Etihad Airways is reportedly studying the possibility of joining one of the three main global air alliances but stated it would not rush into a decision (The National, 03-Jul-2011). "We believe we would be a great partner for one of the alliances. If we get into an alliance, we would represent a very important part of the world which most alliances aren't serving properly today," CEO James Hogan said.
Etihad considers alliance decision but will not rush
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Lufthansa and Etihad bedfellows - at last - but unions may make marriage a distant prospect
There can be no understating the symbolic change in mindset of Lufthansa agreeing to partner with Etihad. Lufthansa has spent the better part of a decade rallying against Gulf airlines to the press, lobbying in Europe's power corridors and seeking a range of aeropolitical measures to wind back new competitors. Etihad has been the prime target for its investment and ongoing top-ups in a range of European airlines including Lufthansa's home competitor, the failing airberlin. Despite that, it is not well known that the two have come close to a liaison before, suggesting that each sees an intrinsic logic in a relationship.
The partnership has potential to be more significant than Emirates-Qantas, Qatar-IAG or Etihad-AF-KLM. But for now it is limited in scope and caution should be exercised in extrapolating too far at this stage.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is seeking new growth platforms that sidestep the flagship business' uncompromising unions who would seemingly prefer a status quo that exists only in memory. Their support will be necessary if the partnership is to work and grow. Then Lufthansa, which has rallied the Star Alliance and JV partners against Gulf airlines, will need to explain its change of heart. For now Lufthansa will not partner on Etihad's beyond-Abu Dhabi network, a move that would embrace the fundamental business plan of Etihad and peers. That upside remains a matter for speculation.
Brexit follow-up Part 3: Gulf airlines, Turkish lose UK ally in M/E talks as protectionism spreads
The Brexit referendum produced a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, although this process has not yet been formally invoked. In the scope of aviation, one outcome is the potential loss of the UK in shaping air service agreement negotiations. The UK has been a liberalising voice, one that often counterbalanced more protectionist views from France and Germany. The UK is often able to galvanise the smaller EU states too.
The EU now has mandates to negotiate open skies with states, including the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and the ASEAN bloc. The UAE and Qatar, home to the three Gulf network airlines, are expected to produce the most contentious negotiations. France and Germany will surely takes cues from Air France and Lufthansa to impede Gulf growth. In this light there are questions about whether the talks are genuinely motivated, or merely designed to draw out the discussion and thereby not produce any additional traffic rights while under negotiation.
What Air France and Lufthansa need is a real, lasting solution, rather than persevering Canute-like with stonewalling. Although a partnership seems logical, they may have waited too long. The Gulf airlines have found that they can succeed on their own.