After years of fighting against the big Middle East carriers (ME3: Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar), the big carriers in the United States appear to be ready to play nice with them again. United's brand-new flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Dubai International Airport (EWR-DXB) along with their new partnership with Emirates (EK) is a sign of previously unthinkable change from a few years ago.
As is normal for the launch of a new route by United, the inaugural flight from EWR-DXB was celebrated with a big party at the gate, complete with balloons, a musician, snacks, speeches, a ribbon-cutting, and of course, a hand-picked crew for the inaugural flight to Dubai. United Airlines Senior Vice President of Global Network and Alliances Patrick Quayle was joined by Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President Andrew Nocella for the inaugural, along with their most frequent customer, Tom Stuker. Add in a bunch of frequent fliers on United-- more from of the 1K/Global Servies/Million Miler Facebook group than I've ever seen in one place before-- it was quite an event.
With the business class cabin (Polaris) packed with VIP, media, and waaaaaay bigger customers with United than I am, I made the flight premium economy (Premium Plus), and was happy to see much of the same swag available, including a teddy bear, printed flier, snack, postcard, and another printed welcome message/menu.
Even the food was a special effort for the inaugural flight, with Dave Ishmael from the catering team paying special attention to today's flight-- and a surprisingly good, even slightly crispy baked chicken for dinner in premium economy after the slightly rainy departure from EWR. After dinner, after working through the Polaris cabin, SVP Quayle even made an appearance in premium economy, back to playing temporary flight attendant to help thank the flight crew for their hard work on this inaugural flight. (he used to do this all the time, but seemed to have taken a break the past few inaugurals I'd been on).
Not sure how many United employees were on-board tonight's flight, but there were at least two seated with me in premium economy who seemed to be getting a lot of attention/feedback from the flight attendants, and on a few trips to the back of the airplane, it was a very full flight.