Usually, they are seen as rivals, but this time, Emirates and Etihad are to partner. The two carriers of the United Arab Emirates announced a Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday on an interline agreement, which targets to attract more tourists to the UAE. The agreement, signed at the Arabian Travel Market, should benefit both carriers. Don’t mistake Emirates-Etihad agreement for a tie-up.
Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad have been vying for more tourists since both emirates have seen rapid development and expansion. The Covid crisis brought this to a sudden halt, but since the recovery, tourists and transit passenger have been finding their way back to the UAE.
The initial part of the expanded interline agreement sees each airline focus on attracting visitors to the UAE “by developing inbound interline traffic from select points in Europe and China. The ‘open jaw’ arrangement will allow visitors to cover as much ground as possible when exploring Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or any other emirate, saving time by removing the need to fly home via their arrival airport”
This means that travelers can enter the UAE via Dubai and depart via Abu Dhabi or vice versa. “Customers traveling into the UAE also have the option of ‘multi-city flights’, with the choice to travel from one city on both carriers’ networks, and conveniently returning to another point served by either Emirates or Etihad,” the two airlines said in a joint press release.
Emirates President Sir Tim Clark said: “We believe this new agreement provides a strong foundation to develop further opportunities between both airlines and is an example of our commitment to the UAE’s vision for continued economic diversification.”
His Etihad colleague and CEO Antonoalde Neves remarked: “With two world-class airlines supporting UAE tourism, our interline agreement will make it more convenient for our guests to experience the best of Abu Dhabi and Dubai on one single ticket while promising to deliver an exceptional flying experience whether they fly with Etihad Airways or Emirates. It’s a win-win proposition for travelers to the UAE.”
While the two airlines have announced previous MoUs on aviation security in 2018 and another one in 2022 on promoting Abu Dhabi, the agreements have nothing to do with initiatives toward integration. Every time Emirates and Etihad announced joint initiatives, they were asked if this would lead to full integration. Each time the answer was a firm ‘no’, as the airlines followed their own strategy on codeshare and interline agreements, like the recent one between Emirates and United Airlines or the one between Etihad and Gulf Air in 2021.
Emirates is closely connected to flydubai, which since the start of their partnership in 2017 has grown into a feeder role for flydubai to its bigger sister airline. Since its failed investments in Europe, Etihad has concentrated on downsizing and partnering with Air Arabia to create Air Arabia Abu Dhabi as a growing low-cost airline in the region. But let’s see where this MoU brings the two UAE airlines.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.