The Air France-KLM Group is cosying up with Etihad Airways with an expanded partnership and codeshare deal, the two airline groups announced on Thursday.
During a ceremony at the headquarters of Air France-KLM in Paris, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding which will lays the groundwork for a slew of new codeshare routes, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and other improvements – subject to regulatory improvement.
The two airline groups have had a loose partnership since 2012, but this was restricted to an interline agreement and a very limited codeshare deal. The expanded partnership will bring them much closer together, with benefits for passengers and the airlines alike.
More than 40 routes covering destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Australia have already been identified for the expanded codeshare deal. Tickets have already gone on sale for flights departing as early as the winter 2023 season.
Codeshare routes will allow frequent flyers of both Flying Blue and Etihad Guest to earn and redeem miles with Air France, KLM, and Etihad (although this earn and burn agreement hasn’t yet been finalised).
In addition, the airlines are going to look at co-locating in the same airport terminals and in the future, it is hoped that a reciprocal lounge access agreement will be finalised.
Angus Clarke, the EVP and COO of the Air France-KLM Group, acknowledged that the decision to expand the agreement with Etihad was borne out of the airline’s strategic position in the Persian Gulf.
“The attractiveness of Abu Dhabi as a destination and a hub, powered by Etihad’s large footprint spanning South and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia, brings significant richness to this partnership,” Clarke admitted.
“This moment marks our shared commitment to providing seamless, premium, customer-centric travel experiences to our shared global customer base,” Clarke continued.
With this expanded partnership, we now have a very clear vision of how Gulf carriers are associating themselves with traditional airline alliances – without necessarily being a part of one themselves.
Emirates has partnered with United and Air Canada in the Star Alliance, and Qatar Airways, which is itself a member of Oneworld, has also developed a close relationship with American Airlines in the last year, as well as being a shareholder in Europe’s IAG group which owns British Airways and Iberia.
Meanwhile, Etihad is associating itself with the Skyteam through Air France-KLM, and the hot money is on a separate deal with fellow Skyteam member Delta in the near future to counter the threat from American Airlines and United.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.