Airberlin quits European trade group over its ‘protectionist policies’

Airberlin, part-owned by Etihad Airways, has withdrawn from the Association of European Airlines (AEA) trade group, blaming its “protectionist policies”.

It follows a similar move by British Airways and Iberia.

The airberlin chief executive Stefan Pichler joined the British Airways owner IAG in calling for aviation markets to be liberalised, saying that would promote consolidation and innovation, thereby benefiting all passengers, Reuters reported.

“With its current focus and representation of interests, the AEA is not fulfilling these ideas, but allowing itself to be driven by airlines which desperately try to erect a new wall around Europe,” Mr Pichler said in a statement yesterday.

Etihad, which owns 29 per cent of airberlin, has struggled to gain German backing of its codeshare flights with the German carrier.

Under a bilateral traffic agreement, UAE carriers can fly to only four airports in Germany – Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. Codeshares allow it to offer passengers bookings from other airports.

The European carriers Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, and some United States competitors, complain that the Arabian Gulf airlines are benefiting unfairly from interest-free government loans and cheap fuel. The Gulf carriers deny those accusations.

“Our partnership strategy enables us to work with other airlines to offer more flights, to more destinations with more connections,” said the Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan yesterday as the airline started a new service to Madrid.

* with Reuters

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