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United Airlines and Emirates announced in September that they would be entering a partnership to offer travelers on both airlines benefits and opportunities to earn and use miles. Details around the arrangement were scarce for these former foes, until now.
The arrangement mostly involves codeshares. Emirates passengers will have access to three of United’s biggest hubs: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This will give them connectivity to over 150 US cities that United serves. United passengers benefit from codeshares on Emirates flights to the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
With both of these codeshares, passengers can seamlessly check a bag across an entire itinerary.
On the earning and using miles front, United MileagePlus members are restricted. They can only earn and burn on tickets that include United’s recently-launched nonstop from Newark Liberty International (EWR) to Dubai International Airport (DXB). Everything must be on one ticket to earn miles. Tickets purchased through United will earn on Emirates flights according to the fare spent with the Premier Elite multiplier ranging from 5x to 11x the fare depending on your status.
If you buy your ticket from Emirates, earnings range from 10% to 150% of the distance flown, depending on the fare purchased (some deeply discounted fares do not earn miles). Emirates Skywards members can earn miles and use them on any United flight (Saver Award space needs to be available for redemption and the mileage cost is based on distance flown), which is great except they also have to pay taxes and surcharges. These add up considerably on long-haul flights.
Reciprocal lounge access details have not yet been sorted out, so there is no access to Polaris Lounges for Emirates premium cabin passengers or to Emirates’ business class lounge for those flying United’s Polaris.
Anthony’s Take: This was described as a “historic” partnership when it first launched. It seems to be rather lackluster in terms of benefits and ways to earn and use miles. I also think that Emirates’ passengers are in for a rude awakening when they sample their first bites of what United considers in-flight dining.
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