Etihad is teasing a major announcement for this Wednesday. While it’s possible that they could bring back the Airbus A380, or announce a new CEO (with the current one heading off to run Saudi Arabia’s insane idea for a new airline), the message sure seems to hint at becoming a member of the Star Alliance – something that’s been rumored to be in the works for years.
Here’s how I see the clues in this video. A constellation is a group of stars, where each one is ‘connected’ to another to form a pattern (a route network, if you will). The comments they offer are two-fold:
- “We trust the stars to define our journey.” The member of Star Alliance could be ‘the stars’.
- “”A new constellation will soon adorn the skies.” With the addition of Etihad, the Star Alliance constellation would indeed be new. And it would be new to Etihad and its passengers.
Etihad has long gone it alone, apart from the major global alliances Star, oneworld, and SkyTeam. They even once tried to create their own constellation, to be sure, an amalgamation of money-losing airlines around the world in which they’d taken equity stakes. This included carriers like air berlin, Alitalia, and Jet Airways – all of which went bankrupt. Etihad lost billions in the strategy of redirecting the international connecting traffic of these airlines through Abu Dhabi.
Looking to Star Alliance has been rumored since 2018 and Etihad has partnered with Aegean, ANA, Air Canada, Asiana, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish.
Now, Emirates just announced a partnership with United but I do not think that’s mutually exclusive with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad being a partner. Emirates and Etihad have long been rumored to be entertaining merger discussions, and they do have partnerships. In any case, United had partnered with both Emirates and Qatar in the past (!) and American partners with both Etihad and Qatar. If Etihad were to join Star Alliance their American Airlines partnership would likely end, already a logical step given the emphasis American has recently placed on its enhanced deal with Doha-based Qatar Airways.
Etihad is a once-great airline that’s been retrenching but still offers a wonderful product compared to what most US customers are used to. A Star membership would be a win for United MileagePlus, Air Canada Aeroplan, and even Avianca LifeMiles members. To the extent it would mean losing an Etihad Guest partnership, it would be a loss for American AAdvantage members as well.