EL AL & Etihad Will Codeshare, Offer Reciprocal Frequent Flyer Benefits, And More

Filed Under: El Al, Etihad

Not only have Israel and the United Arab Emirates recently started cooperating, but we’ve now learned about plans for the national airlines of both countries to cooperate as well.

EL AL & Etihad plan to cooperate

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Tel Aviv-based EL AL have signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between the two airlines in several different areas:

  • Joint codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, as well as points around the globe beyond that
  • Plans to offer reciprocal mileage earning and redemption opportunities, as well as other frequent flyer benefits
  • Cooperation in the fields of engineering, cargo services, destination management (to encourage mutual tourism), and optimal use of pilot and cabin crew training facilities

This development follows Etihad recently announcing plans to fly daily to Tel Aviv as of March 28, 2021.

EL AL & Etihad plan to introduce a codeshare agreement

This makes political sense and is good for frequent flyers

I’m not surprised to see a partnership between EL AL and Etihad. Frankly even if the airlines weren’t planning a substantive partnership, I’m still not surprised to see this, given that this is a nice press release, if nothing else. The two national airlines of countries that just established relations are partnering. That’s cool.

Objectively this is also good for frequent flyers. There will be reciprocal mileage earning and redemption opportunities, and more opportunities are always a good thing. I’m not holding my breath that redemption rates are going to be great, but we can dream, right?

I’m thinking of this mostly in terms of redeeming Etihad Guest miles on EL AL, since Etihad has many transfer partners, while EL AL doesn’t have many transfer partners or airline partners.

It’ll soon be possible to redeem Etihad Guest miles on EL AL

Is this the right partnership for EL AL, though?

Purely from a competitive standpoint, direct flights between Israel and the UAE are very bad news for EL AL:

  • EL AL has been struggling financially since long before the pandemic started (so has Etihad for that matter, but the difference is that Etihad is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, which has gladly poured $20+ billion into the airline)
  • The Gulf carriers are known for their affordable fares, great service, and one stop itineraries between most points in the world
  • EL AL is going to potentially be losing business in a lot of markets, especially for flights east, to Asia and Australia

With that in mind, EL AL has a couple of options:

  • It can choose to not partner with the Gulf carriers and instead compete in markets where there’s enough demand for nonstop travel
  • It can choose to partner with one or more Gulf carriers; EL AL can never compete with the likes of Emirates when it comes to destinations, so the airline could essentially partly act as a feeder airline to a Gulf carrier in Abu Dhabi and/or Dubai, and try to profit from the partnership in that way (frankly this is something that a lot of struggling national airlines should have probably done in the past)

What I’m getting it is that it seems like there would be a lot more merit to partnering with Emirates over Etihad:

  • Etihad doesn’t fly to nearly as many destinations as Emirates, so Etihad doesn’t give EL AL passengers access to nearly as many destinations as Emirates could
  • If EL AL were to partner with a UAE-based carrier, I would think that Emirates would be a better fit
  • I guess EL AL could partner with both Emirates and Etihad, though I’m also not sure that’s terribly likely; there aren’t many airlines that partner with both carriers

It’ll be really interesting to watch this play out, and observe how EL AL chooses to cooperate with Gulf carriers, as it faces an uphill battle.

Could we also see EL AL & Emirates partnering?

Bottom line

EL AL and Etihad have announced a partnership that will see the two airlines codesharing and offering reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, among other things. This is great news, and I’m curious to see the details of this, as well as how EL AL adjusts its business model.

I’ll also be curious to see if EL AL is able to establish some sort of a relationship with Emirates, or if it’s going to be exclusive with Etihad.

What are your expectations as to how EL AL will adjust its business with the new competition from Gulf carriers?

  1. This is so exciting to see the cooperation in the international setting. This is not about whether El Al and Emirates or Etihad partner, its more about the historic agreement of Peace which has been made, and it is so exciting to see that ties between UAE and Israel are strengthening!!!

    I am so excited for the future for the people of Israel and UAE and the continued peace ahead.

    I have always wanted to visit Abu Dhabi and can’t wait to fly directly from Tel Aviv.

  2. @lucky do you think El Al might join an alliance now that the politics of the region have changed a bit? Which one do you think they’d be most likely to join?

  3. If El Al were to join an alliance, I think it would be Skyteam most likely, once Saudi Arabia recognizes Israel. El Al already has relationships with Argentina Airline, Aeromexico, LATAM, Vietnam Airline. I don’t see any major airline in Skyteam objecting. Delta needs to strengthen their network to Israel as United currently dominates on flights to Israel.

    Star Alliance is possible, though not sure how Turkish might play it.

    OneWorld is the least likley in my book, due to Qatar’s ownership in IAG, as Qatar funds terrorism and I can’t see El Al cooperating with them in any way what so ever.

  4. @Sharon there is also MEA in Lebanon. I also don’t see how partnering with El Al would make Delta more competitive on Tel Aviv flights. And that’s honestly the big problem for El Al if they want to join any alliance which is what value would they bring to any particular alliance.

    Regarding Oneworld and Qatar, there is a lot more to the Israeli-Qatari relationship that meets the eye at first. Israel and Qatar may not love each other but I don’t think that would be much of a holdup. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/08/israel-qatar-gaza-strip-hamas-el-emadi-mossad-yossi-cohen.html

  5. @Sharon,

    How naive? This is a sham. An economic agreement veiled as a Peace treaty to block Qatar and Iran and so despots (Trump, Bibi, and the Sheiks) can get the Nobel Peace Prize and the US can sell weapons.

    There’s been a peace treaty with Jordan (nearly 20 years) and Egypt (nearly 40 years), but those came with broad agreements over water rights, land issues, border security, trade etc. What does this agreement provide for countries that are 1,200 away from each other that’s actually codified? Nothing. Oh wait, Israel’s ‘approval’ for the US to sell F-35 jets to the UAE.

    This does nothing for the people of Israel and the UAE except rich business execs to line their collective pockets. It especially does nothing for the Palestinians. Just look at the gross display of the US Sec of State today in the West Bank.

  6. How will Etihad handle an Ultra-Orthodox jewish man holding up the plane, refusing to sit beside a woman?

  7. Huge to see!
    Thank you president Trump, Jared Kushner, and Mike Pompeo. Bringing peace to the middle east. Love to see it! šŸ™‚

  8. Hopefully, Biden will undo everything that Trump accomplished in Middle East By Blackmail.
    Kushner and BiBi created situation with Iran where US reneged on Deal with Iran and The Saudis and UAE Fell for it! Hopefully we will not have to see these Foreign agents like Mnuchin & Kushners in the White House after December.

  9. Interesting how there are so many cheerleaders for endless war and enmity on here.

    Anyway, I think the reason why El Al is partnering with Etihad (and vice versa) and not Emirates, is because Emirates doesn’t need El Al and is planning on providing enough lift from Tel Aviv to feed its own flights via Dubai. They just don’t need a partner, although I know there has been discussion of Emirates flying from Dubai to Sao Paulo and Rio/Buenos Aires with an intermediate stop in Tel Aviv and code sharing on these flights with El Al.

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