A German court decision looks set to deprive Etihad Airways from mid-January of some of the routes it currently code-shares with Air Berlin, Germanys second-biggest airline.
Etihad has lost the first round of a court case but says it will appeal the ruling.
An administrative court last week backed Germany’s federal aviation authority (LBA) in refusing to extend Etihad’s code-shares on 29 routes beyond 15 January 2016. The LBA had ruled that Etihad’s proposed code-shares did not comply with the bilateral aviation agreement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Etihad is based.
The ruling comes against a simmering background dispute which pits European and US carriers against Middle Eastern and Gulf airlines, and centres on allegations of government subsidies. The Gulf carriers deny they are subsidised or compete unfairly with European and US airlines.
Last week’s German court ruling leaves untouched another 52 connections shared with Air Berlin, German news service Deutsche Welle reports.
Etihad had sought extensions for the disputed routes until late March when its winter timetable ends.
A German transport ministry spokesman said the UAE had repeatedly been offered talks to bring its aviation ties with Germany into compliance, as Brussels sought overall aviation competition improvement between the EU and the Gulf region.
Etihad and Air Berlin have reassured passengers that flights already booked on the routes in question will operate as scheduled.
Air Berlin (which styles itself airberlin for branding and marketing purposes) said: “We regret the decision of the Braunschweig Administrative Court. Our customers will not be affected. All previously booked Etihad Airways/airberlin codeshare flights will operate as planned.
“Our prospective joint flight schedule remains unchanged and bookable. In addition, all flights via Abu Dhabi and connecting to the worldwide Etihad Airways network will continue to be marketed jointly. We continue to stand for competition in Germany and a better product offering for our customers.
“Our partner Etihad Airways continues to stand behind airberlin, and we will support Etihad Airways in all measures.”
Etihad stated: “We are reviewing the judgement and will file an appeal against the decision early next week.
“Etihad Airways owns 29.2% of airberlin, Germany’s second largest airline. The social and economic damage to Germany by this decision is significant.
“The withdrawal of approval for codeshare services on 29 routes materially reduces competition and consumer choice within and beyond Germany and causes inconvenience to passengers. Notwithstanding, we will continue to stand by our partner, airberlin, to promote competition and offer a superior product and travel experience.
“We will continue to honour all booked itineraries.”
Written by Peter Needham