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Mon 4 Jan 2016 03:30 PM

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Etihad launches legal action in bid to overturn Air Berlin ruling

Abu Dhabi carrier says commitment to Germany continues to be undermined by the lobbying efforts and protectionist tactics of Lufthansa

Etihad launches legal action in bid to overturn Air Berlin ruling

Etihad Airways on Monday 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 Air Berlin.

Last week, the Administrative Court of Braunschweig ruled that the German Ministry of Transport could reject the 29 Etihad Airways - Air Berlin codeshares, which had been approved only until January 15.‎

As the notice of appeal was filed in the higher administrative court in Lüneburg, Etihad Airways president and CEO James Hogan reiterated the airline’s support for Air Berlin, saying it remained committed to the German carrier.

“With Air Berlin, 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 Air Berlin and to protect competitive choice in German air travel,” he said in a statement.

Hogan said Etihad Airways’ commitment to Air Berlin 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 Air Berlin 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 only approved the 29 codeshares until January 15 2016. The remaining codeshares remain unaffected.

Hogan said: “Together, Air Berlin 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 Air Berlin 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 Air Berlin. However, since that initial investment, we have faced a series of significant challenges, including the introduction of airport taxes, which have directly eroded Air Berlin’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.”

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