By Ed Attwood
Luneberg court decision approves 94% of Abu Dhabi airline's requested codeshares with partner Air Berlin
The decision of a German court to allow Etihad Airways to continue with the majority of codeshare routes with partner Air Berlin has been hailed as a victory for competition by the airline’s president.
The judgement appears to bring to an end a long-running dispute between German authorities and the UAE's flag-carrier.
In a statement, the Abu Dhabi carrier said that it welcomed the ruling, and that it expected to continue with its planned codeshares beyond the winter schedule.
The higher administrative court approved 26 of the 31 codeshares in question. Together with the 50 approved codeshares already in place, 76 of the 81 codeshares have now been approved, Etihad said in a statement.
The five routes that have not been approved are all German domestic routes.
“We are pleased with the ruling which confirms 94 percent of Etihad Airways’ codeshares,” Etihad president and CEO James Hogan said in the statement.
“This ruling is a victory for consumers and competition in Germany.
“We remain strongly committed to our strategic partner, airberlin, and will redouble our efforts to provide a strong competitive alternative to the dominant German carrier, Lufthansa.”
The court said the international routes could continue as they were in accordance with a bilateral agreement struck between Germany and Abu Dhabi in 2000.
Code share flights allow carriers to jointly market a route, allowing them to expand their network and help fill their planes. Etihad says code shares were a key reason why it invested in loss-making Air Berlin in 2012.
But the German government said in 2014 that some of the previous approved code shares were not covered by a traffic rights agreement between Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
It said late last year it would approve about 29 disputed routes for the final time until Jan. 15, a decision that was backed by a lower court in Brunswick.
Etihad, which owns 29 percent of Air Berlin, had sought to appeal that decision and gain a temporary injunction to allow the code shares to continue at least until the end of the winter flight schedule.