Etihad Airways continues to build its presence in Australasia with the signing of an extensive codeshare agreement with Air New Zealand.

The new codeshare deal offers Etihad customers a wealth of new flight options to cities in New Zealand’s North and South Islands and includes Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The new codeshare services will go on sale from the end of February 2011, subject to regulatory approvals, with travel from the start of the Northern Summer schedule at the end of March.

The agreement will integrate Air New Zealand Airpoints and Etihad’s Etihad Guest loyalty programs, enabling customers able to earn and spend miles on each other’s flights.

The codeshare strengthens Etihad’s commitment to Australasia and complements Etihad’s alliance with Virgin Blue, which came into effect in 2010 and opened up 44 new destinations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to Etihad customers.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “This new codeshare illustrates Etihad’s growing ambitions in the Asia Pacific region. It opens up five key destinations in New Zealand that we have been eager to offer our customers for a long time and we are certain the connections and seamless flight experience offered by Etihad and Air New Zealand will appeal to business and leisure travellers.”

Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer said: “This arrangement with Etihad Airways further extends connectivity options for our customers through to Europe as well as providing opportunities to further grow passenger numbers for our trans-Tasman and domestic services.”

The deal will see Etihad’s ‘EY’ code placed on Air New Zealand flights between Sydney and the cities of Christchurch, Rotorua, Wellington and Queenstown. The ‘EY’ will also be placed on Air New Zealand flights between Brisbane and Auckland; and Brisbane and Christchurch; as well as between Beijing and Auckland.

The ‘EY’ code will also be placed on Air New Zealand flights into Melbourne from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Air New Zealand’s will place their ‘NZ’ code on all Etihad’s flights to London Heathrow, and its 11 flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, three flights a week to Brisbane, seven flights a week to Melbourne and three flights a week from Beijing to Abu Dhabi.