Etihad Airways has opened the door to working with and potentially joining Star Alliance as the airline seek to re-invent its business model to include new alliances and codeshare partnerships.
Etihad launched its own partner alliance scheme in 2014 with seven other airlines of which three – Etihad Regional, Airberlin and Niki – no longer operate, while Alitalia continues to struggle after filing for bankruptcy in 2017.
Arabian Business reports that Etihad Aviation Group CEO Tony Douglas indicated the airline could be looking at building closer ties with Star Alliance, beginning with codeshare flights with Star Alliance members, along the same lines as its agreement with Star Alliance member Lufthansa.
“In the past, the Etihad Group was identified as being an alliance itself and, consequently, under the rules of Star Alliance, its members were not allowed to engage in collaboration with us on codeshares,” Douglas said, although he reportedly "stopped short of saying anything that would confirm Etihad would be joining the global Star Alliance network just yet."
The airline would shift away from a "growth for growth’s sake" strategy and instead “look for sustainable growth”, which would see a role for “partners to build connectivity with their networks through codeshares wherever both parties agree to do so,” he added.
As previously reported, Etihad is also considering adding premium economy class to its fleet, cutting back on the number of aircraft it has on order and 'right-sizing' its network to focus more on point-to-point flights than the current Emirates-style 'super hub' model aimed at making Abu Dhabi the crossroads for connecting passengers from all corners of the globe.
“The eventual aim of this process is for Etihad to be in the best shape to ensure its long-term sustainability, enabling it to meet the challenges of an aviation industry in constant flux," Douglas said.
This will likely include cancelling scores orders for Airbus and Boeing jets as Etihad puts the brakes on a long-running and costly attempt to close the gap with larger Persian Gulf rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.