Dispute over subsidized tickets had kept U.S. out of market since 2016.
Over the last six years, flying from the U.S. into Dubai was only possible with a non-U.S. airline.
In 2016, United Airlines (UAL) – Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report cancelled its Washington Dulles-Dubai flight and pulled out of the Middle Eastern market altogether amid what it saw as unfair market encroachment from Emirates.
American Airlines (AAL) – Get American Airlines Group Inc. Report and Delta (DAL) – Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report also joined forces with United and accused Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways of using government subsidies to drive down ticket prices and disrupt the market for non-local carriers.
But times do change and sometimes old foes can turn into allies if business calls for it.
On September 14, United and Emirates announced a codeshare agreement that will allow them to sell seats on each other’s planes, have customers’ frequent flyer miles transfer over to the other airline and flights with the other carrier come up on each other’s websites.
Examples of other codeshares include Delta and Air France, Aeromexico and Korean Air or American Airlines and British Airways among others. Major airlines often have dozens of airline partners in different countries.
Newark to Dubai Route is Long
Under the agreement, United will begin offering a daily flight from Newark to Dubai starting next year on March 23, 2023.
The service is planed for a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, a long-range cruiser equipped with United Polaris business class. Or, in other words, the layback seats that many associate with luxury travel and dream of trying at least once.
The distance between the two cities is 5,962 nautical miles via the shortest great-circle route. However, that route passes over parts of Ukraine, which is currently at war with Russia. So it seems likely that the aircraft will have to follow a more circuitous route.
“United’s new flight to Dubai and our complementary networks will make global travel easier for millions of our customers, helping boost local economies and strengthen cultural ties,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “This is a proud moment for both United and Emirates employees, and I look forward to our journey together.”
Tickets for the Newark-Dubai flight are already up for sale on the airlines’ websites — a round-trip flight between April 4 and April 18 currently goes for $912.
The biggest city in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai rose to prominence as a luxury destination after a rapid boost in oil money led the country to start building flashy buildings like the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest, and the Dubai Miracle Garden and develop the city into an entertainment capital.
Boost in Travel Demand Leads Airlines to Put Aside Past Gripes
Both airlines said the boost in post-pandemic travel and growing traveler interest in Dubai as a luxury and entertainment destination have pushed them to overcome past differences and collaborate.
The partnership will also give Middle Eastern travelers coming to the U.S. access to connecting United flights across the country. Interline arrangements between United and Emirates will be put in place at Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Dallas, New York’s JFK, Orlando, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
In a ceremonial putting aside of differences, the two airline heads announced their agreement at Dulles International Airport — the home destination of the flight cancelled by United in 2016.
“We welcome United’s return to Dubai next year, where our hub Dubai essentially becomes a gateway for United to reach Asia, Africa and the Middle East via the combined network of Emirates and flydubai,” Emirates President Tim Clark said in a statement. “We look forward to developing our partnership with United for the long term.”