Etihad Airways launches legal appeal to protect airberlin investment and ensure consumer choice
Etihad Airways launched fresh legal action in a bid to overturn a German court's decision to revoke the approval for 29 of its codeshare flights with airberlin.
Last week, the Administrative Court of Braunschweig decided that the German Ministry of Transport was entitled to reject the 29 Etihad Airways - airberlin codeshares, which had been approved only until 15 January 2016.
As the notice of appeal was filed in the higher administrative court in Luneburg today, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, reiterated the airline's unwavering support for airberlin, saying it remained committed to the German carrier, to competition and to consumer choice for German travellers.
"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."
Mr Hogan said Etihad Airways' commitment to airberlin was in stark contrast to the lack of support demonstrated by the German Ministry of Transport for a proud German airline.
Etihad Airways took a 29.2 percent stake in airberlin in 2011, following encouragement from German regional and national Government representatives. The airlines had approval for codeshare services on a total of 63 air routes, providing German travellers with new choices to destinations around the world. In the summer of 2014, the German Ministry of Transport raised concerns about 29 of the codeshares, based on lobbying by Lufthansa, and in November 2015 only approved the 29 codeshares until 15 January 2016. The remaining codeshares remain unaffected.
Mr Hogan said: "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.
"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."
airberlin joins Etihad Airways' appeal to protect competition and consumer choice
airberlin filed notice to join Etihad Airways in its appeal against last week's decision of the Administrative Court of Braunschweig to revoke the approval for 29 of its codeshare flights with airberlin.
Stefan Pichler, Chief Executive Officer of airberlin said: "We are appealing against this decision because it does not serve the best interests of the travelling public. Indeed, the main beneficiary of the decision is Lufthansa.
"airberlin is Lufthansa's sole competitor in the German domestic market. We keep the competition honest, strong and effective as otherwise Lufthansa would have a monopoly which would be disastrous for German consumers.
"This is why we have today joined Etihad Airways' legal appeal lodged in the Lower Saxony Higher Administrative Court in Luneburg, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partner in this battle for consumer rights and greater choice for travellers into and through Germany."
airberlin confirmed it will honour all booked itineraries and that no passengers would suffer as a result of the dispute.
"We will remain a reliable partner for all of our customers, the travel trade as well as the corporates in Germany, continuing to offer an attractive global network together with our partners and leading edge products and services," Mr Pichler said.