The Aviation Eye

Etihad Airways to axe American Airlines partnership to venture with United Airlines and possibly Star Alliance.

An Etihad Airways Boeing 787 taking off, courtesy of Etihad Airways Newsroom

Etihad Airways (EY/ETD) is rumoured to be axing its partnership with American Airlines (AA), affiliated with One World, for United Airlines (UAL), which is a member of Star Alliance. Making the rumours of Etihad Airways to be joining Star Alliance within the coming weeks more of a reality.

Speculation around Etihad planning to join Star Alliance first surfaced last August, soon to be brought to the attention once again as a new partnership is expected be announced very soon.

It is no hidden secret that Etihad has been suffering from financial difficulties due to them taking shares in weaker airlines such as the now defunct Air Berlin and cash-strapped Alitalia. Since the troubles began, the airline has gone through a brutal re-branding venture and it seems highly likely that joining an alliance is also part of their ‘turn-around’ plan. Why? It is mainly due to the vast network and opportunities alliances bring to airlines as new passenger markets can be tapped into as well as filling up empty, yet perishable seats to bump up revenue against its operating cost. Not to forget, Etihad’s geographical location, that being it is situated in Abu- Dhabi, one of the few major hubs for the commercial industry makes it easier for code-share agreements with Star Alliance members.

Etihad is the second of the 3 major players, also known as the ME3 (Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways) to be, if confirmed, joining an alliance. In 2011, Qatar Airways announced its new venture with One World as it became a member of its alliance. However, it seems as though speculation and rumours are also in the air about Qatar Airways intention to leave One World as well.

The current members in Star Alliance total to 27 members; Adria, Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air News Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines,Egypt Air, Ethiopian, Eva Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Thai, Turkish Airlines and United. In total, they fly over more than 18,500 daily flights to 1,330 airports in 192 countries – and that’s without Etihad’s network included.

If Star Alliance are to join forces with Etihad, it is in no doubt a huge benefit for Star Alliance in contrast to Etihad as it will be able to add another host hub to its network as well as an airline loved by passengers around the world. So really, will Etihad significantly benefit from this move? Only time will tell.

Aneeb Malik

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