Emirates extends reach in US

Dubai-based Emirates airlines is extending its reach in the United States through a newly announced code-share agreement with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.

Pending governmental approval, Emirates will begin marketing up to 300 daily Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) flights, which will give customers the ability to purchase connecting flights on both airlines using a single reservation as well as seamless ticketing, check-in, boarding and baggage check for their entire journey.

An Emirates A380 in flight
Emirates currently operates two daily flights from Dubai (DXB) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). The enhanced codeshare agreement gives passengers simplified connections to 49 cities including Honolulu (HNL), the western U.S. mainland, western Canada including Vancouver (YVR) and Victoria (YYJ) and Alaska.

In addition to the expanded access, the new codeshare agreement will feature several other new benefits including reciprocal lounge access and priority boarding and check-in for elite fliers.

In the near future, Emirates Skywards Gold & Platinum members will have access to Alaska Airlines Board Room lounges at Anchorage Ted Stevens International (ANC); SEA; Portland, Ore. (PDX); and Los Angeles (LAX) any time they book an Emirates flight that connects with Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members will have reciprocal access to Emirates Business Class lounges at Dubai (DXB). Farther into the future, the two airlines’ elite members will also have access to reciprocal priority check-in and boarding at DXB, SEA, San Francisco (SFO) and LAX.

Alaska is the latest airline to enter agreement with Emirates. Other airline partners include jetBlue (NYSE:JBLU), Virgin America, WestJest Airlines and Porter Airlines.

Emirates and two other Middle East-based carriers, Qatar and Etihad, have come under fire from the three legacy U.S. carriers, whose executives charge that the three are engaging in unfair competition because they are subsidized, either directly or indirectly, by their governments. Emirates has strongly refuted those charges while I and others have opined that the U.S. executives are either missing or choosing to ignore the real reason the three carriers, named as among the best in the world by their passengers, continue to grow and flourish at a rate not also enjoyed by U.S. airlines.

The bottom line, in my experience, is this: while code-share agreements can make travel more convenient for the passengers of the participating airlines and may also bring other benefits such as those noted above, the real draw (at least among those travelers who aren’t seeking the lowest price and will endure any inconvenience to save a couple of dollars) will be the service provided.

Though I have yet to experience Emirates’ service personally, friends who recently returned from Dubai raved about their experience with the carrier. It is highly regarded in numerous passenger surveys and generally widely respected within the industry. As well, Alaska Airlines has a well-deserved reputation for its customer service and performance, so a code-share agreement between the two could prove to be an excellent partnership for the carriers’ passengers as well as for the airlines themselves.

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Photos provided by Emirates
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