Etihad hits back over stake-buying strategy

Chief executive: “We are bringing competition in the market”

Etihad Airways’ chief executive says its strategy of buying stakes in airlines in Europe was aimed not at controlling the airlines but at bringing fresh competition to the region.

James Hogan made the comment on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi. It comes as the European Commission investigates whether Etihad’s investments comply with EU ownership rules. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has holdings in Air Berlin, Air Lingus and Air Serbia and is considering taking a chunk of loss-making Alitalia too. The strategy helps to feed traffic into its hub.

“We are bringing competition in the market,” Hogan said. “Some legacy carriers are using the European Commission to challenge us rather than challenge us through competition. We are open with our strategy. We can’t own or control any carrier because of bilateral ownership rules.”

The commission is also looking at Delta Air Lines’ holding in Virgin Atlantic.

To have an operating license in the EU as a European airline, a carrier must be more than 50% owned and “effectively controlled” by an EU member state or EU citizens.


[photo courtesy Etihad Airways]