Etihad Airways has added Asiana Airlines of South Korea as a code-share partner as it moves closer to finalising an alliance with Virgin Blue.
The milestones will see Etihad deepen its network of airline partners as it focuses on its target of breaking even by the end of next year. The code-share with Asiana Airlines, named airline of the year in May by Skytrax, will complement Etihad's own service to Seoul beginning on December 10.
Code-share agreements allow airlines to co-ordinate flight schedules and feed traffic from one airline to another, often with both airlines offering tickets for the same flight.
South Korea, home to a number of companies building industrial and energy plants in the UAE, is an important market for Etihad, said James Hogan, its chief executive.
"We are confident that this relationship will increase the flow of traffic between the two countries," Mr Hogan said.
The carriers intend to offer reciprocal rewards programmes under the partnership, where members of each airline's frequent-flyer programme can earn and redeem points on the code-shared flights, Etihad said.
In Australia, the International Air Services Commission has given a capacity allocation to V Australia, the long-haul subsidiary of Virgin Blue, to operate certain routes to the UAE. That enables the carrier to introduce three weekly services between Sydney and Abu Dhabi beginning in February next year using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
It is reportedly still reviewing other weekly services between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi, expected to begin a year later.
The flights are part of a wide-ranging code-share deal between Etihad and Virgin Blue. Etihad customers will be able to access the Virgin Blue network of more than 40 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands as part of the partnership, which is still awaiting final approval from the Australian competition and consumer commission.
Both deals should boost passenger numbers for Etihad without forcing it to introduce new aircraft on these routes, said Keith McMullan, the managing director of Aviation Economics, based in the UK. "This type of code share agreement is important to Etihad as it enhances its feed in north-east Asia and Australia," Mr McMullan said.
Though code-sharing is prevalent through the airline industry, it is not without risks, he said. "Sometimes the administrative costs of code sharing negate the incremental revenue per passenger."