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The new alliance which isn’t an alliance – Etihad Airways Partners

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Abu Dhabi airline Etihad has launched ‘Etihad Airways Partners‘, a pseudo alliance aimed at bringing together some of the various national airlines in which Etihad has invested.

Over the last few years, Etihad has been making equity investments and providing cheap loans to several struggling airlines.  These include:

airberlin (49%)

Air Seychelles (40%)

Aer Lingus (3%)

Darwin / Etihad Regional (33%)

Virgin Australia (10%)

Alitalia (49%)

Air Serbia (49%)

Jet Airways (24%)

Not all of these airlines have joined Etihad Airways Partners.  Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus and Alitalia are not taking part.  The first two are probably excluded because the Etihad shareholding is so small.  Alitalia may just be a timing issue as the Etihad investment has only just been completed.  The participating airlines serve 250 cities between them.

Etihad Airways Partners

What will Etihad Airways Partners offer?

Good question.  Etihad’s CEO says it will offer “a partner proposition for like-minded airlines which will result in synergies and efficiencies for participating airlines on the one side, and enhanced network choice, service and frequent flyer benefits for the consumer on the other.”  Which doesn’t mean much.

The main impact appears to be with the frequent flyer programmes of the various airlines.  It appears – although the exact details were not announced – that there will be reciprocal earning and burning across all partners, that status benefits from one airline will be recognised across all the others, and that membership tiers will be standardised with equivalent benefits.  To this extent, Etihad Airways Partners will be operating in the same way as Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam.

Er, isn’t airberlin already in an alliance?

Yes, oneworld, alongside British Airways.  Because Etihad Airways Partners is not, officially, an alliance, they believe that it does not matter.

Alitalia is a member of SkyTeam and they are also likely to be pulled into the grouping at some point.

The real issue is how airberlin status benefits align with those of Etihad Airways Partners.  Since airberlin is obliged to offer certain benefits to specific tiers because it is in oneworld, this may mean that Etihad Airways Partners will de facto adopt the oneworld benefits.

An airberlin frequent flyer card could now become attractive.  You would receive status benefits when flying all of the 19 oneworld member airlines but you would also benefit when flying with the six Etihad Airways Partners airlines.

It is also possible that flights on both oneworld and Etihad Airways Partners could count towards airberlin status.  For anyone who flies Etihad as well as British Airways / oneworld, it would make status easier to achieve.

There is still a lot we don’t know about this new non-alliance.  Will oneworld put its foot down at some point and force airberlin to make a choice?  Will SkyTeam have similar concerns about Alitalia?  This will presumably play out during 2015.

You can find more details on Etihad Airways Partners here.

Comments (11)

  • Susan says:

    “ like-minded airlines ” – has he ever been on an Alitalia flight??? If that’s a bench-mark for Etihad then woe betide them.

  • Phillip says:

    I thought they only owned 29.21% of AB!?

  • JQ says:

    Is this EY trying to join OW without losing face and also staying in control?

    • Tim says:

      you would have though Qatar might have something to say about that..

      • Phillip says:

        Yet they are both partners with American. With excellent redemption rates between the UK and Middle East! I don’t think OneWorld is fussed as long as the individual members are happy!

  • XmaX says:

    It is also worth noting that it is fairly easy to get status match to airberlin Gold (OW Sapphire). From the reports on statusmatcher.com, it appears that sending a scan/pic of an equivalent card would get you Gold for 12 months with no problems.

    The only thing I am not sure about, it whether this would work for a match from another OW airline. If not, I’d simply match to Gulf Air Gold (probably the easiest airline to get a status match), and then use that to match to airberlin.

  • na says:

    Does this create a route to transfer points from Etihad to BA (or Avios)?

    • anon says:

      No.

      Generally you cannot transfer between mileage programs (BAEC, IB and Avios.com excepted). You can earn and redeem on partners, but not transfer between partner programs.

  • RIccati says:

    Flyertalk discussion flavour is about Etihad using/needing Skyteam to feed the traffic (East).

    AA would not care who pays it and whom to pay, Etihad or Qatar (on FF miles, redemptions, traffic).

    But BA and Qatar are in more direct competition with Etihad for traffic from Europe to Middle East/Asia/Australia

    Malasyan Enrich is another possibility to credit miles from KLM/Skyteam and use on Oneworld.

  • Jack says:

    You can already earn status miles with AB on EY, so this alliance would create 5 more partners. Most of the lower class fare in OW earns 0 miles on AB, I would assume it will be same thing with the “EY alliance”