Continental’s partnership with Emirates will be ending on March 25, 2011. For travel after March 25, Continental miles can no longer be earned for flights on Emirates, and all award reservations using OnePass miles for travel on Emirates need to be ticketed by March 25, 2011 (though travel can be for a subsequent date).
While Continental miles couldn’t be redeemed for Emirates first class, this is still a huge loss. Emirates actually has decent business class award availability, even on the A380. The other nice thing about Continental awards on Emirates is that Continental allows you to mix partners on an award. In other words, you can fly Emirates one way and Lufthansa (or any of their other partners) the other direction, or even just include Emirates as one segment on a larger Star Alliance award. For example, Emirates flies the A380 between Hong Kong and Bangkok, so that was a nice way to try it on an award consisting otherwise of Star Alliance airlines.
I’m kind of surprised to see the partnership end so soon. I’m not sure if it has to do with the merger or not, because United has a partnership with Emirates as well. While United’s redemption rates for travel on Emirates are much higher than Continental’s, you can redeem for Emirates first class using United miles. While it’s 210,000 miles for a first class ticket between North American and the Middle East, I actually consider that to be a bargain since you can redeem for A380 first class (yes, the first class product with the shower onboard!). It’s worth noting that United doesn’t allow you to mix partner awards, though — in other words, if you spend the 220,000 miles, you can’t even include your flight from home to the gateway as part of the award.
Hopefully the United partnership doesn’t end soon, as I was planning on redeeming miles for Emirates first class soon.