Germany's transport ministry has granted temporary approval for 31 disputed codeshares between Air Berlin and shareholder Etihad Airways, but is demanding that the two carriers adapt their co-operation.
Out of 83 codeshares Etihad applied to conduct with Air Berlin as part of the winter 2015/2016 schedule, Germany's federal ministry of transport and digital infrastructure had deemed 31 not be covered by a bilateral with the UAE.
But in a last-minute move before the winter schedule began on 25 October, the contested services were cleared until 15 January 2016 in order, says the ministry, to avoid disruptions for passengers who had already booked flights.
The ministry stresses that the codeshares in question have been approved for the last time.
It sees the temporary clearance giving Air Berlin and Etihad "sufficient time" to find an "organisational solution", such as downgrading of the codeshares to an interlining agreement.
Etihad had, on 23 October, won a temporary injunction from an administrative court in Braunschweig to temporarily implement the codeshares until 8 November.
The Abu Dhabi carrier says it was "forced" to launch legal action as "failure by the German government to approve the codeshares in time would severely and possibly terminally damage Air Berlin". Etihad adds that the codeshares were "a key reason that we invested in Air Berlin".
In 2011, Etihad acquired a 29% stake in the German carrier.
Air Berlin accuses the transport ministry of having delayed bilateral negotiations with the UAE's aviation authority, forcing a rush to find an 11th-hour solution.
After the two countries met for initial discussions in October 2014, a second meeting was planned for December that year but, for what Air Berlin sees as "incomprehensible reasons", did not take place until June 2015.
The two sides met again in August, but the next meeting did not happen until mid-October. Air Berlin says no agreement could be reached because the German transport ministry insisted on schedule changes by the two airlines and made additional demands "beyond the codeshare question" that were "irrelevant" to the dispute.
Source: Cirium Dashboard