United and Emirates Team Up to Offer New Connections, Perks, and a Direct U.S.-Dubai Flight

United Airlines and Emirates announced a strategic partnership on Wednesday that greatly expands the reach of both carriers.

Starting in November, Emirates passengers flying into Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco — three of United’s largest hubs — will be able to connect to more than 200 cities in the United States via United, all on one ticket, according to the announcement. Passengers flying into the eight other U.S. airports serviced by Emirates, including LAX and JFK, will be serviced by an interline agreement.

In March 2023, United will also inaugurate a nonstop flight between Newark and Dubai from which passengers will be able to travel onward to more than 100 destinations via Emirates or its sister airline, Flydubai — again, all on one ticket. 

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“Emirates fliers will gain greater access to destinations across the U.S., while United will have more accessible routes in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as Emirates is already well established in those parts of the world,” ValuePenguin travel expert Sophia Mendel told Travel + Leisure of the partnership

Frequent fliers with elite status on the airlines will also benefit from the pairing.

“United MileagePlus members flying on United’s Newark/New York to Dubai flight can soon earn and redeem miles when connecting beyond on Emirates and Flydubai and Emirates Skywards members will be able to earn miles when they travel on United operated flights,” according to a press release. “Eligible United customers will also soon have access to Emirates lounges when connecting to and from United’s new Dubai flight.”

The partnership is an interesting turn of events, as the big three carriers in the U.S. — United, Delta, and American — lobbied against the expansion of Gulf carriers in the country for the majority of the last decade, The New York Times reported. They claimed the airlines were receiving unfair subsidies from the U.S. government, and thus ended any existing relationships with them.

But JetBlue bucked the trend, partnering with both Etihad Airways and Emirates in 2012. (JetBlue and Emirates will end their partnership on October 30 in light of the United deal — JetBlue is aligned with American Airlines.) Then, according to Reuters, after tensions simmered down in 2018, American Airlines entered a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways in 2020, and now United has followed suit with Emirates.

The next big question is whether or not this partnership might indicate Emirates’ intention to join Star Alliance, to which United also belongs.

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“As of right now, it’s still too soon to tell,” Mendel said. “It may be that this agreement is the farthest Emirates will take things. Only time will tell.”

In the meantime, United and Emirates passengers can simply enjoy the convenience of this new partnership.

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