Etihad Airways hopes to eventually put its frequent flyer program on the market, the airline's President and CEO has revealed.
"We are building it with airlines, but we will also build it with other partners I'm not going to talk about" Hogan allowed, tipping an expansion of the program which will involve earning points through non-airline sources.
Describing Etihad Guest as "a lifestyle program", Hogan promised that "there will be other stakeholders outside the airline sector."
In December last year Etihad spun out its frequent flyer program into a stand-alone legal entity named Etihad Guest LLC, although like its parent airline is ultimately wholly owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi.
Frequent flyer schemes are often considered one of an airline's cash cows with high earnings unfettered by expensive aircraft, rising fuel costs, staffing and other costs which typically drag on an airlines's revenue.
The Qantas Frequent Flyer program, for example, took a record $1.2 billion in billings across the 2013 financial year to contribute $260 million (before interest and tax) to the Flying Kangaroo's pouch.
The scheme is estimated to be worth as much as $3 billion dollars – more than Qantas itself – which has led to speculation that Qantas could sell off a 49% minority stake in the program to raise between $1.3 billion and $1.56 billion for the airline, according to J.P. Morgan.
However, another analyst has suggested that Qantas hang onto this lucrative 'crown jewel' and instead sell off as many as 42 billion points – yes, that's billion – to its network of retail partners and potentially raise a handy $500 million in much-needed cash.
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