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Report: United, Emirates to launch codeshare partnership

Aug. 30, 2022
4 min read
Report: United, Emirates to launch codeshare partnership
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In a somewhat remarkable turn of events, United Airlines and Emirates are reportedly set to launch a codeshare partnership.

The news was reported overnight Tuesday by industry publication The Air Current, citing people familiar with the plan. Hours later, United sent out invites to members of the media teasing a Sept. 14 media event at one of United's hubs, Dulles International Airport (IAD).

Adding to the intrigue, the official Twitter accounts of United and Emirates also teased the event, which will feature United CEO Scott Kirby and Emirates president Sir Tim Clark.

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The news showcases a remarkable thawing of relations between a U.S. carrier and the largest of the state-supported Middle Eastern carriers.

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In 2017, United's then-CEO, Oscar Munoz, complained about the subsidies that Middle Eastern airlines received from their home countries — in Emirates' case, the United Arab Emirates.

"Those airlines aren’t airlines," Munoz said. "They’re international branding vehicles for their countries."

The following month, United ended its interline agreement with five Middle Eastern carriers, including Emirates and its sister airline, Flydubai.

Munoz's comments and United's actions came as part of an industry push against those airlines during a period of remarkable tension. In one memorable 2016 incident, Delta Air Lines didn't make an A380 gate available at its main hub of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for a superjumbo that Qatar Airways flew in, and instead had passengers deplane using stairs.

At the core of the dispute were fifth-freedom flights — traffic rights granted to carriers that allow them to fly from the U.S. (or any other country), with an intermediate stop in a second country before flying to their home country.

In Emirates' case, it flies from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Athens International Airport (ATH) — a flight, that, as The Air Current notes, will now likely carry a United flight number as part of the codeshare.

Traffic between Europe and the U.S. is incredibly lucrative for U.S. carriers, and fifth-freedom flights allow Middle Eastern carriers to offer a superior passenger experience at a competitive price.

United's reported move follows a deepening of ties between American Airlines and its Middle Eastern partner, Qatar Airways. While both are members of the Oneworld alliance, the two airlines have drawn closer in recent years. This summer, American launched a flight between its JFK hub and Qatar's hub at Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha.

More: Why American’s new Doha route isn’t as surprising at it seems

United would be Emirates' second codeshare partner in the U.S., as it already codeshares with JetBlue.

Last month, Emirates and Air Canada, another Star Alliance member, announced a codeshare. A source told The Air Current that the United codeshare is a prelude to Emirates joining Star Alliance.

While the details of the codeshare have yet to be announced, it's all but certain to mean that cash and award tickets will be bookable on each others' websites. In theory, that means that those with large stashes of United MileagePlus miles could possibly book Emirates first class tickets — a bucket list experience for many AvGeeks. (Of course, Emirates could also choose not to make those premium seats available to United.)

Emirates currently serves 12 U.S. destinations, including all of United's hubs except for Denver International Airport (DEN).

As for United, it last served Emirates' home at Dubai International Airport from Dulles in January 2016, ending the service during the tensions with the Middle Eastern carriers. With a new codeshare, it's very possible that United will again serve the Middle Eastern mega-hub.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases