Etihad Airways Partners: Etihad's own airline alliance?

By David Flynn, October 8 2014
Etihad Airways Partners: Etihad's own airline alliance?

After continually shunning established airline alliances such as Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam, it seems that Etihad has just created its own globe-striding alliance network – albeit with five Etihad partners, along with the Gulf carrier, as founding members.

Airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, India’s Jet Airways and Darwin Airline have joined Etihad Airways in pulling up chairs to the Etihad Airways Partners table in what the airline describes as "a new brand which brings together like-minded airlines to offer customers more choice through improved networks and schedules and enhanced frequent flyer benefits."

Virgin Australia, in which Etihad holds a cornerstone 21% stake, says it has no plans to join Etihad Airways Partners.

However, Etihad Airways Partner membership will be open to any airline, "even if it is part of an existing alliance", Etihad claims – and cites the example of Airberlin, which is a member of Oneworld.

"The key emphasis for Etihad Airways Partners is a strong commercial partnership and shared values."

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan suggests that Etihad Airways Partners differs from "legacy airline alliances" by offering benefits  beyond "pure commercial cooperation."

“The potential for network alignment to maximise flight connectivity for passengers, together with a shared passion for superior service, are central to the ethos of the Etihad Airways Partner concept,” he said.

Frequent flyer alignment

“Frequent flyers will benefit from the formation of Etihad Airways Partners as it will remove the complexity and confusion that exists within the global alliances."

"We’re aiming to deliver a consistent experience for frequent flyers when they travel, as well as a consistent framework for earning and using their miles.”

This will include standardised mileage and tier benefits across all partners, no blackout periods and priority services.

Speaking with Australian Business Traveller in May this year at the opening of the airline's new Sydney Airport lounge, Hogan observed that "the reason we haven't joined the alliances is that when you join an alliance you’re stuck, that's why we are happy to be non- aligned."

"We're in a different business model (to alliances)."

Last month Hogan cited Qantas, Emirates and British Airways as examples of what's wrong with the conventional alliance model.

"The model of alliances is fractured" Hogan told reporters on the sidelines of the annual IATA airline conference in Abu Dhabi.

"We believe partnerships are better, strong codeshare relationships and equity investments."

"We're not an alliance"

However, Etihad is eager to frame its Partners group as something other than an "alliance", at least in the conventional sense.

"We are a grouping of like-minded airlines working together to improve our competitive offer against those alliances and the major legacy carriers" the airline said in a statement.

"However, the depth of our relationships allow us to go further than the long-established global alliances, from greater network alignment which maximises flight connectivity to shared centres of excellence in cabin interior design, catering, IFE and customer service."

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck then it's probably a duck. The devil's in the details.

Primae facie, Air Berlin's programme looks like a very interesting proposition. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2013

Total posts 139

As always TRB, you're 100% bang on the money; totally correct. 

Will be interesting though to see how long it takes the other OW carriers to totally crack it with AB, after this, and given the dual points-earning anomaly with VA. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 122

Etihad does partner with a number of other OW carries, including American, SriLankan and Malaysia. So it's not only AB that has cross-'alliance' partnerships

You need to consider the extent of the partnership and not just whether there is a partnership.

EY's partnership with AA, UL and MH can be described as incidental. I would suggest that AB and EY's partnership is more substantial in nature. Particularly so when there is reciprocal status benefits and the ability of AB members to earn status miles when flying on EY codes. To preserve equity in an alliance member carriers typically only allow accrual of mileage/point for status purposes on its code or codes of carriers within it's formalised alliance. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

AA not too bad either, perhaps better. Only caveat is no earn of mileage on EY marketed flights to the US. However, details on earn on AB is not yet clear either, so until that is known we will wait in anticipation...


04 Jul 2013

Total posts 22

One will hope Virgin Australia follow suits.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

19 Apr 2014

Total posts 46

"We're a group of like minded airlines working together...greater network alignment...shared centres of excellence in cabin design, catering, IFE and customer service"

Sounds just like an alliance to me, albeit with EY as a the obvious leader.

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 272

Darwin airline?

Ployse explain

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Apr 2014

Total posts 32

I think the major differentiator with this "Etihad Partners" thing is that Etihad, as shareholder in all, can enforce certain things to happen: new routes to be opened, more or different frequencies on certain sectors, mandatory requirements for in-flight services etc, all such that everything aligns beautifully and of high standards.

Unlike with the other Alliances here one member (Etihad) reigns supreme, thus can make changes - for better, for worse - which in a 'democratic alliance' would never materialise, and one is left with the 'conventional alliance' as we know them now.

Qatar Airways

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 26

Don't underestimate the influence of certain carriers on certain alliances :-)

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