Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan took the opportunity during his opening address at the World Route Development Strategy Summit to express his delight that rival Emirates had followed his lead and forged a network tie-up with an Australian carrier.
Last year Etihad established a partnership with Virgin Australia that includes an extensive codeshare arrangement and an equity stake. "Interesting to see somebody else has followed our path with another carrier down there," Hogan said, referring to the recently-announced tie-up between Emirates and Qantas.
This joint venture, which takes effect once approved in April next year, will see Qantas re-routing its Kangaroo Route flights between Australia and London from Singapore to Emirates' Dubai hub, as part of an extensive reciprocal codeshare agreement.
When asked specifically what he thought about the agreement, Hogan replied diplomatically: "The great thing about that deal is that more people now know there is an alternative to the Asian hubs out of that market. Its good for all of us in the Gulf."
Etihad has been rapidly building its partnership portfolio, having accumulated 38 alliances and four equity partnerships - the latter comprising Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Air Seychelles and Virgin Australia. The airline serves 77 destinations directly from its Abu Dhabi hub and a further 238 through codeshares.
Etihad's codeshares have generated over $280 million this year, and account for 20% of the airline's total revenue, which will grow to $5 billion this year. Its revenue is forecast to grow by 30% to $6.5 billion in 2013.
Hogan says Etihad is evaluating further tie-ups with "like minded airlines". He says this strategy has "worked well" for Etihad and "this is why we haven't joined one of the global alliances. We're quite happy to build the hub to see more airlines moving their operations over to Abu Dhabi to give us the quality of revenue we need to sustain profitability".