Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi Int'l) and Gulf Air (GF, Bahrain Int'l) have signed a wide-ranging strategic commercial cooperation agreement that will see them deepen their existing commercial cooperation in a move reflecting improving political ties between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Pending applicable governmental and regulatory approvals, the SCCA will build on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the airlines signed in 2018.

According to a statement, their closer cooperation will happen in phases:

  • By June 2021, they will extend the scope of their existing codeshare agreement to offer up to 30 more combined destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia. No specific routes were mentioned.
  • They will optimise their schedules and improve connectivity over each partner’s hub.
  • They will enhance reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including reciprocal lounge access at the hubs.
  • They will create a seamless travel experience between Abu Dhabi Int'l and Bahrain Int'l regardless of the operating carrier, through harmonised policies and products in baggage handling and ancillaries.

The 2018 MOU also provided for exploration of MRO, pilot and crew training, and cargo opportunities, which the parties will now re-visit.

Etihad has been pursuing more partnerships with airlines across the globe since before COVID-19 hammered global demand. The move has been part of a turnaround strategy unveiled over three years ago in an effort to wean the Abu Dhabi-owned carrier's reliance on state funding. It has reportedly received at least USD22 billion in government support since starting up in 2003.

For its part Gulf Air received BHD30 million dinar (USD80 million) in government assistance in 2018 and a further BHD20 million (USD53 million) in 2019, according to the financial statements of its owner, the Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund, Forbes reports.