Etihad Airways, the national airline of theUnited Arab Emirates, has agreed to increase its stake in AirBerlin,Europe’s sixth largest airline, to 29.21 per cent, becoming AirBerlin’s largest single shareholder.
The strategic move, announced today in Berlin by Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer James Hogan and Air Berlin CEO Hartmut Mehdorn, connects the airlines’ extensive networks and frequent flyer programs to offer travelers 239 destinations across 77 countries.
Hartmut Mehdorn said: “The strategic partnership with Etihad Airways opens up enormous opportunities for the future of our company. This applies especially to future market development and the realization of synergies. One of the key components of the new partnership is the launch of Air Berlin services to Abu Dhabi, which will become our new gateway to Asia and Australia. The agreement with Etihad Airways will also dramatically improve the global connectivity of our customers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and throughout the GCC and Middle East.”
James Hogan said the deal was one of the most important in Etihad Airways’ history.
“This new partnership expands our network reach, gives us access to 33 million new passengers, and provides us with a real opportunity for global growth. Through Air Berlin, we gain immediate access to a broad and complementary European market, with outstanding connectivity options for customers of both airlines. Our partnership strategy has been integral to our success over the past eight years, and the returns we have seen from this strategy have confirmed its value. We now have a portfolio of 34 quality airline partners, but this is our first equity investment in another airline. It is a sign of our confidence in Air Berlin’s management and in the carrier’s potential to grow with us.” Mr. Hogan said.
Etihad Airways and the Air Berlin group carry a combined total of more than 40 million passengers a year, operate 233 aircraft, and employ 18,000 people. Together, the companies generate more than US$ 9 billion in revenues.
Under the partnership, Air Berlin will shift its Middle East operation from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. Air Berlin will operate four A330-200 flights a week between Berlin and Abu Dhabi from January 15, 2012 – with European travelers having immediate access to a total of 29 flights a week to and through Abu Dhabi from four German hubs, with a plan to increase to 42 flights from mid-April. Both the airlines will implement an extensive codeshare agreement, with Etihad Airways codesharing on 36 of Air Berlin’s 171 destinations and Air Berlin codesharing on 24 of Etihad Airways’ 82 passenger destinations, and plan further expansion of the pool of codeshare routes.
Furthermore, Etihad Airways will sign codeshare agreements with the Air Berlin group for all European activities including NIKI, the Austrian airline, and Belair, the Swiss airline; and Etihad Guest and top bonus, the airlines’ frequent flyer programs, will be integrated, enabling passengers of both airlines to ‘earn and burn’ on each other’s flights and offering reciprocal benefits – including status earning – to top tier members. Under the agreement, Etihad Airways will have two seats on the Board of Directors of the Air Berlin PLC.