Etihad Airways and China Eastern Airlines have signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen their strategic co-operation in commercial and operational areas, in a move they say will facilitate the latter’s ambitions to serve Abu Dhabi.

Building on an existing partnership that already involves a codeshare arrangement – which will be expanded – the two carriers say they are exploring options to work together in areas such as reciprocal loyalty programmes, air cargo, MRO, ground handling, catering, lounge access, staff training and sustainability initiatives.

Etihad notes the move coincides with the opening of Terminal A at Abu Dhabi International airport and says the MoU will help to create “a robust platform for China-UAE air traffic and establish an ideal launchpad for connections between China, the Middle East and Africa”.

MoU signing

Source: Etihad Airways

The MoU was signed on 20 December

On plans for China Eastern to serve Abu Dhabi, the airline’s president Li Yangmin states: “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.”

Noting the decade-long partnership between the two carriers, Etihad chief executive Antonoaldo Neves adds: “I am highly encouraged by the momentum of our co-operation, and I look forward to seeing further success.

“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.”

Cirium schedules data indicates Etihad already operates daily flights to Shanghai, while China Eastern flies near-daily services to Abu Dhabi’s neighbour Dubai. Emirates also connects Dubai with Shanghai, with twice-daily services.