Etihad partners with Visa on loyalty programme

Etihad Airways has announced a new partnership with Visa to extend its financial services offering internationally. The tie-up with Visa allows the airline to use its data to target the best international banks that suit its customers and its brand.

It will target Serbia and Saudi Arabia next year, driving its financial services offerings to international customers that are within easy reach of Etihad and its codeshare partners. The Abu Dhabi carrier took a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia in August 2013.

The airline has offered a credit card, Etihad Guest, through Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank for the past eight years, and the offers and incentives have increased loyalty and driven passenger footfall.

Serbia has no loyalty cards in the market and is, therefore, a prime candidate for rewards and offers, said Darren Peisley, the chief executive of Hala Group, which manages Etihad Group’s loyalty programmes.

“We expect a 20 per cent jump in the amount spent on Etihad Guest over the next 12 months,” Mr Peisley said. “We are currently in discussions for a third issuer in the UAE, which we expect to announce soon. While the rewards are substantive it’s a marketing exercise that will eventually lead to credit card customers buying more Etihad air tickets.”

Etihad Guest is offered across four levels with an annual subscription of between Dh1,000 and Dh2,000, depending on the card chosen, and offers between 150,000 and 200,000 air miles, the equivalent of a business class return flight to Eur­ope, on sign-up.

The airline sector is coming under increasing pressure as low oil prices, global terrorism and a strong dollar hit the demand and desire to travel.

The International Air Transport Association explained the number crunch Gulf airlines face. It said Middle Eastern carriers posted a 10.3 per cent traffic increase in August, while capacity climbed by 13.7 per cent, resulting in a 2.5 percentage point fall in load factor to 81.2 per cent. However, Etihad’s new marketing push into Saudi Arabia could reap dividends.

“Targeting the Saudi market first is a deft move,” said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst for StrategicAero Research. “Customers in the kingdom vie for high-class standards and service and coupled with Etihad’s brand and quality, many Saudis will certainly enrol in this programme going forward. That said, there will always be an element of price-sensitive customers, who have loyalty only to cheap flights and not much else.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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