Etihad Airways doubled Abu Dhabi-Manchester frequency to 14 times weekly on 02-Aug-2011, the same day the carrier's new line maintenance facility in Manchester was launched (Gulf News/Arabian Airlines, 02-Aug-2011). The opening of the Manchester facility is the airline’s sixth outside Abu Dhabi. Etihad’s other facilities are in Mumbai, Dublin, Lahore, London Heathrow and Sydney. Etihad has employed a team of four aircraft engineers and three aircraft mechanics to manage the new maintenance operations at Manchester Airport.
Etihad increases Abu Dhabi-Manchester frequency; opens maintenance facility
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Etihad to review equity airline investments as partners decrease their Abu Dhabi presence
Partnerships are easier to announce than to sustain. That is evident with Etihad Airways and its Abu Dhabi hub, which is experiencing a decrease in capacity and flights from Etihad's equity and codeshare partners. Etihad established itself as the nucleus of a model in which partner airlines from around the world fly to Abu Dhabi and connect passengers onwards. Now all but one of Etihad's investment airlines are shrinking in Abu Dhabi. All partner capacity has fallen 22% compared to 2015 but is still up 46% compared to 2013.
This is not a one-way review but a significant shake up in relatively short time. On 18-Jan-2017 CEO James Hogan remarked "We are committed to our equity partner strategy." A week later on 24-Jan-2017, as Etihad's chairman announced Mr Hogan's departure in 2H2017 (with no successor named), he said Etihad remains committed to its equity network but opened the door to adjustments: "We must ensure that the airline is the right size and the right shape. We must progress and adjust our airline equity partnerships."
Etihad's partnership approach, and its challenges to address ailing airberlin, could further adjust on 01-Feb-2017 as Etihad and Lufthansa plan further cooperation. Even though airberlin has mostly delivered financial pain, it could provide the key to an invaluable strategic bridge.
Lufthansa and Etihad: equity tie up could further align mutual strategy, but marriage unlikely
Greater cooperation between Lufthansa and Etihad reflects their local and global challenges growing in quantity and complexity. Contact between the two has led to speculation that the partnership could radically expand to include an equity tie up, with rumoured merger talks.
Their initial Dec-2016 codeshare announcement was, in practical terms, small but showed the possibility, as they stated, to expand cooperation. However, it would be a leap to go from their handful of codeshares to a 17-Jan-2017 article from Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero that Etihad could invest in Lufthansa on the way to a possible merger between the two. A subsequent denial in a Reuters story that "A financial stake is out of the question at the moment", does little to dispel the rumour. Were it not for the last three words of that statement the rumour would lack credibility.
There is certainly logic for a deeper partnership - and the two have danced this waltz before. Equity involvement from airlines can cement partnerships, add to board influence and partially allow one side to gain financially from any matter it feels it is compromising away. Nevertheless, there are obstacles to a full blown merger, and even to Etihad's taking a 30% to 40% stake. A marriage between the new bedfellows does not seem an immediate prospect. Nonetheless the logic is there for a move; and the mere fact of a potential move is sufficient to rock the equilibrium.