New airline group with TUI
TUI and Etihad Aviation Group are in discussion to create a new European leisure airline group focused on point-to-point flying to connect key tourist markets.
The air operations of Air Berlin (which Etihad holds a 29.21 per cent stake in) and TUIfly, including the aircraft currently operated by TUIfly for Air Berlin under a wet-lease agreement, will likely be utilised while Etihad will contribute its expertise. TUI’s broad distribution network will also be leveraged. Countries to be served include Germany, Austria and Switzerland, revealed a joint statement by Etihad and TUI, with further intentions to connect a “broad network of destinations”.
Air Berlin in a separate statement confirmed its participation in the discussions, citing the airline’s “far-reaching restructuring” announced last week to focus itself as a network carrier with hubs at Berlin and Dusseldorf, and to “evaluate strategic options for its touristic business”.
TUI, Etihad and Air Berlin intends to finalise an in-principle agreement in due course, subject to all necessary corporate and regulatory approvals.
Updates to frequent flyer program
According to the Australian Business Traveller, Etihad Guest Silver members will no longer enjoy worldwide airport lounge access from next year under the airline’s latest round of revamps to its frequent flyer program.
Silver-tier flyers can currently use Etihad airport lounges around the globe when travelling on an Etihad Airways flight – but as of January 15 2017, lounge access will be offered to Silver members only in Abu Dhabi (Al Reem Lounge), Mahé (Seychelles) and in Belgrade.
That puts all other Etihad Airways-operated lounges – including those at Sydney, Melbourne (pictured) and London – out of reach of the airline's Silver frequent flyers unless they're booked in business class or first class.
The same restrictions will apply to partner and contract lounges at airports where Etihad doesn’t run its own lounge (such as Brisbane and Perth).
Etihad Guest Silver members will gain the use of priority check-in counters when travelling with selected Etihad Airways partner airlines – including Airberlin, Alitalia, Jet Airways and Niki – although we're sure most travellers would trade faster check-in for lounge access.
The Etihad Guest scheme was substantially overhauled in July 2015 to introduce new ‘carrier charges’ on reward bookings and new mileage earning rates, among other tweaks.
More recently, however, the airline made it easier for all members to use Etihad Guest miles to book Virgin Australia flights: now possible up until 24 hours before departure as opposed to 14 days in advance under the previous system