Abu Dhabi state carrier Etihad Airways has signed a memorandum of understanding with Philippine Airlines (PAL) that includes a range of commercial benefits to both flag carriers.
The agreement consists of codesharing, frequent flyer reciprocity, airport lounge access, air pass agreements and cargo cooperation.
“This relationship will go a long way in providing our combined customer base a much more enhanced set of travel options,” said Ramon S Ang, PAL president and COO.
“This also comes at an opportune time for PAL which is in the thick of a fleet modernisation and expansion program that will see the flag carrier pushing further not only into the Middle East but also on other parts of the globe using a modern fleet of aircraft.”
The deal is expected to help both airlines grow the passenger and cargo market on the UAE-Philippines route.
Airline officials said that the partnership between the two brands is expected to make them a top choice for travellers on the Abu Dhabi-Manila route each year.
Further cooperation will also help the carriers to tap into the growing number of leisure travellers to the Philippines, the companies said.
Etihad’s chief executive James Hogan said that the deal has the potential to boost trade between the two countries.
“Two-way trade between the UAE and the Philippines was valued at $1.4 billion in 2013 and the UAE is the Philippines’ third-largest trading partner in the Middle East,” he said.
“Closer cooperation in the cargo arena, one of Etihad Airways’ most successful divisions, has the potential to boost each airline’s bottom-line and the economies of our two great nations.”
Etihad launched weekly services to the Philippines in 2006 and currently offers flights twice daily. In 2013, the Abu Dhabi-Manila route was the second busiest (547,68 passengers) on Etihad’s global network.
Gulf carriers have been cashing in on rising passenger demand on the Philippines route as they expand their networks.
The sector has also attracted low cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ largest airline, which recently started non-stop services on the Dubai-Manila route.
Dubai carrier Emirates recently discontinued its service to the Philippines’ Clark International Airport despite being bullish about the route during its launch.
The airline said that the decision came “after a review of the airline’s operations to ensure the best utilisation of its aircraft fleet for its overall business objectives.”
Emirates’ service to Manila, where it continues to fly thrice daily, has been unaffected.