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Thu 2 Apr 2015 02:17 PM

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Etihad wins approval to buy 33.3% stake in European airline

Abu Dhabi carrier welcomes decision of Swiss regulator but is critical of amount of time it took to reach decision

Etihad wins approval to buy 33.3% stake in European airline
James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways.

Etihad Airways on Thursday welcomed the decision of Switzerland's Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) to approve its 33.3 percent investment in the Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline.

Since January 2014, Lugano-based Darwin Airline has operated as Etihad Regional under a brand and partnership agreement with Etihad Airways.

FOCA's approval of the Etihad's investment now enables the two companies to leverage fully the benefits of their partnership, including codesharing on each other's flights within and beyond Europe, a statement said.

James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said the investment was in line with the growing trend of consolidation in the airline industry, to ensure the continuation of viable, reliable and stable air services, and to maximise flight connectivity.

Hogan said approval of the investment would enable Etihad Airways and Darwin Airline to work together more closely for the benefit of air travellers in Switzerland, across Europe, and beyond.

But he expressed disappointment that some opportunities for Etihad Airways and Etihad Regional had been diminished or lost because of the length of the regulatory review process, which prevented the introduction of important codeshare services designed to link and strengthen the networks of the two airlines.

"Because of the time taken to approve this partnership, and intense competition during this period, Etihad Regional has been forced to reduce or withdraw services on a number of routes, which were launched on the expectation that they would be supported by traffic flowing between the Etihad Airways global network and the Etihad Regional network in Europe," he said.

"Once formalities are completed to activate the investment, Etihad Regional will have much greater connectivity, not only with Etihad Airways but also with its other partners in Europe, including Alitalia, airberlin and Air Serbia."

The Swiss carrier said in October Etihad had agreed to relinquish a role in the appointment of top executives in order to secure approval for the deal.

In December, Darwin alleged Lufthansa-owned Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) had responded to the deal by engaging in a series of actions aimed at forcing the airline out of the Swiss market.

Darwin lodged a formal complaint with the Switzerland's competition commission. 

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