBlue turned heads when it partnered with Etihad Airways. In 2020, American announced a partnership with Qatar Airways, easing tensions even further. These moves paved the way for the current United/Emirates partnership.

What does this mean for frequent flyers?

Frequent flyers from both airlines can benefit from this partnership, as they will each have more access to global destinations. Passengers will be able to book their connecting flights with these airlines on one ticket, making the check-in and luggage transfer process faster and simpler. Additionally, there are special perks these airlines plan to share, including lounge access and the ability to earn and use miles.

United frequent flyers gain more flight options

United flyers can now enjoy direct flights between Newark/New York and Dubai starting in March 2023, and from there access more than 100 destinations on Emirates or Flydubai. Plus, United MileagePlus members will now earn and redeem rewards when they fly from Newark/New York to Dubai and continue on to another destination. Note, this is a bit more limited than the new benefits for Emirates loyalty members, who can now earn rewards on any United-operated flight.

United and Emirates passengers traveling on a codeshare flight will also have access to Emirates and United lounges, though further details on that have not yet been released. Finally, both airlines have announced updates to their aircraft. United will add 500 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft to its fleet, and will fit those planes with seatback screens in every seat, more spacious overhead bins, Bluetooth and the fastest available in-flight Wi-Fi.

With this partnership, MileagePlus membership will become even more valuable, as your loyalty will stretch even farther. To maximize your MileagePlus membership, consider signing up for a co-branded United credit card, or a card that gives you access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which lets you transfer your miles to United and 13 other travel partners.

Emirates flyers earn miles on any United flight

Emirates Skywards members can earn miles when they fly on United-operated flights, which is an extremely valuable perk as they'll now have access to hundreds of U.S. cities from United's major hubs. Emirates has also announced its plans to retrofit over 120 of its aircraft with improved meal options, a new vegan menu, a 'cinema in the sky' experience, interior cabin enhancements, sustainable choices; spending $2 billion to revamp its vessels.

Similarly to United, this arrangement will increase the value of the Emirates Skywards loyalty program for its members. To make the most of your loyalty, consider opening a travel credit card to help you quickly and easily rack up miles to put towards free flights and upgrades. Plus, several of these cards come with unique perks to enhance your experience, like free checked bags, priority boarding and even automatic hotel loyalty status.