El Al and Etihad announce codeshare flights — here’s why it’s great news if you collect Membership Rewards

Jul 13, 2021

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Here’s some news you might not have expected a few years back.

Israeli flag carrier El Al and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad launched a new strategic pact. It includes a codeshare agreement and new reciprocal frequent flyer benefits for El Al Matmid and Etihad Guest members.

This news comes less than a year after Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a landmark deal to establish diplomatic relations.

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El Al and Etihad launch partnership

Starting 18 Jul 2021 El Al will add its “LY” code and start selling seats on Etihad’s twice-weekly flights between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Tel Aviv (TLV). Then, on 1 August, the partnership will expand to include destinations in Australia, Bahrain, India, Korea, the Philippines and Seychelles. In the next phase, the airlines hope to expand the partnership to 14 more destinations across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and U.S. by adding Etihad’s “EY” code to El Al flights.

Like any codeshare agreement, this partnership will offer passengers greater choice and make connections more seamless.

Related: Etihad just made the first-ever known airline flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel

But that’s not all.

Great news for Membership Rewards members

El Al and Etihad plan to also establish a reciprocal loyalty agreement. Members will be able to earn and redeem miles across both airlines through the EL AL Matmid and Etihad Guest programs. While details haven’t been revealed yet, there will likely also be reciprocal elite benefits.

This part of the news is especially exciting for points and miles enthusiasts in the United Kingdom. El Al’s Matmid programme is not a transfer of American Express Membership Rewards points. While you could transfer your U.K. Membership Rewards points to Qantas Frequent Flyer, which does partner with El Al, the redemption rates are high.

The new partnership means you will soon be able to transfer Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest, and then redeem them for flights on El Al. Etihad Guest generally has much more reasonable redemption rates, so if you are keen to fly El Al you’re likely to be much better off transferring your points to Etihad Guest, rather than Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Related: The ultimate guide to UK American Express Membership Rewards

El Al’s CEO Avigal Soreq explained, “This is the first commercial partnership that EL AL has established following the Abrahamic Accords. This is an important milestone as this codeshare will bring growing benefits to our passengers and to our respective airlines and countries. EL AL and Etihad teams have a common goal in this partnership, and we look forward to see it grow in the future.”

Bottom line

Overall, this announcement is great news for travellers heading to the Middle East. Both airlines significantly scaled back their route networks due to the pandemic, so travellers will benefit from the joint network. Israel-bound travellers might appreciate Etihad’s more premium inflight products and will have more ways to redeem points and miles for El Al flights.

Additional reporting by Ben Smithson.

Featured photo by KITTIKUN YOKSAP/Shutterstock.

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