It’s been a long time coming. Etihad is trying to convince freight operators that its cargo business is viable, with just four freighters. Nobody is buying it. A theme that runs through the whole airline at present.
Etihad is under huge financial pressure still, but Emirates isn’t interested in the entire airline, just its long haul operations, so says the current business rumours.
Etihad has lost billions, much of it wasted in trying to prop up collapsed AirBerlin and the still unresolved future of Alitalia.
The whole process is under a great deal of domestic pressure. Dubai, where Emirates is based and Abu Dhabi where Etihad is based, are both senior members of the United Arab Emirates and the largest states in the confederation.
Both states have faced ever growing pressures that being competitors in so many ways, from Aluminium extraction through to their respective stock exchanges, has been counter-productive and the mergers of the aluminium combine has already happened, stock market merger talks are well under way. The airlines seem to be an inevitable part of that process.
There is too much competition in the Gulf, and Emirates and Etihad are physically barely 60 miles apart in terms of destinations, fighting for the same transit customer, with Qatar just a short distance away, and seriously bad blood and attitudes between them.
Any merger would create the worlds largest airline by passenger numbers, and almost certainly have big implications for Boeing and Airbus orders. It’s unlikely the brands would continue separately or they would continue to compete, so Etihad’s days as an independent airline are looking seriously numbered.
At the moment many of the decision makers are keeping quiet, but lack of denials and common sense indicate the inevitable, may well this time come to pass.