Swiss Authorities Clear Etihad Stake in Darwin Airline

Regulators in Switzerland have approved the purchase by Etihad Airways of a one-third stake in Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline. The Lugano-based company, which operates a fleet of 14 Saab 2000 and ATR 72 turboprops, has operated since January 2014 as Etihad Regional under a brand and partnership agreement with the Abu Dhabi-based carrier.

While Etihad president and CEO James Hogan noted the approval will enable Etihad and Darwin to work more closely “for the benefit of air travelers in Switzerland, across Europe and beyond,” he expressed disappointment about the length of the regulatory review process (16 months to approve the transaction), a delay that he said prevented the carriers from introducing codeshare services designed to link and strengthen their networks. “Because of the time taken to approve this partnership, and intense competition during this period, Etihad Regional has been forced to reduce or withdraw services on a number of routes which were launched on the expectation that they would be supported by traffic flowing between the Etihad Airways global network and the Etihad Regional network in Europe,” said Hogan.

In January, Darwin announced that it would cease scheduled flights on several routes as it combated what it described in a formal complaint to Switzerland’s competition authority as “abusive and anticompetitive” behavior by Lufthansa and its Swiss International subsidiary, aimed at driving it from the Swiss market. According to Darwin, such behaviors included launching Swiss International services on Darwin Airline routes, more than doubling capacity on routes where traffic remained static or even declined, “dumping” fares on Darwin routes, and terminating Darwin’s insurance policies under the Lufthansa Aviation Insurance Group, among others.

Originally Published on AIN Online: http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2015-04-02/swiss-authorities-clear-etihad-stake-darwin-airline