Etihad Airways has launched legal action in a bid to overturn a German court’s decision to revoke the approval for the 29 flights it codeshares with airberlin, which approval expires on 15 January 2016.
Etihad has argued that the court’s decision threatens competition and severely restricts consumer choice in the market. The airline filed a notice of appeal in the higher administrative court in Lüneburg today.
Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan said at the time of the filing:
“With airberlin, we are working to ensure that no traveller suffers as a result of this dispute, and all bookings will be honoured. 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.”
The CEO also criticised the German Ministry of Transport for what he characterised as a “lack of support” for “a proud German airline.”
“Together, airberlin and Etihad Airways have created new competitive choice for German travellers, based on codeshare services to international destinations that have operated for years without any concerns being raised as they are pro-competitive and increase consumer choice. That was entirely correct, given that they meet the terms of the air services agreement between Germany and the UAE – a fact confirmed not just by our own legal team and expert advisors but by a former Director-General of Civil Aviation for Germany,” said Hogan.
“Now, after four years of investing in Germany, supporting airberlin jobs as well as creating our own new employment in Germany, we find the rules have changed.
“As a global business, we focus our investments in markets which will deliver long-term returns. We were encouraged to invest in airberlin. However, since that initial investment, we have faced a series of significant challenges, including the introduction of airport taxes, which have directly eroded airberlin’s profitability.
“In other markets, such as Australia, India, Italy, Serbia and the Seychelles, our investments have been welcomed and supported. Yet in Germany, our commitment continues to be undermined by the lobbying efforts and protectionist tactics of Lufthansa, the national airline.
“Unless the German government can show its commitment to support all German companies and German jobs, its reputation as a safe country in which to invest is at stake. Investors need every reassurance that the integrity of their investments in Germany will be respected and protected.
“Etihad Airways is but one investor in one industry. But our experience will serve as a warning to others when it comes to making international investment decisions.
“Make no mistake. Protectionism will undoubtedly harm the investment landscape in Germany.”
Etihad Airways owns a 29.2 per cent stake in airberlin since 2011, an investment it indicates was encouraged by German regional and national Government representatives.
The airlines had received approval for codeshare services on a total of 63 air routes, but, in the summer of 2014, the German Ministry of Transport raised concerns over 29 of these codeshares. Etihad attributes this to lobbying by Lufthansa.
In November 2015, the German Ministry of Transport only approved these 29 codeshares through 15 January 2016. The remaining codeshares are unaffected.