Etihad and Air New Zealand will start selling tickets and allowing frequent flyer ticket redemptions on each other's flights later in February under a new codeshare agreement.
Codeshares are usually good news for frequent flyers who want to earn points or miles on partner airlines, but this this one is especially useful. Unlike some codeshares, this agreement lets travellers with a decent balance in their Etihad or Air New Zealand frequent flyer account spend miles or points for flights as well.
The new arrangements will be bookable towards the end of this month for flights from March onwards.
Air New Zealand's NZ flight number prefix will appear on Etihad's flights from Australia to Abu Dhabi, plus the three daily onward flights to London.
The Etihad EY prefix will be added to some Air New Zealand flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to New Zealand destinations Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Rotorua. Certain internal flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown are also included.
Unexpectedly, Air New Zealand's Auckland-Beijing flights will also be getting EY codes: another shot across the bow for Qantas, with Etihad's CEO reported to have told Qantas' management to focus on their own business after Qantas boss Alan Joyce bemoaned his airline's low share of the international travel market.
Etihad's boss, James Hogan, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald in response to complaints from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce about increasing competition from Middle Eastern airlines on Qantas' bread-and-butter routes to Europe and from Chinese airlines to China.
The new codeshares point to an increasing level of partnership between Etihad, Air New Zealand and third partner Virgin Blue, which already has codeshares with Etihad and recently entered into a trans-Tasman joint venture with Air New Zealand.
Etihad currently codeshares extensively with Virgin Blue within Australia, as well as with subsidiary Pacific Blue on flights from Sydney to Auckland and Christchurch, plus Melbourne to Christchurch. V Australia's long-haul flights to Abu Dhabi will also be included in the deal, following approval from the ACCC competition regulator.
Details of the trans-Tasman cooperation plans from Virgin Blue's airlines and Air New Zealand haven't yet been announced.