United Puts Customers “First”: Drops Interline Agreement With Five Airlines


Airlines have interline agreements in place with each other even when they are bitter competitors and from different alliances. Interline agreements allow airlines to sell each others tickets, have segments from various airlines on the same ticket, move passengers in case of irregular operations and send bags among other benefits.

United Airlines

Now, United Airlines has decided to end this agreement with five airlines that are based in the Middle East including Emirates with whom they were partners with back in the early 2000’s and had even jointly filed around the world fare (very good value but unfortunately was not able to take advantage of it before it was withdrawn).

Skift was reporting about this development yesterday (access here) of which below is an excerpt:

United Airlines is canceling basic cooperation agreements with five Middle East airlines, including Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline, as the Chicago-based carrier continues to complain that the largest airlines in the region compete unfairly by taking massive government subsidies.

United will no longer maintain interline agreements beginning May 5 with Fly Dubai, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways, it told employees.

Customers will not be able to buy tickets with one segment on United, and another on one of the Middle East carriers. Occasionally, with hard-to-reach destinations, agents will issue tickets with one segment on United, and another on a United competitor.


This argument that United Airlines and Continental wouldn’t have benefited from various subsidies is absurd.

How many times these two airlines went through the bankruptcy process in the 1990’s and 2000’s wiping out employee benefits, unsecured debts, pensions and other liabilities? Must have been 6 to 8 times? I went through this two or three with United alone since early 2000’s.

This move will not benefit passengers. It makes it more difficult to get to various destinations when one cannot have United and segments from these five airlines on the same e-ticket. In case of irregular operations, United Airlines can no longer push passengers to these airlines either. Airlines can no longer send bags to final destination when on separate tickets.

United Airlines said that it would be putting customers first. This is negative development proves that it is only giving lip service to the traveling public.

And as a matter of fact this might also backfire. Passengers traveling to/from North America that have preferred United (not sure why?) may now choose other airlines to get to their final destination on one ticket and thus protected in case of delays/cancellations.

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    It makes perfect sense with Etihad slowly integrating in to the Star Alliance.

    • Patrick Wong

      No, we are talking about interline agreements here, not code-share or other cooperation. Most major airlines have interline agreements with basically all other major airlines in the world beyond alliance partners, for example Lufthansa does interline with BA/IB/AF/KLM even they are direct competitors, plus EK/QR and a lot more even it might not be used that often

      • OVERSIER

        BA Stopped all of its interline in July 2016, as a matter of fact they will not even forward your luggage if you fly with them on 2 separate tickets these days.

        Lufthansa has not been doing interline as far as I can recall. If you think that you can buy a ticket for Lufthansa on BA website you are deluded.

        KLM/Air France dont even forward the bags between the 2 companies any more (if on separate ticket) because the Dutch hate the company merger by this point (Air France troubles).

        The US low competition landscape has so far allowed your carriers to do it but in the real world these agreements are almost dead.

        • Patrick Wong

          BA has stopped checking luggage through if it’s on separate PNR, but they still can and will do it if both sectors are on same PNR (which is doable by a knowledgeable travel agent). They didn’t drop interline agreement with other airlines

          There is a difference between what they will do and what they can do. Even both airlines have interline agreements does not mean they will start selling tickets on competitors’ flight on their own website. Having an interline agreement means, in certain situation like John has pointed out above during irregular operations such as flight cancellation, they can reroute pax on others’ flight.

          For example, below is a list of airline that has interline agreement with Lufthansa, which is taken from expert flyer:

  • David Arden

    By the way John, United filed for bankruptcy only once – in 2002 (it took 4 years for it to emerge out of bankruptcy).

  • Malcolm

    I have no doubt that there are government subsidies in the Middle Eastern airlines – this is the way they do things and United Airlines will not change it. Should these airlines choose to respond, perhaps United will not get the gates it needs at some far eastern hub for example. Petro dollars do buy influence.

    • travlermb

      Subsidies, subsidies, subsidies. That’s all anyone can talk about regarding ME3. No one wants to remember the BILLIONS US airlines wrote off their balance sheets during bankruptcy. Wanna talk about subsidies now?

      • Malcolm

        Prior to deregulating the airlines, they were protected from open competition. They developed cost structures behind regulations that were not sustainable under deregulated circumstances. If you want to find any subsidies, then look here.

  • cscasi

    and your “i” should be capitalized.

  • Emmanuel Kalispera

    United is collapsing fast!

  • Emmanuel Kalispera

    concussion? or conclusion?