Etihad Airways and South African Airways have extended their strategic partnership with measures including more codeshare routes and further integration of their frequent flyer programmes.
The expansion will also see SAA launch a daily flight between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi on March 29, to run alongside Etihad's existing service on the route.
The two airlines will now operate 49 codeshare routes, more than double the previous amount.
Etihad will place its "EY" code on SAA's new Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi flights, in addition to 16 of the airline's services from Johannesburg to 16 other African destinations. SAA will place its "SA" code on 32 Etihad routes beyond Abu Dhabi.
The airlines also said they "will enhance the alignment of Etihad Guest and Voyager frequent flyer programs, with even more opportunities for members to earn and redeem miles. Benefits such as priority baggage handling, boarding and check-in, and airport lounge access across the airlines’ networks will be provided based on membership tiers."
Etihad president and CEO James Hogan said: "Since our codeshare flights were first on sale in July last year, we have placed more than 20,000 passengers onto each other's flights, and there is huge potential to significantly increase that number as the cooperation is developed in the coming years.
"Importantly, our expanded partnership will enhance the benefits that Etihad Airways and South African Airways offer to business and leisure travellers, such as improved connections, enhanced opportunities to earn and redeem miles, and a more seamless experience."
Nico Bezuidenhout, SAA's acting CEO, added: "Under the second phase of our cooperation, we will better serve established regions such as North America, Europe and Australia, while strengthening our presence in fast-growing markets across the Middle East and Asia.
"In particular, the codeshare expansion will support a planned adjustment of our network to strengthen access into the fast-growing China and India markets."
Etihad and SAA's partnership began in April when they teamed up to offer members of their loyalty programmes double miles when flying with the other airline (see news, April 25).