More UAE flights expected as Etihad signs partnership with China Eastern Airlines

The two carriers plan to implement an array of initiatives, including reciprocal loyalty programmes, ground handling and catering collaboration, and expanded codeshare

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From left: Antonoaldo Neves, Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways, in discussion with Li Yangmin, President of China Eastern Airlines.  Photos: Supplied
From left: Antonoaldo Neves, Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways, in discussion with Li Yangmin, President of China Eastern Airlines. Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 3:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 7:12 PM

The UAE's national carrier Etihad Airways and China Eastern Airlines on Thursday signed a partnership that will provide travellers with wider choices, higher-quality services, and increased value, while contributing to sustainable aviation.

Building upon their successful existing partnership, the two airlines plan to implement a broad collaboration strategy — including an expanded codeshare, reciprocal loyalty programmes, cargo transport, maintenance, repair and overhaul, ground handling, catering, lounge access, staff training, and several sustainability initiatives.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) should facilitate China Eastern’s ambition to begin services to Abu Dhabi through its discussions with Abu Dhabi Airports, the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, and other key stakeholders in the UAE Capital.

A combination of Etihad and China Eastern services ̦— which comes as the newly opened Terminal A at Abu Dhabi International Airport begins operations — will create a robust platform for China-UAE air traffic and establish an ideal launchpad for connections between China, the Middle East, and Africa.

"Our two airlines have operated an enduring partnership for over a decade. This MoU is an important milestone and a key to establishing a long-term mutually beneficial cooperation. I am highly encouraged by the momentum of our cooperation, and I look forward to seeing further success," said Antonoaldo Neves, CEO of Etihad Airways, emphasised the significance of the partnership.

“It also marks a significant development of the direct links between Abu Dhabi and China and underscores the confidence of one of the most influential Chinese carriers in Etihad. The MoU paves the way for an agreement that will boost Abu Dhabi’s economic development, as well as supporting China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’”

Li Yangmin, president of China Eastern Airlines Group, said: “The MoU builds upon our existing cooperation. It makes possible an agreement that would allow us to collaborate in real and practical ways as part of the continually flourishing relationship between China and the UAE.

“The connection between China Eastern’s Shanghai hub and Etihad’s network through Abu Dhabi will significantly enhance our footprint in the Middle East and Africa. It supports our commitment to the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the ‘Aerial Silk Road,’ stimulating economic, trade and cultural exchanges between China and partner countries.”

Hussain Al Hammadi, the UAE Ambassador to China, added: “In a remarkable testament to strengthened collaboration, our partnership goes beyond operational enhancements, emphasising the promotion of extensive people-to-people exchanges.

“We eagerly anticipate welcoming a surge of Chinese tourists to the UAE, inviting them to immerse themselves in our nation's unique culture. As we approach the forthcoming 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UAE and China, we express our sincere hopes for an even deeper relationship across diplomacy, trade, culture, and various other spheres.”

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