Etihad Airways and China Eastern Airlines will benefit from each other–s route networks after signing a landmark codeshare agreement which will come into effect from this week.

The airlines have plans to expand the partnership in subsequent phases of cooperation. For example, China Eastern will place its ‘MU’ code on Etihad Airways flights to destinations not on the Chinese carrier’s network while Etihad Airways plans to codeshare on China Eastern’s domestic services beyond its Shanghai hub.

Saj Ahmed chief analayst at London-based StrategicAero Research, in a comment on the development said “Etihad is making great strides into the China market and will garner a sizeable foothold in one of the world’s biggest markets.”

This codeshare agreement has put Etihad Airways in a stronger position against other regional airlines as it could take advantage of the extensive route network of China Eastern Airlines within the largest Asian economy and other destinations.

“For Etihad, the spectre of access to a lucrative market that is on track to surpass that of the United States is an opportunity it was never likely to miss and you have to question, what, if any response there is from rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways, both of who like Etihad have long since had a slew of Chinese cities on their radar,” said Saj.

The two airlines also plan to offer reciprocal benefits such as mileage earn and burn to members of their frequent flyer programmes, Etihad Guest and Eastern Miles, in the fourth quarter of 2012, a press release said. The new codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and China go on sale on 30 August 2012 for travel from September 3.

The new agreement is Etihad’s 37th codeshare. It follows the exchange of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with the Shanghai-based Chinese carrier in March this year.

The president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways James Hogan said the codeshare arrangement “is a win-win for both businesses and for travellers across our combined global networks.”

“It expands our networks in a commercially viable and mutually beneficial way, and offers our customers more choice of destinations, schedules and loyalty benefits,” he said. Chinese airlines do not have a strong presence in the Middle East, which with its bilateral trade is growing at a phenomenal pace over the last five years. “Chinese airlines have been slow to exert any influence or even growth in the GCC region, China Eastern Airlines now has the capability to leverage Etihad’s strengthen, particularly in Europe and North America,” Saj Ahmed said.

Liu Shaoyong, Chairman of China Eastern Airlines, said that his airline is very pleased with the agreement and values the “partnership.”

Codesharing would have great significance for increased cooperation in a range of areas between the two airlines and would benefit “shared customers,” he said.

Initially, China Eastern Airlines will place its ‘MU’ code on Etihad Airways’ flights between Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

(c)2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). Distributed by MCT Information Services

 


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