ETIHAD boss James Hogan says he's keen to see Aer Lingus and Air Berlin develop a codeshare agreement, but acknowledged that such a decision would be up to management at the two carriers.
Etihad owns 30pc of Air Berlin and just under 3pc of Aer Lingus.
Speaking to the Irish Independent in Dublin yesterday, Mr Hogan said that Air Berlin has a substantial footprint in Europe that could benefit Aer Lingus and a codeshare agreement could make sense.
"That's something for those two airlines to have a talk about," he said. "But obviously Air Berlin is a very large pan-European airline carrying 35 million passengers.
"It's very strong out of Dusseldorf and out of Berlin and secondary cities in Germany. If there's a way that those airlines can complement each other and feed passengers through each other's systems, then they should take advantage of that opportunity."
Etihad and Aer Lingus signed a codeshare agreement in May. It's been performing well so far for the pair.
All the key performance indicators (KPIs) that were set at Air Berlin following Etihad's investment have been met, said Mr Hogan. Etihad boosted its stake in Air Berlin from 3pc to almost 30pc last December for €73m.
But Etihad also loaned Air Berlin $255m and inked a codeshare agreement with the carrier. Etihad took a near 3pc stake in Aer Lingus earlier this year.
"All the KPIs that we set have been achieved and the cost savings have been achieved in year one," he said of Air Berlin. "For us, it's been very successful." He said he has "no doubt" that the airline will move back to profitability.
Etihad, which operates 10 flights a week between Dublin and Abu Dhabi, owns equity stakes in four airlines. Mr Hogan confirmed that a number of other airlines have approached the Middle East carrier with a view to taking holdings in them.
But Mr Hogan declined to be drawn on whether Etihad might boost its stake in Aer Lingus, notwithstanding the possible sale of the Government's 25.1pc stake in the carrier.
Ryanair owns almost 30pc of Aer Lingus. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said it has received a number of approaches from financial institutions interested in buying its stake. He also said that Ryanair will "seriously" examine selling its holding in Aer Lingus if the European Commission blocks its latest attempt to buy the former flag carrier.
Mr Hogan has indicated that Etihad is interested in buying the Government's stake in Aer Lingus. However, no sale of the stake is possible until an on-going pension dispute at the carrier is resolved. Siptu has already served Aer Lingus with notice of industrial action that will take place later this month.