Everyone is starting to get paired off in the airline-hotel loyalty square dance. American Airlines and Hyatt announced a new partnership in March in which elite members in either loyalty program could earn points or miles for flying or staying with the other partner. Then, in June, Accor and Air France-KLM one-upped that promotion and launched a partnership in which elite status wasn’t even required to earn bonus points. Now Marriott and Emirates are getting into the game.
The Your World Rewards partnership, announced last week, awards Marriott Rewards elite members bonus points when making bookings on Emirates. Emirates elites, in turn, can earn extra frequent flyer miles in the Skywards program when booking nights in a Marriott hotel. In addition to the mileage benefits, Marriott elites will also earn priority boarding and check-in at Emirates counters around the world while Skywards elites get late checkout and free Wi-Fi when staying in partner hotels.
On the surface, the partnership is quite similar to what American and Hyatt launched earlier this year. To benefit, travelers need to be elite in one of the loyalty programs and then book a flight or hotel on the other. Unlike its competitor though, the Emirates and Marriott partnership doesn’t have as wide of a footprint. While there’s a Hyatt hotel in most major cities in the U.S. and American Airlines canvasses the country, the reach of Emirates is limited to largely international destinations connected to its hub in Dubai.
Still, for those who travel frequently to or through the Middle East, the promotion is effectively free points for elite travelers who are willing to stay in a Marriott hotel or fly on Emirates.
The Marriott deal is a bit of a bold move for the Middle Eastern carrier that has traditionally been cautious around partnerships and alliances. Emirates did have a short-lived pact with Starwood’s loyalty program a few years back, but that relationship folded with the sale of the company to Marriott. Now, with Marriott at the helm, the Your World Rewards program can carefully relaunch.
Founded in 1985, Emirates has resisted the urge to join a formal alliance like Star or Oneworld, electing instead to forge relationships with airlines and hotels on a one-to-one basis. And though the carrier does have relationships with a wide variety of hotels in terms of point transfer options, Marriott is the only operator where the relationship has gone deep enough to offer bonuses for loyalty members.
The relationship also doesn’t affect the RewardsPlus program that’s in place between Marriott and United, which gives low-level elite status to premium Marriott Rewards customers and vice-versa. That program will persist independently of the Your World Rewards program.
As more relationships like American-Hyatt and Marriott-Emirates ossify this year, Delta remains the only legacy airline without a hotel partner. That may be intentional as the carrier stays focused on building a strong product and extending its lead over American and United. But if the stars align, more partnerships may still be on the horizon.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the Marriott partnership was Emirates’ first loyalty pact with a hotel company. It had a loyalty program with Starwood’s SPG program in 2014 that was later discontinued.