Dubai: Over a year after signing their first partnership deal together, Emirates airline and Etihad Airways said they have extended their cooperation to areas of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO).

An Emirates spokesperson confirmed to Gulf News that the company provides “ad hoc MRO support to a number of airlines, including Etihad, as per standard industry practice.”

The carriers did not elaborate on the extent of their MRO cooperation, but at a conference in Dubai in February, an executive from Etihad Airways Engineering cited use of spare parts between the two.

Shevantha Weerasekera, head of engineering technical services at Etihad Airways Engineering, said the companies are “already working together” and if Etihad needs any components for MRO, the first contact is Emirates, and within an hour or two, it will receive them.

When contacted, an Etihad spokesperson said the company services “many third-party clients” but would not confirm Emirates as one of those clients.

The comment from Emirates is the first to mention any cooperation with Etihad in MRO after signing a deal in January 2018 to cooperate in aviation security. The deal marked the first between the two aviation giants and fuelled further speculation about a merger of the two — rumours that Emirates and Etihad both repeatedly denied.

Earlier this year, however, Emirates Group confirmed that dnata, the air services unit operating under its umbrella, is to manage Etihad Airways’ contact centres. The deal marked the first time that Etihad has appointed a third party to manage its contact centres.

John Strickland, aviation expert and director of JLS Consulting in London, said cooperation between Etihad and Emirates on MRO would make sense, given the similarities the two have in their fleets, which are abundant with Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s.

Strickland said that if the two were looking at ways to explore their synergies, MRO would be a “natural one”, but stressed that such work must be part of detailed plans and implementation, as it would take time to work out.