What about the codeshare between Etihad and TAP?

Etihad has been multiplying its codeshare agreements of late, but while the most recent ones seemed to make a certain amount of sense, the latest one with TAP may tell us more about the airline’s real strategy.

Etihad and the refusal of an alliance strategy

Historically, Etihad has always preferred bilateral partnerships to alliances. Unlike its neighbor Emirates, Etihad does not have the critical size to survive on its own, so one way or another it must find partners on which to rely.

However, recent announcements have led us to believe that there has been a change of strategy.

Firstly, the announcement of a strengthened partnership with Air France-KLM, which led some to speculate that Etihad might join Skyteam, or even – a totally illusory hypothesis – be bought out.

This assumption was further strengthened by the announcement of a global codeshare agreement with SAS, which is expected to join Air France-KLM in the coming years.

Such a convergence was certainly not due to chance, and logically augured, if not a capital merger, at least the possible entry of Etihad into Skyteam.

This is the background to the code-sharing agreement with TAP announced this week.

Etihad is partnership agnostic

This code-share reminds those who were getting excited about Etihad’s entry into Skyteam that the Gulf airline values its independence and plays the partnership card opportunistically.

Yes, it has made serious moves towards Air France-KLM and SAS.

But that shouldn’t blind us to its partnerships with Air New Zealand, Air Canada, ANA, Asiana and Brussels Airlines on the Star Alliance side, and Malaysian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Srilankan Airlines and American Airlines on the OneWorld side (not to mention Oman Air, soon to join the alliance). Add to this Garuda Indonesia, Korean, Air Europa (set to join OneWorld) and Saudia on the Skyteam side. It has also recently strengthened its partnership with Emirates.

The only bottom line is that Etihad’s latest announcements should not be seen as a preference for any particular alliance in terms of its future, but simply as a willingness to forge bilateral partnerships opportunistically when the opportunity arises.

And why join an alliance, especially the weakest of the three, when you already have such a network of partners? That would be closing more doors than opening them.

Bottom line

Recent announcements suggesting that Etihad is moving closer to Skyteam should not overshadow Etihad’s other partnerships, which ultimately show no preference in terms of alliances.

The recent partnership with TAP confirms this, unless the fate of the Portuguese airline has already been sealed and it is destined to join Air France-KLM? At this stage, we don’t dare believe that the dice have already been loaded, while the call for tenders has not yet been launched.

Image : B787 Etihad by Kent Raney via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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