On December 15, the aviation world celebrated a unique new route launch. Emirates, an airline known for premium service to flashy global cities, launched service to Fort Lauderdale, which surprised many who assumed it would fly to Miami instead. Fort Lauderdale is the newest gateway from Dubai International Airport and serves as Emirates’s primary gateway into south Florida.

The daily flight, booked solid in the first few days of operation, might not seem like big news to most, but locally, it made quite the headlines. Fort Lauderdale is a major vacation destination in its own right (especially among international visitors), but the airport has long played second fiddle to Miami’s, where American Airlines operates one of its major hubs. Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport has succeeded in making the destination a favorite of low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Spirit as well. 

The introduction of Emirates is a game changer, however, since it is recognized as a premium carrier with a massive global network from its Dubai hub. It chose Fort Lauderdale for the intensive connectivity across North and Latin America that its codeshare partner JetBlue, which operates a major hub there, could provide. This was a primary reason why much larger Miami was overlooked; JetBlue doesn’t even fly to Miami and there would fewer connecting options.

Why should frequent fliers care?

If you collect TrueBlue points from JetBlue, you know that they can be quite valuable. Emirates is one of the airline’s partners, opening up unusual global connectivity options that most people may not think about when planning travel.

The new Emirates flight is timed well to attract strong traffic both locally and from JetBlue connecting passengers. The flight from Dubai arrives mid-morning, giving travelers the chance to connect to onward flights across the region aboard JetBlue. In addition, JetBlue’s inbound push from Latin America arrives in the afternoon, giving travelers the chance to fly onward to the Middle East, parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and beyond. For those hopping the pond, this is a great new option to redeem points and miles.

Dubai has been expanding its hub network as well with new Emirates service to cities like Yinchuan and Zhengzhou, China; Conakry, Guinea; and Bologna, Italy. This is in addition to the massive network of more than 150 cities and 80 countries already on the airline’s route network.

You can also earn Alaska miles, like JetBlue points, on Emirates. If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, these can be transferred to JetBlue or Emirates’s own Skywards program to redeem for Emirates flights. Yes, Emirates is the airline famous for offering onboard showers in first class and a cocktail bar and lounge in first and business class on the Airbus A380. This could be an excellent way to try it on the cheap.

Starwood Preferred Guest also has a unique partnership with Emirates Skywards where Starwood Gold and Platinum members can earn one point for every dollar spent on Emirates’s flights. Platinum members enjoy priority check-in and boarding at the airport.

Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold, and Platinum members can earn one mile for every dollar spent at Starwood hotels, and Emirates’s Gold and Platinum members also enjoy late checkout and free wireless Internet at Starwood hotels. To participate, members of each program must link their accounts before travel.

FLL becomes a global frequent flier hub

When a new route launches, it may often have more frequent flier space available. This serves to help in creating awareness for a flight. For FLL, the flight was announced mid-fall and launched two months later.

According to Mark Gale, Director of Aviation at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, “This is one of the fastest-growing airports in the U.S. We have invested more than $2.4 billion to expand and renovate our airport to ensure world-class service now and in the future.”

The economic impact will be massive, creating nearly a thousand new jobs thanks to the new route (either directly or indirectly). The flights operate with the Boeing 777-200LR in a three-class configuration.

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