Travel Bulletin - - ISSUES & TRENDS -

ETI­HAD Air­ways broke new ground ear­lier this month with the launch of a group called Eti­had Air­ways Part­ners, say­ing the ini­tia­tive will pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion be­tween air­lines with­out the “com­plex­ity and con­fu­sion” of al­liances. An­nounc­ing the move, Eti­had CEO James Ho­gan said the ben­e­fits swing both ways for air­lines and cus­tomers, with trav­ellers to see more net­work choices and fre­quent flyer ben­e­fits, while air­lines will share in “strong com­mer­cial part­ner­ships” and ef­fi­cien­cies. At first glance, the part­ner­ship looks much like an air­line al­liance, but Eti­had stressed that it sits apart from groups such as Skyteam, Star Al­liance and “It would be wrong to de­scribe Eti­had Air­ways Part­ners as sim­i­lar to the tra­di­tional al­liances,” he said. “We are a group­ing of like-minded air­lines work­ing to­gether to im­prove our com­pet­i­tive of­fer against those al­liances and the ma­jor legacy car­ri­ers... 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.” Ini­tially six car­ri­ers are part of the ini­tia­tive – all of them ex­ist­ing eq­uity part­ners of Eti­had in­clud­ing air­ber­lin, Air Ser­bia, Air Sey­chelles, Jet Air­ways and Dar­win Air­line as well as EY it­self. Other air­lines are welcome to join – even if they are part of an ex­ist­ing al­liance, the air­line said. The ini­tial Eti­had Air­ways Part­ners mem­bers are un­aligned, apart from air­ber­lin which is in Eti­had has long turned its back on al­liances, and Ho­gan has been out­spo­ken on the fact that the air­line doesn’t want to be tied to a sin­gle group. He has also, in the past, branded al­liances as “frac­tured”, in­stead favour­ing part­ner­ships and eq­uity in­vest­ments. He says the ini­tia­tive will be more trans­par­ent for con­sumers by re­mov­ing “com­plex­ity and con­fu­sion” and of­fer­ing ben­e­fits such as stan­dard­ised mileage and tier ben­e­fits across all part­ners, in ad­di­tion to no black­out pe­ri­ods and pri­or­ity ser­vices. The ques­tion now re­mains – who will join the ranks? Vir­gin Aus­tralia, in which Eti­had holds a 22% stake (and where James Ho­gan is now a board mem­ber) told trav­el­bul­letin it has “no plans” to join at this stage, cit­ing its “al­ready strong” al­liance part­ner­ship with the air­line. Star Al­liance, Skyteam and will be bat­ten­ing down the hatches to keep their mem­bers in - but the Eti­had Air­ways Part­ners ini­tia­tive may pro­vide a frame­work for in­creased co­op­er­a­tion with EY which al­ready has 18 code­share ar­range­ments with other car­ri­ers.

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