By Shane McGinley
Etihad-backed carrier claims has suffered damages over delay in new Berlin Airport
Airberlin, the loss-making German carrier in which Etihad Airways owns a 29 percent stake, is considering legal action against the government-backed Berlin Brandenburg Airport if it is not suitably compensated for the costs it has incurred as a result of the ongoing delay in the opening of the new airport, the airline’s CEO told reporters.
The Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, which is being built at a cost of
€2.5bn (US$3.2bn), has already been delayed twice and the opening has now been pushed back to at least March 2013.
The government-backed airport was to replace Berlin’s three existing airports and was to be the main hub for airberlin, Germany’s second biggest airline.
The delayed opening has heaped further costs on the loss-making carrier, which earlier this month saw its losses for the first three months of 2012 widen to €66.2m (US$81.8m), compared with a year-earlier loss of €43.9m.
Jürgen Pieper, an analyst at private bank Metzler, estimated the delays were costing airberlin around $6m a month, the Spiegel German news agency reported. While CEO Hartmut Mehdorn refused to confirm the exact figure, he dismissed the situation as “a mess” and said the carrier would pursue legal action if it was adequately compensated for the losses it has incurred.
“We are in talks with the Berlin Brandenburg Airport. We think they have to reimburse… if they don’t do this we go to court,” he said in an interview at the carrier’s headquarters in Berlin.
Mehdorn also dismissed reports which have suggested the delays are due to fire-safety tests which needed to be completed and blamed the government inadequacy for pushing back of the official opening.
“It is not the fire regulations. It is a big mess… It is politicians trying to build an airport. They should let guys who know about airports to build big projects.
“There are 82 million Germans available and I bet you will find 20 who have enough experience in constructing such as airport. Politicians are short-term thinkers and they just think about re-election and nothing else,” he said.
Despite the carrier’s equity plummeting by about two-thirds to €101.3m by the end of June, its stock price dropping by almost a quarter this year and its losses rising, Mehdorn is still confident he can return airberlin to the black before his contract ends at the end of 2013.
“We are still saying [that] in the year 2013 we will be back to profit and then we will have to see how we develop in the future,” he said.
This entire project serves as an example, how not to do it. Shame on those involved and those who delayed the project, politicians and environmentalists alike...