Etihad Airways “may” join an alliance post-COVID-19

"The heyday of the big alliances was probably a decade ago"

Etihad Airways‘ regional head for Australia and New Zealand, Sarah Built, says partnerships have been crucial for the Gulf airline in its 15 years of operation, but questions the value of global airline alliances.

In an extensive interview with LATTE, Built was quizzed if the current COVID-19 pandemic has given cause for the Abu Dhabi-based airline to reevaluate its view on the value of global aviation alliances, such as oneworld, Star Alliance or Sky Team.

For many years former long-standing Etihad CEO James Hogan had slammed the idea of forging ties with those collectives, but last year current Group CEO Tony Douglas said the airline had been more open to assessing opportunities with existing alliances or establishing its own network.

Sarah Built, GM, Australia & New Zealand, Etihad Airways

Etihad has a multitude of codeshare partners, including Air New Zealand, Air France, Air Canada, ANA, China Eastern, KLM, Lufthansa, SWISS, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Australia. This month, EY also expanded its earn and burn opportunities for Etihad Guest loyalty program members with the Aeroplan program of Air Canada, a member of Star Alliance.

“Etihad was established on the basis of partnerships – we wouldn’t be where we are today by going it alone,” Built said.

The airline’s General Manager for Australia and New Zealand said partnerships were “more important now” than the early 2000s as competitive advantages are frequently derived from collaborations in the digital world.

“I think the world of alliancing has actually moved on in recent years.”

“The heyday of the big three alliances was probably a decade ago. Some of their mechanisms are far too complex to manage to give a real benefit. However, there is a lot to be said to being part of these alliances.”

Built didn’t outright dismiss forging ties with one of the big three global airline collectives, telling LATTE that “the post-COVID recovery could possibly see Etihad choose to join an alliance, be it one of today’s established groupings or whatever evolves tomorrow as the next generation of alliances or Joint Ventures” – a similar comment to that made by Group CEO Douglas more than 12 months ago, but well before the coronavirus crisis.

Read more from our exclusive interview with Sarah Built here.

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