Etihad Airways said this week it would “fight all the way” to protect its 29 per cent investment in airberlin, slamming a German ruling to revoke some of the codeshares it operates with the carrier as “protectionism” by Germany and its main carrier Lufthansa.
James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad, said: “We will fight all the way to protect our investment, to protect our partnership with airberlin and to protect competitive choice in German air travel.” He added that the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s experience should “serve as a warning to others” seeking to make investments in Germany.
“In Germany, our commitment continues to be undermined by the lobbying efforts and protectionist tactics of Lufthansa, the national airline,” Hogan said. “Make no mistake. Protectionism will undoubtedly harm the investment landscape in Germany.”
Etihad has filed a notice of appeal in a higher administrative court in Lüneburg, following the ruling by the Administrative Court of Braunschweig which ruled that the country’s ministry of transport was entitled to stop Etihad from selling tickets on some routes operated by Germany’s second-largest airline.
The court ruled that Etihad would not be able to operate codeshares on some flights from 16 January to the end of its winter schedule in March, because they were not supported by the aviation services agreement between the UAE and Germany.
Etihad said in a statement that the German transport ministry had previously approved the codeshare agreement between it and airberlin covering 63 routes. However, in the summer of 2014, the ministry of transport first raised concerns about 29 of the codeshares, based on “lobbying by Lufthansa”, Etihad said. In November, the ministry approved the 29 codeshares to continue only until 15 January this year.
During the past year Etihad and its Gulf neighbours Emirates and Qatar Airways have been under increasing regulatory scrutiny amid allegations from US and European rivals of unfair practices in breach of open skies agreements such as government subsidies. The Gulf carriers deny the accusations saying they are being targeted for providing a superior and more efficient service that legacy carriers are simply unable to compete with.