by Vinay Bhaskara
Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways has inked a code share with Nairobi based Kenya Airways, expanding access to second and third tier African destinations for its consumers. Etihad Airways will place its code on flights by Kenya Airways to 27 destinations across Kenya Airways’ African network. Meanwhile, Kenya Airways will place its code onto 32 onward destinations from Etihad’s global hub. The Kenya Airways code will also be placed onto Etihad’s daily Abu Dhabi-Nairobi service with 136 seat (16J/120Y) Airbus A320 aircraft, while Kenya Airways will launch a thrice-weekly service Nairobi-Abu Dhabi from mid 2013 onwards.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “The partnership agreement with Kenya Airways is in line with our strategy of forming alliances with airlines around the world to enhance our network and marketing reach. This agreement will also allow both airlines to benefit from cost savings achieved through synergies and economies of scale.
Dr. Titus Naikuni, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Airways, said: “The new codeshare partnership with Etihad Airways is a significant strengthening of the global network of both airlines, which provides more choice to all our passengers. As part of the agreement we are looking for greater collaboration and coordination on cargo operations, training and procurement opportunities which will make us more cost efficient and customer responsive.”
Code share agreements in and of themselves aren’t huge news, but this agreement is notable because it marks increased ties for Etihad with the SkyTeam alliance. After fellow Gulf rival Qatar Airways broke tradition and joined the oneworld alliance, it has become increasingly speculated that Etihad will follow suit and join SkyTeam (Star Alliance is seen as too crowded for another middle-eastern carrier with Turkish Airlines already in the fold).
Etihad now has code share partnerships with nine SkyTeam carriers, including its founder member, Air France. While Etihad touts the benefits of its so-called “equity alliances” composed of its investments and reciprocal codeshares in European LCC airberlin, African regional carrier Air Seychelles, Australian carrier Virgin Australia, and Irish national carrier Aer Lingus, it would undoubtedly benefit from the increased feed provided by membership in a global alliance. While this particular agreement does not mean that a deal is imminent, it does add incrementally to the likelihood of Etihad joining SkyTeam.