Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) and Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi Int'l) have both denied a report by Bloomberg published earlier on September 20 reporting that the former carrier was looking at acquiring the Abu Dhabi-based rival.

Based on anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported that there were talks at a "preliminary stage" which could eventually lead to Emirates taking over Etihad Airways. The maintenance arm Etihad Airways Engineering was to be excluded from the merger.

Combined, the two UAE-based carriers would become the world's largest carrier by available seat and revenue passenger kilometres.

Dubai Int'l and Abu Dhabi Int'l airports are 116 kilometres apart. Each of the carriers is owned by the government of its respective emirate. In addition, Etihad has been struggling financially in recent years after its failed investments in Air Berlin (AB, Berlin Tegel) and Alitalia (AZ, Rome Fiumicino); it posted USD1.95 and USD1.52 billion losses in 2016 and 2017.

After the publication of the report, both Emirates and Etihad have told Reuters there was no truth to this "rumour".

Rumours about a potential merger between the two carriers have been circulation for a few years now. Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum last ruled out a merger as recently as May 2018.