Emirates is in talks with American Airlines parent AMR to launch a partnership that will involve codesharing on flights and reciprocal frequent flier benefits.

The two carriers have been in discussions since late last year, says Emirates president Tim Clark at Washington Dulles airport today.

"It hasn't been consummated but we hope it will be done fairly soon," he says, adding that the ball is in AMR's court and acknowledging that the airline has several issues to attend to currently.

AMR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2011.

American currently codeshares with Emirates' Gulf rival, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, but it is not clear what will happen to that partnership if it firms up ties with Emirates.

Clark says that whether American chooses to retain its partnership with Etihad is up to them, and adds that Emirates has not placed any condition on American to drop its links with Etihad in order to work with the Dubai-based airline.

Emirates launched its inaugural service from between Dubai and Washington today, adding its seventh destination in the USA. Washington is the third new US destination for Emirates this year after Dallas-Fort Worth and Seattle.

Forging a partnership with AMR will help Emirates raise its presence in the USA by "a few notches", says Clark. The Gulf carrier also has existing partnerships with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue.

Emirates and American signed a mail-only codeshare to Dubai and points beyond in August 2008.

Emirates recently announced a 10-year agreement with American's Oneworld partner Qantas Airways that will involve Qantas moving its Asian hub from Singapore to Dubai. Clark, however, indicates that the Qantas agreement has no bearing on its plans to partner with American. He points out that the Qantas tie-up does not extend to the USA, even though he was quick to add that "that could change".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news