Etihad is in the middle of a dispute on aviation rights between Germany and the UAE
Germany gave Etihad Airways a final deadline to end code-sharing on 31 routes with Air Berlin, saying that the Emirati carrier must find an alternative solution for the connections by January 15.
The decision comes after a court in Braunschweig gave Etihad up until November 8 to end the code-share agreement. Germany’s transport ministry said on Friday it extended the decision further to avoid “inconveniencing any passengers who have already bought tickets on the affected routes.”
Etihad is in the middle of a dispute on aviation rights between Germany and the UAE. Passengers of both airlines have already booked 82,000 trips on the routes affected, Etihad said.
Air Berlin spokesman Uwe Kattwinkel declined to comment.
Air Berlin and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, its biggest shareholder, were granted temporary permission a year ago for code-sharing on more than 30 flights, which enables them to book seats on each other’s planes and split revenue. While the clearance was set expire when the winter timetable begins today, the airlines have already been selling code-share tickets for the new schedule. The German company’s labour representatives told government officials that blocking the sales-sharing deal’s extension will put Air Berlin’s existence at risk, according to a letter to North Rhine-Westphalia state Transport Minister Michael Groschek obtained by Bloomberg.
The UAE views its current airline-rights agreement as allowing code-sharing, Saif al-Sowaidi, director general of the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority, said by phone on Thursday. “The German interpretation of the code-share issue is incorrect, and we can support our point of view,” al-Sowaidi said.
Air Berlin has reported an annual profit only once in the past seven years. Chief executive officer Stefan Pichler said in July that the carrier will still post a loss in 2015 as a turnaround effort will take six to nine months to bear fruit.
Revenue from code-sharing about matches the €140mn ($159mn) the airline pays yearly in German aviation taxes, so cancelling the rights could result in the airline’s collapse, Air Berlin’s works council leaders said in the letter. Copies of the document were also sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
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