Airline Roundup: New Alliances, New Routes & More

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A roundup of some of the latest news in the airline world including new alliances being formed, old alliances being reconfirmed, a new route to Cuba for European flyers and an increase in Asia – Chicago services.

Malaysia Airlines & Emirates Partnership

One of the biggest pieces of news coming out of the airline industry in the past week has been the new partnership between Malaysia Airlines and Emirates. Malaysia Airlines has been some truly torrid times over the past few years and has turned to Christoph Mueller to turn them around. Part of that tun-around process has been to rebrand, part of it has been to downsize and part has been to look for strategic alliances to help it get back on its fleet.

To that effect Malaysia Airlines and Emirates have announced a new code-share agreement that will connect Malaysia Airlines passengers to more than 90 destinations in the Emirates network. Malaysia Airlines will cease most of its long haul services (Amsterdam & Paris services are cut from 26 January) and, instead, it will feed its traffic through Emirates (and, to a lesser extent, KLM).

Emirates & Malaysia AirlinesImages courtesy of Flickr

The codeshare agreement with Emirates kicks in on 1 February 2016 and could be an interesting option for OneWorld flyers. Emirates has a similar codeshare agreement with another OneWorld airline, Qantas, and Emirates operated flights booked under a Qantas flight number earn miles in loyalty programs such as AAdvantage (see this FlyerTalk post). Let’s hope the same will apply to Emirates flights booked under a Malaysia Airlines flight number.

With Emirates often offering really good Business Class fares between Europe and Asia, this could end up being a boon for OneWorld flyers. They’d get to fly in a good bit of style and comfort while still earning redeemable miles and status miles in the OneWorld loyalty program of their choosing.

China Eastern To Fly Daily To Chicago

China Eastern (a SkyTeam airline) was due to commence a 3 x weekly service between Shanghai (PVG) and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) from 18 March 2016. However, their latest schedule release sees the airline shows the airline increasing that to a daily service.

The airline has files the following schedule for its new daily route:

MU717 PVG 11:40 – 12:40 ORD
MU718 ORD 15:00 – 19:10+1 day PVG

China Eastern will be flying its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on this route which features a 3-class service.

China Eastern Economy Class

The bad news is that the Economy Class cabin on China Eastern’s 777-300’s has been configured with 10-across seating so the seat width is a truly horrible 17″ but Economy Class passengers will get a little respite with the seat pitch which is listed at 32-33″ (1″ more than a lot of other airlines offer).

The airline offers 52 flat-bed seats in its 777-300 Business Class cabin and 6 “suites” in its First Class cabin.

Austrian Airlines New Route To Havana

Austrian Airlines has announced a new, albeit limited, route to Havana, Cuba.

The Stat Alliance airline will fly one of its 767-300ER aircraft between Vienna (VIE) and Havana (HAV) once a week from 25 October 2016 and the planned schedule is as follows:

OS023 VIE 10:15 – 16:25 HAV
OS024 HAV 18:10 – 10:50+1 day VIE

The Austrian press release describes the flight as “part of the airline’s winter flight schedule” so, presumably, this is to be a seasonal route. This will be the airline’s first Caribbean route since it dropped the Vienna-Punta Cana route back in 2010 and it will be the 6th increase in service to Havana that we’ve seen announced this year.

Interestingly (to me) the Vienna – Havana route is almost exactly the same distance as the London – Los Angeles route (5,452 miles v 5,456 miles) but while the Los Angeles route usually take no longer than 11 hours in a 777, Austrian has estimated the time from Vienna to Havana at 12 hours 10 minutes!

Tickets are already on sale for this route starting at around $855 (£570/€799) for a round trip.

Virgin Australia & Etihad Extend Alliance

It’s been a week of alliance announcements for the Middle Eastern carriers as Etihad and Virgin Australia announced the extension of their alliance for a further 5 years.

The two airlines codeshare on flights to 90 destinations spread across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East and Etihad holds a 25% stake in Virgin Australia too.

Virgin Australia 777Image courtesy of Aero Icarus via Flickr

The alliance has been extended after getting the go-ahead from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who noted that the link-up between the two airlines is important to competition in the Australian market. Without this alliance, Virgin Australia would find itself at a considerable disadvantage to its major Australian rival, Qantas, who has its own alliance with Emirates.