South African Airways (SAA) and Etihad Airways have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) allowing the two airlines to introduce a comprehensive range of codeshare and interline air services as well as explore synergy and efficiency opportunities.

Initially South African Airways will place its ‘SA’ code on 12 Etihad Airways destinations flying from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier’s Abu Dhabi home-base. Additional cities in the Middle East, Asia and India will be added as the necessary approvals are secured.

In return Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ code on flights from Johannesburg to 10 SAA destinations across South Africa, Africa and South America.

The agreement also makes provision for passengers to earn and redeem miles through the airlines’ frequent flyer programmes.

Secondary phases of the cooperation agreement will explore code sharing to more cities, closer synergies and efficiencies in the key commercial areas of procurement, ground handling as well as training.

The first phase of the agreement will see the ‘SA’ code placed on the Etihad Airways flights between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi, as well as on flights to 12 cities on Etihad Airways’ worldwide network that includes destinations in the Middle East, and South America.

Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ code on South African Airways’ flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth, as well as to Livingston, Lusaka, Ndola, Harare, and Victoria Falls. Outside the African continent Etihad Airways will place its code on South African Airways flights to Sao Paulo.

Collectively, the two airline groups expect to carry more than 20 million passengers in 2013.

The agreed cooperation between the two airlines is in line with Etihad Airways’ highly successful global alliance strategy in which the Abu Dhabi-based airline works with partner airlines to identify potential areas of cost savings as well as opportunities to achieve economies of scale.