Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways is to combine its Boeing 787 introduction programme with that of new partner Air Berlin in a bid to reduce the costs of bringing a new type into the fleet.

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier, which has 41 787s on order, will expand its programme to cover the 15 787s of Air Berlin.

Etihad's 787s will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines but Air Berlin's powerplants are still listed by Boeing as unselected - it is unclear whether the pact will influence the engine choice.

But Etihad says the two carriers will "streamline" purchasing of engines, avionics, rotables and in-flight entertainment systems.

Between them the airlines will carry out maintenance pooling, joint training and combine their infrastructure resources. They will also achieve common cabin specifications, giving passengers a "consistent product experience", says Etihad.

Etihad, which opted to acquire a large shareholding in Air Berlin at the end of last year, claims the tie-up will save "millions of dollars".

It had already indicated that the equity investment in Air Berlin would generate synergies for the operators, and that Etihad would perform 787 maintenance for the German airline.

"It is an ideal solution for reducing the costs associated with the introduction of a new aircraft type, and an excellent example of the value of our partnership," says Etihad chief James Hogan.

"It makes both operational and commercial sense to work together on common fleet issues and we expect the synergies we achieve through this integration to result in significant efficiency benefits for both airlines."

Etihad is the largest shareholder in Air Berlin, with a stake of just over 29%. It is expecting to start taking 787s from late 2014 while Air Berlin will begin accepting the twinjets in 2015.

Air Berlin chief Hartmut Mehdorn says that the two sides "saw an opportunity to work as a team" during the introduction of the 787s.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news