That makes sense. When Emirates lost their relationship with United they went looking for new partners to feed them U.S. traffic. It helps fill their planes to have a marketing relationship that takes passengers beyond their destinations in the U.S., and that brings passengers from other U.S. cities to their international flights.
A couple of years ago I expected that Emirates might connect up with American, I do know they had some discussions at the time, but then American brought on Etihad as a partner… and subsequently Emirates Mideast rival Qatar has become slated to join oneworld (in a matter of days). That’s left Emirates hustling up bilateral relationships such as with Qantas and Alaska Airlines. This announcement fits their current strategic pattern.
Virgin America proclaims that with this partnership,
Guests can fly on Emirates out of New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington (IAD), Seattle (SEA), Houston (IAH) and Boston (BOS)*. Emirates flies to over 130 destinations across six continents and whilst on-board you can sit back and enjoy the highest levels of service, gourmet locally-inspired dining and up to 1,500 channels of award-winning in-flight entertainment.
While having 130 destinations may be great on the earning side of things (though I’d probably credit flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan in many cases), you don’t really have your pick of 130 destinations for redemption.
The Virgin America award pricing tool allows you to pick only Emirates direct flights and Emirates flights in combination with Virgin America flights.
So you can fly from San Diego to Dubai since Virgin America can take you to an Emirates US gateway city. But you cannot fly from San Diego or New York JFK to Dubai and beyond on a single award. The website’s pricing tool suggests that flying New York JFK to Dubai to, say, India would require pricing two different awards.
And there are no first class awards on Emirates that are included on the Virgin America award pricing tool. Plus, as is common with this program, there are fuel surcharges. Disappointing.
New York JFK – Dubai prices out in economy and business.
West Coast departures are more expensive than East Coast ones, here’s Seattle-Dubai:
You can throw in Virgin America destinations without bumping up the mileage cost.
They price out New York JFK – Milan non-stop, not just Dubai:
And you don’t have to fly through Dubai with one of these awards, tag flights like Bangkok – Hong Kong are included as an option.
These mileage prices are all one-way and at first glance seem low. However, my rule of thumb is that Virgin America has a pretty ‘deflated’ award chart and that in order to compare apples-to-apples you need to double the number of Virgin America miles to figure out how many points their price is equivalent to in a standard airline award chart… and that makes the awards seem a whole lot less cheap.
You can book one-way Emirates awards, including in first class, online using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. And for long haul roundtrips often the least-mileage way to do it is using Emirates’ partner Japan AIrlines (which is a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, has a distance-based award chart, though transfers are not instant).