BERLIN // Etihad Airways says it will not be rushed into deciding on a possible investment in the struggling Italian carrier Alitalia.
“It is still in early days. We are working on the process,” James Hogan, Etihad’s president and chief executive, said in Berlin yesterday.
“What is important in any transaction is that you undertake your due diligence and ensure if you are going to invest, there is a clear plan to move to profitability. We will not be rushed into making a decision.”
Yesterday’s press conference marked Etihad’s plans to build up its partnership with airberlin, in which the Abu Dhabi carrier holds a 29.2 per cent stake.
Media reports in December had said that Etihad would be buying a stake in Alitalia to save the Italian airline from its financial hardship.
For Etihad, about 20 per cent of its revenue comes via codeshare agreements and equity partners.
Besides the German investment, Etihad owns a 40 per cent stake in Air Seychelles, a 19.9 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, a 49 per cent in Air Serbia, a 3 per cent stake in Ireland’s Aer Lingus and 24 per cent in India’s Jet Airways.
Despite airberlin not yet being profitable, Mr Hogan said: “We are confident that airberlin is on the right path back to profitability.”
The two airlines, which already operate 42 weekly flights between destinations in Germany and Abu Dhabi, said that they would increase their weekly flights to 49 next month when a second daily flight to Munich was scheduled to start.
They will also start a commercial campaign in the first quarter to promote the new partnership logo in Germany, and yesterday unveiled a plane with shared livery.
Mr Hogan also said that Etihad was keen on increasing its landing slots in London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest airport by passenger traffic.
“We operate today three times a day through Heathrow. We are very keen to acquire a fourth place via a fourth service at Heathrow. We are working with the authorities to try and achieve that,” Mr Hogan said.
He further told The National that an Abu Dhabi-based pre-customs clearance for passengers going to the United States still awaited the approval of the American authorities. Etihad and Abu Dhabi airport officials were ready for the transition, he said.
“It’s in the hands of the US authorities, so once the US authorities give approval, we are set to go,” he said. “This is a great service for travellers. The US government has already endorsed it in principle. They see the attractiveness of the pre-clearance. I just can’t wait to take advantage of it,” he added.