Malaysia Airlines and Etihad Airways are joining up in a new frequent flyer partnership, with full reciprocal earning and burning privileges for both Etihad Guest and MAS Enrich frequent flyers.
For Australian travellers the alliance is an odd one. Etihad is a vital partner for Virgin Australia's Europe flights, while current Virgin partner Malaysia Airlines is not only hooking up with the oneworld alliance to which Virgin's arch-rival Qantas belongs but its membership is sponsored by Qantas.
Yes, that's right -- Virgin's main squeeze Etihad and Qantas' new darling MAS are getting together on the side.
(In fact, Malaysia Airlines is the second Qantas partner that Etihad has picked up in the last month. Three weeks ago Etihad and American Airlines entered into a similar "earn and burn" agreement for American's AAdvantage program.)
As far as MAS is concerned, however, its thing with Qantas isn't an exclusive relationship.
"Oneworld does not impose restrictions on its members on alliances and joint ventures with any airlines" an MAS spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.
"Malaysia Airlines will still look at signing JV and alliances, whether the airline is under oneworld or Star alliance or SkyTeam alliance, that benefit passengers and that brings in foreign travellers into Malaysia."
Indeed, MAS sees this point promiscuity as a win for passengers who want to "travel to more destinations without having the restrictions of alliances."