Etihad Airways today launched a new frequent flyer partnership branded as Etihad Airways Partners.

The partnership will initially consist of Etihad and five airlines — Air Berlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways and Darwin Airline (now operating as Etihad Regional) — that it already owns a stake in.

However, any airline can become an Etihad Airways Partners member, regardless of whether they are already part of an existing alliance. For instance, Air Berlin is a Oneworld member.

Etihad Airways Partners

From left to right: Maurizio Merlo, CEO of Darwin Airline; Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, CEO of Air Berlin; James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways; Cramer Ball, CEO of  Jet Airways; Dane Kondi?, CEO of Air Serbia; and Manoj Papa, CEO of Air Seychelles launch Etihad Airways Partners

The move is particularly significant given that Etihad has previously been resistant to the idea of joining Star Alliance, Oneworld or Skyteam.

James Hogan, Etihad’s president and CEO, said frequent flyer benefits will include “standardised mileage and tier benefits across all partners, no blackout periods and priority services”.

He added: “Frequent flyers will benefit… as it will remove the complexity and confusion that exists within the global alliances. We’re aiming to deliver a consistent experience for frequent flyers when they travel, as well as a consistent framework for earning and using their miles.”

Etihad also provided Business Traveller with the following information on how the FFP element of the partnership will work:

“Currently frequent flyers can earn and burn between Etihad Guest and Airberlin’s Topbonus program and Etihad Guest and the Jet Airways loyalty program, JetPrivilege.

“In the future guests will be able to earn and burn across all partners. Etihad Airways Partners also intends to offer a simple tier naming structure whereby all frequent flyer programs identify travellers in a consistent manner (e.g. Silver, Gold and Platinum) making it easier for everyone to identify and serve high value customers consistently.”

Hogan said the aim of the new offering is to allow for strong commercial partnership and shared values between member airlines.

He said: “We are broadening our business model to articulate and define a partner proposition for like-minded airlines which will result in synergies and efficiencies for participating airlines on the one side, and enhanced network choice, service and frequent flyer benefits for the consumer on the other.

“The Etihad Airways Partners logo is a seal of excellence and global cooperation. It will be displayed on aircraft and on branded materials by a group of airlines working together to connect travellers around the world, and increasingly to harmonise standards in the air and on the ground.”

No news yet on whether Alitalia or Virgin Australia will join Etihad Airways Partners, given that the Gulf airline has invested in both carriers.

Graham Smith