Emirates et Etihad reinforce their partnership… Before actually merging?

During the Arabian Travel Market, which took place this week in Dubai, the new medium-haul business cabins for Saudia and FlyDubai were presented. But at the end of the exhibition, Emirates and Etihad announced a new partnership. The enemy sisters of the Emirati airline industry are embarking on their first real commercial partnership. The first of a series to come?

Saudia‘s new medium-haul cabin, a strange choice to return to a herringbone seat, which I thought was definitely out of fashion
FlyDubai’s choice, is the reverse herringbone, more pleasant

A very shy interline agreement

Without knowing the deep details, the press release remains laconic, the agreement between Emirates and Etihad seems, at first sight, very shy.

Indeed, the two airlines will, at first, implement an interline agreement. In commercial aviation, interline is the practice of allowing an airline x to sell a ticket of an airline y.

Example of an interline found on the Air France website, selling a Paris – Sydney via Tokyo, the second flight being operated by Jetstar under the Jetstar flight number, but with a ticket issued by Air France from start to finish (On the same “plate”, the first three digits of the ticket number – For Air France, 057)

In this case, and this is the main argument developed by the two airlines to implement this partnership, it is a question of being able to sell open-jawtickets, for example by proposing a Paris-Dubai outbound flight operated by Emirates under the Emirates flight number and an Abu Dhabi-Paris return operated by Etihad under the Etihad flight number.

Unlike a code-share, which implies revenue and cost sharing and marketing under a different flight number, this partnership does not yet involve this.

The benefits for passengers seem limited, since to date there is no indication whether the fares will be combined to offer a better itinerary pricing than the purchase of two one-way flights as is currently possible.

Going further?

Many observers predicted just before and during the COVID-19 crisis that Emirates and Etihad would merge.

And this, based on financial difficulties of the Abu Dhabi-based airline, and the decline of its product, though positioned more premium than her Dubai-based sister Emirates.

Is this the beginning of the merger? If so, then the merger will be slow, very slow. In my opinion, merger plans go away when the financial situation improves. This is wrong.. But, as we said earlier, the post-COVID bubble is about to burst in hospitality and in the airline industry.

My prediction is that Emirates will make its move, waiting for its competitor to decline in the next few years.

Bottom line

A shy partnership, which does not seem to want to develop in the future. What a pity for Etihad who could have been saved.

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.

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