Etihad Airways said on Thursday it was disappointed by the decision taken by American Airlines to terminate a code-share deal between the two carriers, adding that it remained committed to the US market despite the termination.
“We view the decision by American Airlines as being anti-competitive and anti-consumer. This action will reduce choices for consumers and may result in higher fares for travellers to and from the United States,” an Etihad Airways spokesperson said.
American Airlines on Wednesday ended code-share deals with Etihad Airways as well as Qatar Airways, saying the termination of the code-share agreement is effective from March 25, 2018. The move comes amid an ongoing feud over what American Airlines claims are illegal subsidies received by Gulf carriers from their respective governments.
American, Delta Airlines and United Airlines filed a report in 2015 claiming that the three major Gulf carriers received billions of dollars in government subsidies to allow them to compete unfairly and take up market share. The Gulf carriers, including Emirates, have long denied those claims.
“Etihad Airways and many of the leading consumer and business groups in the United States have categorically rejected the allegations of American and the two other dominant US carriers regarding violations of the relevant air transportation agreements,” Etihad’s spokesperson said, adding that Etihad’s six daily flights to the US in no way threaten American Airlines, which, together with its regional partner American Eagle, operates 6,700 daily flights to 50 countries.
Analysts said the decision to terminate the deal is likely due to Qatar Airways’ attempts to purchase a stake in American Airlines. The Doha-based carrier in late June expressed interest to acquire a 10 per cent stake in the US carrier despite the disputes.
“It would appear that this move has been triggered by Qatar’s plans to acquire a stake in American which has not been welcomed by the management,” said John Strickland, aviation analyst and director at London-based JLS Consulting.
He added, “The termination of the deal is a negative step for passengers, reducing travel and booking options, and is likely to have an adverse impact on traffic flows between a number of US secondary cities and points in the Gulf.”
In its statement on Thursday, Etihad said it remained committed to American passengers, and that it is taking all possible measures to ensure passengers are not harmed by the decision. It did not, however, elaborate on what those measures may be.
“We will continue our interline relationship with American Airlines to help ensure continued connectivity to secondary markets,” Etihad said in its statement.
Etihad Airways has had a code-share relationship with American since 2009.