The Etihad buying spree shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has confirmed that it is taking a 24.9% stake in Jet Airways. The move also includes Etihad buying three pairs of Heathrow slots from Jet and investing $150mm in the Jet Privileges frequent flyer program. Jet will establish a hub in Abu Dhabi as part of the deal, adding connectivity into the region and integrating with Etihad’s network there. That this is the first major foreign investment in an Indian carrier is significant, to be sure. And there are many things which may come about as a result.
One major question being asked is if Jet’s Brussels hub will move to another airport. Dublin is one idea being talked about based on the Etihad stake in Aer Lingus. Berlin or Dusseldorf could also be options with Air Berlin connectivity as well. And Germany probably presents better business options for passengers and a better connectivity point on to continental Europe. On the down side, Berlin’s airport is mostly full now and the new one may never open so that could be a problem.
Another bit to watch will be the development of the loyalty program. At the end of 2012 Etihad acquired Air Berlin’s Topbonus program. They also acquired the program of Air Seychelles. These programs are currently being run independently, but the potential to fold them into a single, global solution is quite real. The part where Etihad is pushing the cutting edge of loyalty offerings, especially on the redemption side, means that the potential for a very interesting shift in the loyalty landscape globally is very real.
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