Etihad Airbus A380 jet in flight. Photo: TradeArabia.

LONDON – Abu-Dhabi’s Etihad Airways confirmed over the weekend an extension of an agreement with its competitor, the Dubai-based Emirates, allowing its pilots to transfer over to Dubai for as long as two years.

According to an internal memo from Etihad, its pilots can now fly for Emirates and receive full benefits and salaries but would have to take a leave of absence from Etihad.

The pilots who transfer over will retain their seniority at Etihad.

This move comes following a previous announcement made in January where the two groups signed a deal to cooperate in aviation security.

Etihad and Emirates have both denied speculation that a merger would happen.

“The opportunity will see these pilots that successfully complete the Emirates selection process seconded to Emirates for two years, upon completion of line training,” said the June 21 memo from Captain Majed Al Marzouqi, Etihad’s VP of fleet operation.

“We will be organizing a roadshow at Etihad Airways Headquarters where the Emirates requirement team will be available to discuss further details about this opportunity,” he added.

A spokesperson for Etihad said that “It is common practice for airlines to work together on secondment programmes and this is something Etihad Airways has done for several years with partner airlines around the world.”

The spokesperson added that the “secondment programme, allows airlines to effectively manage their pilot resources”.

Winning Cooperation

For both airlines, this is a win-win trade. For Emirates, it will be set to mitigate the current pilot shortage they are experiencing; whereas for Etihad, they will have a significant portion of their most expensive workforce transferred over to Dubai.

Although Etihad’s pilots can only join Emirates for two years, it will give the Dubai-based carrier enough time to find more permanent pilots to fill the current void, which will ensure that they do not have to store additional aircraft while new pilots join the airline.

As far as Etihad is concerned, Emirates will be taking over the pilot’s salaries.

This means that Etihad can establish cost-cutting techniques over that two year period and focus on its financial restructuring.

Etihad posted a $1.52 billion loss in 2017 but has come down since the $1.95 billion loss posted in 2016.

Etihad has reduced its fleet to 115 planes from 119 a year earlier and has axed some routes as a result.

It is expected that the same reduction in fleets and route networks will continue over the next few years.

It is, however, unclear how many pilots from Etihad are going to sign up for this move, as the carrier is still gauging the support for this motion from its pilots.

Etihad will be hoping for as many pilots in the airline to take up this opportunity so then they can cost-cut even further.