Etihad eyes airline tie-ups to expand global reach
Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flagship airline, would consider tie-ups with other carriers in a bid to bolster revenues and expand its global reach, its CEO said.
The state-backed airline has previously been linked to stake talks for Ireland’s Aer Lingus and British Midland International (BMI), the loss-making airline likely to be sold to IAG.
“If we see an opportunity to partner with another carrier that drives incremental revenue, strengthens our position in the market ... we’d like to do that,” James Hogan told the Financial Times, adding that Aer Lingus “flies to many parts of Europe that we don’t fly to.”
Etihad has a fleet of 63 aircraft and flies to 86 destinations. It has successfully expanded its reach to a further 118 cities through a series of code-sharing partnerships, the latest of which was a link-up with Russian carrier S7 Airlines.
As Russia’s largest domestic carrier, the partnership will give Etihad access to cities such as Kazan, Samara, Krasnodar and St Petersburg.
In addition to codesharing deals, Etihad has an alliance with Australia’s Virgin Blue and was reported to have held talks with the Irish government to buy its 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus.
The Gulf carrier also was reported to have held talks about a partnership with Virgin Atlantic to
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad was reported in October to have held talks with Virgin over a potential partnership, should the British airline make a bid for BMI.
State-backed Etihad would be unable to make a bid of its own due to foreign ownership rules, as is the case in many countries around the world under regulatory requirements.
Emirates Airline, the largest international carrier and Etihad’s rival, has said it will expand through growing its fleet and has little interest in dealmaking.
“We believe the M&A process of growth is beset with problems,” he told the paper.
The airline is the largest customer of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, with a fleet of 161 wide-bodied aircraft and orders for a further 190. The carrier, which plans to grow its fleet to as many as 260 by 2018, placed an $18bn order for 50 Boeing 777s at this month’s Dubai Airshow.