Posted on: 17 October 2014 by Ross McSweeny
Following Swiss International Airlines’ recent announcement that it plans to use Tyrolean Airlines to operate routes between Lugano, Geneva and Zurich, Darwin Airline (operating under the Etihad Regional brand) has written to Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) to question the legality of the arrangement.
Both Swiss International Air Lines and Tyrolean Airways' parent, Austrian Airlines, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Germany's Lufthansa Aviation Group.
Darwin Airline’s CEO, Maurizio Merlo, explained, “In our letter to FOCA we have questioned the legal right of Tyrolean, as an Austrian-licensed airline, to operate domestic flights in Switzerland under the European Union–Swiss Air Transport Agreement, or under surviving conditions of the previous Swiss–Austrian bilateral air services agreement.”
Darwin Airline has operated the Zurich–Lugano route on a wet-lease for Swiss for ten years. However, when Darwin's announced a new commercial partnership and proposed minority equity participation by Etihad Airways, Swiss advised that it would sever all commercial links with Darwin.
“According to advice from the Regulator, it was not the agency's policy to permit a Swiss airline to use non-Swiss registered wet-lease capacity, other than on a temporary basis, if suitable Swiss-registered aircraft were available,” explained Merlo. “Darwin Airline’s serious concern is that Swiss International Air Lines may be able to use non-Swiss registered wet lease capacity to serve domestic destinations in a manner which could be inconsistent with Swiss International Air Lines' legal duty not to abuse its dominant position.”
Tyrolean plans to operate the Swiss routes with 76-seat Bombardier Q400s.