In what might be seen as a shot across the bow regarding European open skies as 2016 begins, a German court in the state of Lower Saxony has ruled against extending 31 of Etihad Airways’ winter 2015/16 code-shared routes with partner Air Berlin.
Etihad, which owns a 30 percent stake in Germany’s second largest carrier, said the move could cause severe financial damage to the floundering Air Berlin. The agreement had allowed Air Berlin to offer long-haul service and, at the same time, gave Etihad valuable access to German air hubs. Revenue from the agreement is worth approximately US$153.4 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The two nonstop routes that may be affected are Abu Dhabi to Stuttgart, and Abu Dhabi to Berlin-Tegel, said ch-aviation. Under the court order, Etihad and Air Berlin must stop the flights beginning Jan. 16, 2016, carrying through the end of the current winter schedule, which ends March 26. Previously booked code-share flights will operate as planned, Air Berlin said. Another 50 routes that the carriers offer on a code-sharing basis are unaffected by the ruling.
“Etihad Airways is deeply disappointed by the German court’s decision,” said James Hogan, Etihad’s CEO. “The social and economic damage to Germany by this decision is significant.” Etihad said it will appeal the ruling next week.
The German transport ministry filed a case against Air Berlin and Etihad, questioning the legality of the 31 routes and claiming that the partnership wasn’t covered under a bilateral air-services agreement with the United Arab Emirates, where Etihad is based.
An Air Berlin union has warned in the past that, without the agreement, the future of Air Berlin, as well as about 8,000 jobs, are at risk. The UAE General Civil Aviation will be meeting soon with Etihad Airways to discuss the issue and whether or not the government should step in to help.