Etihad appeals ‘protectionist’ German codeshare ban decision

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Etihad Airways and airberlin are appealing the German government decision to reject 29 codeshares, accusing it of caving into protectionist tactics and lobbying from Lufthansa.

The Administrative Court of Braunschweig agreed the German Ministry of Transport was entitled to reject the codeshares. A notice of appeal has been filed in the higher administrative court in Luneburg, with Etihad saying it is committed to doing business in Germany.

Etihad Airways president and chief executive officer (CEO), James Hogan says: “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.”

Airberlin CEO, Stefan Pichler says Lufthansa would be the biggest benefactor of the codeshare ban. “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.”

Etihad took a 29.2 per cent stake in airberlin in 2011 with encouragement from German regional and national government representatives. Hogan says the codeshare had operated for years without any concerns over competition or consumer choice.

Hogan says: “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.”

He says since the initial investment, Etihad has faced challenges such as airport taxes. Hogan says similar investments in countries such as Australia, India, Italy, Serbia and the Seychelles have been welcomed. “Yet in Germany, our commitment continues to be undermined by the lobbying efforts and protectionist tactics of Lufthansa, the national airline.”

Hogan says Germany’s reputation as a safe country to invest in is at stake if it cannot continue the codeshares. “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.”