© Victor Karasev

Is this a big change of heart from Lufthansa? It appears to have switched course in its relationship with fast-growing Gulf carriers, if reports are to be believed.

For years the big three Gulf carriers have sought to buy their way into Europe with an ever-increasing series of investments, codeshares and capacity – a strategy much complained about by Europe’s flagcarriers.

Etihad has borne the brunt of intense lobbying from the Germans. In January a German court withdrew approval for 29 codeshare flights between Etihad and airberlin, reversing a German Ministry of Transport decision made when the Gulf carrier purchased a 29% stake in the budget airline.

But now it seems the pair may be reaching agreement – and Lufthansa is eyeing a 45% stake in Alitalia.

The reports, attributed to Italy’s Messagero newspaper, claimed that Alitalia – 49% owned by Etihad –  has met with Lufthansa. The report claims Etihad will only agree to the deal if Lufthansa also takes the 29% stake in airberlin off Etihad’s books.

But Alitalia was quick to rebuff the reports, saying no such deal was in the pipeline. We shall see…

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