Air rage Bavarian Premier Avoids Lufthansa Rival

What do striking Lufthansa pilots and Etihad’s controversial investment in Air Berlin have to do with a stroppy politician and his no-show in Düsseldorf? Everything apparently.
Horst is clear for take-off.

Bavaria’s premier Horst Seehofer cancelled his participation in an event in Düsseldorf this week because a Lufthansa strike would have forced him to fly on its main rival, Germany’s second-largest airline Air Berlin.

“One thing is guaranteed: Events or discussions with Horst Seehofer are never boring!” That is how the Düsseldorf business networking group Ständehaus-Treff announced the Bavarian politician’s aborted visit to their meeting on Monday. The billing was certainly correct, even if things turned out differently to the organizers' plans.

The pugnacious head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, cancelled his appearance because he apparently has a problem with Air Berlin.

Mr. Seehofer was originally scheduled to travel to Düsseldorf with Lufthansa, but couldn’t because the airline’s pilots announced on Sunday that they would stage another strike in an ongoing labor dispute.

The problem was most likely Mr. Seehofer’s displeasure over the financial help Air Berlin has received from the deep-pocketed Gulf airline Etihad.

But the organizers were prepared and had already booked a second flight on Air Berlin. When they presented the change of plans to their guest, he reportedly got stroppy and let it be known to the organizers that he would not be attending after all.

Certainly the issue wasn’t the flight time, because the Air Berlin time would have been even more convenient for the Bavarian leader. Had he taken the Luftansa flight, Mr. Seehofer would have had to leave before the end of the meeting in order to get back to Munich for a meeting of the Bavarian state government early on Tuesday. The Air Berlin flight would have given him an extra 15 minutes in the Rhineland.

The problem was more likely Mr. Seehofer’s displeasure over the financial help Air Berlin has received from the deep-pocketed Persian Gulf airline Etihad – to Lufthansa’s alleged detriment. Air Berlin will have to wait until next year to see if German regulators approve Etihad’s investment. Chancellor Merkel is reportedly also concerned about Air Berlin.

Most of the attendees at the Düsseldorf meeting had an explanation for Mr. Seehofer’s antics. His fervent support for Lufthansa stems from the fact that it is by far the largest airline at Munich Airport, which is in Bavaria.

According to government sources, Mr. Seehofer has already taken the initiative to write a letter to the federal government regarding the current disagreement over Etihad’s investment in Air Berlin. The money from the United Arab Emirates will not just put pressure on Lufthansa, but also on jobs at Munich Airport and its environs.

Fortunately, Ständehaus-Treff did not have to cancel its event, inviting instead German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, who did not have any more pressing engagements. And, more importantly, the fellow member of Mr. Seehofer’s CSU party did not have a problem with flying Air Berlin.


This article originally appeared on WirtschaftsWoche Online. To contact the authors: [email protected] and [email protected]