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Details of the United Airlines and Emirates partnership that was announced last year have finally been revealed. Both United and Emirates have now released earning and redemption rates for the partnership that went live on March 26, 2023.
Here's everything you need to know about the United-Emirates partnership.
- United-Emirates Partnership Overview
- Earning United Miles for Flights on Emirates
- Booking Emirates Flights Using United Miles
- Earning Emirates Skywards Miles on United Flights
- Redeeming Emirates Skywards Miles For United Flights
- Our Take
United-Emirates Partnership Overview
From the United-Emirates partner page, the key details are as follows:
- The partnership went live on March 26, 2023.
- Mileage Plan members can earn miles when flying on Emirates — but only if they fly United from Newark to Dubai. Like with many United partners, rates vary depending on whether the ticket was purchased through United (016 ticket stock) or through Emirates.
- United members can redeem miles for Emirates flights — but with major restrictions. We detail those below.
From the Emirates side of things, the key terms are identical to those from United Airlines, with two clear exceptions.
- Emirates is not running a double points promotion or any other to “celebrate” the partnership launch.
- There are none of the nonsense restrictions of having to fly Emirates to earn or burn miles. You earn miles if you book a United flight and enter your Emirates frequent flyer number. This applies whether you are flying from New York to London or Los Angeles to San Francisco!
Earning United Miles for Flights on Emirates
Earning miles is subject to the following restrictive conditions:
- Mileage accrual is only possible when traveling from Newark (EWR) to Dubai (DXB) then connecting onto an Emirates connecting flight.
- Earning is only available on select connecting routes from Dubai (DXB) to Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East.
- Connecting flights must be booked on the same itinerary.
- Earning rates vary depending on whether flights were booked via Emirates or United.com.
Mileage Earning Rates
Booking your tickets via United should generate a ticket with the prefix “016.” In that case, your earning rates depend on the base fare and your United Premier status as follows:
However, if you book your flights through Emirates or another airline, you accrue miles according to the distance flown as follows:
Generally, the earning potential is significantly higher if you book via United. This is especially true if you are flying a premium cabin and have elite status. For example, say you book a long-haul flight from Newark to Bangkok via Dubai. That clocks in close to 10,000 miles:
Booking this flight through Emirates will generate no more than 125% of miles flown — and that's for a business class booking. That nets just 12,500 United miles each way for this flight.
However, when booked through United, a basic United Mileage Plus member would earn 5X the fare. Now, take into account that a business class fare will likely be several thousand dollars. In that case, you are looking at earning many more miles than 12,500!
Is it worth crediting your Emirates flights to United?
If you are a die-hard United fan and are flying a qualifying route, then you are better off biting the bullet and booking via United and crediting your flight. However, if you are not enamored with United, you have other better options.
Take Aeroplan, for instance. The earning rates for flights on Emirates are virtually identical to the ones with United. The biggest plus is there is no restriction on the flights, and you can earn points for many more Emirates flights.
Consider the above example of a flight from New York/Newark to Bangkok via Dubai. Booking the flight on the same day (October 1, 2023) directly with Emirates will earn you approximately the same number of points, 125% of the distance flown, or approximately 12,500 points.
While this may seem a little “meh” in earning, a closer look shows that is a much better option for a couple of reasons. First, you can choose from any Emirates flight heading to Dubai from the U.S. East coast area. That means you spend nearly 13 hours in Emirates business class instead of United Polaris. Although debates will always rage about which is better, the key here is the existence of many more options.
Secondly, there is a massive difference regarding the price factor. Take the above example on October 1, 2023. Booking with United comes in at nearly $10,000, while booking with Emirates is close to $5,000, which is a monster of savings. Even the most die-hard United Polaris fan can’t argue that 13 hours in Polaris is worth the extra nearly $5,000!
Booking Emirates Flights Using United Miles
Sadly, when booking awards on Emirates aircraft using United miles, you are still subjected to the same restrictions as earning. Awards are subject to the following rules:
- Awards must include a flight segment from Newark (EWR) to Dubai (DXB) on United.
- You can only book connections to Africa, The Middle East, and the South Asian Subcontinent.
- Bookings must be on the same itinerary.
Earning Emirates Skywards Miles on United Flights
Emirates Skywards members earn miles on United flights depending on the distance flown and the class of travel. Earning rates vary whether flights are booked with United or a codeshare via Emirates.
Mileage earning rates for flights booked via United
Earning rates are highly variable due to the significant number of fare buckets United sell. On the low end, a basic economy fare (N Class) will earn you a measly 10% of miles flown. However, on the high end, a full-fare business class ticket (J and C class) will earn you 150% of the miles flown. The following rates only apply to flights marketed and operated by United Airlines:
Mileage earning rates for flights booked via Emirates
If you are booking your United flight as a codeshare or via the Emirates site, there is not much difference in the earning rates. At the low end, you will pick up 25% of the miles flown. While at the high end, you will pick up 150% of the miles flown.
Despite the similar earning rates, note that more fare classes (S, D, N, Z, P, G, F, A) are ineligible for earning than if you book with United. The following rates apply to flights booked via Emirates and operated by United Airlines with a UA prefix:
Crediting United flights to Emirates
Choose carefully where you credit your United flights. For instance, consider a flight on one of United’s flagship routes from Newark (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR).
The distance flown is approximately 4,250 miles. Crediting a business class (D fare bucket) ticket to Emirates will only give you approximately 6,375 miles.
Meanwhile, even if you are a basic United member, you will earn a minimum of 20,000 miles on the same business-class ticket — or more if you book a fully refundable ticket.
Considering that AwardWallet members have, on average, leveraged United miles for 1.78¢ per mile. In addition, they have also leveraged Emirates Skywards miles for, on average, 1.58¢. When paying a lot for a flight, it's a no-brainer to credit your flights to United instead of Emirates.
However, the situation is not as clear-cut when flying lower-tier cabins, even premium economy. In the example above, crediting a premium economy fare to United will yield 4,705 base award miles. While crediting the same A-class fare to Emirates will earn you approximately 4,675 Skywards miles.
Redeeming Emirates Skywards Miles For United Flights
Emirates partner award chart for United is distance based, with 10 different zones. Unlike the United award options, Emirates doesn't place any restrictions like having to book the first leg of your flight on Emirates. The key terms for booking United awards are as follows:
- Awards are only available for flights with a UA code.
- Pricing is for direct flights only; where no direct service is possible, multiple awards may be required.
- The award chart is priced for one-way awards.
- Awards are valid for 12 months from the date of issue and have a maximum stay of three months.
- Pricing excludes additional taxes and fuel surcharges.
A quick look at the award chart and you might find some appeal. For flights between 3,001 and 4,000 miles in business, you will pay 64,000 miles plus taxes and fees one-way.
That covers a large number of European destinations served by United from its hub in Newark (EWR) — including London, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid, and Dublin!
If you book your flight more than a month in advance, you can book the same award flight for cheaper through United MileagePlus. When there's saver award availability, United charges as few as 60,000 miles one-way for business class flights to Europe.
But Emirates Skywards can theoretically be better if you have Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, or Citi ThankYou Points. That's because only Emirates is a partner of Amex, Capital One, and Citi.
However, there's the issue of taxes and fees…
Taxes & Fees… Ouch!
Take, for instance, a flight from Newark (EWR) to London (LHR) with United. We found one-way business class awards booked with United for 60,000 miles plus $4.50 in taxes and fees.
The exact same flight award booked with Emirates would set you back 64,000 miles plus taxes and fees. However, the fees are a monumental $815.10. At this level, the fees obliterate any value in the award, and you are better off booking your award directly from United.
Considering that you can only book United awards on Emirates when United has business saver award space available on its own website, you have to wonder the following: If you are transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to either program and space is available on both, why would you ever book via Emirates?
However, if you are looking to head across the Atlantic and want to use flexible points other than Chase Ultimate Rewards, look no further than Aeroplan. You can book the same award on United metal from Newark (EWR) to London (LHR) for 60,000 points plus CA$76 in taxes and fees. While not quite as good as booking with United, it is a stellar value compared to Emirates.
We had high hopes for this partnership when it was announced late last year. Unfortunately, the details are disappointing. The scope of the partnership is very limited, and it isn't easy to see who would benefit from it regularly. Although the earning rates section of the partnership is on par with other options, the redemption options are inferior and restrictive.
Honestly, restricting your redemption options so that you have to fly a leg of your journey from Newark (EWR) to Dubai (DXB) makes this award especially tough, especially for premium travel. This is doubly true if you are transferring and spending flexible points and want to sample the delight of Emirates business class. If you are a regular on Emirates, you are much better off crediting your flight to Aeroplan, which has a much deeper relationship with Emirates.
On the bright side, the United Emirates partnership looks better from the Emirates side of things. Earning and redeeming miles without silly restrictions is excellent news. Plus, the redemption options and pricing are not too bad, although the taxes and fees on some routes can be daunting, to say the least.
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