Lufthansa CEO, uninterested in Air Berlin, says Emirates is "nervous"

Spohr told Aviation Business at IATA's AGM that Air Berlin's debt made it "inviable" and that Lufthansa's Middle East inroads were making Dubai's airline uneasy

Lufthansa's CEO Carsten Spohr has said he is uninterested in buying Etihad's stake in Air Berlin as long as the struggling German carrier's debt situation remains unchanged.

Etihad is in talks with banks to arrange the sale of its nearly 30 percent stake in Air Berlin, but Spohr told Aviation Business at IATA's AGM last week that the airline remains "inviable."

"We've said before our position involves the debt. If the airline's debt doesn't change, then we can't go for it," he said.

Germany's largest and Europe's third largest carrier, Lufthansa, has been in increasingly close talks with the UAE's national carrier, Etihad. Both airlines signed a major codeshare, catering and maintenance agreement in February worth over $100 million and with an understanding to explore even deeper ties.

"Our partnership remains strong and is going exactly as planned," said Spohr, declining to comment on whether Lufthansa was looking to grow its presence in Abu Dhabi.

On the sideline's of the conference, a Lufthansa representative who declined to be named told Aviation Business that partnering with Abu Dhabi was more important to the airline because of trade links between the UAE and Germany. Germany is the UAE's largest trading partner in the European Union, "making Abu Dhabi more vital to our interests than others in the region," he said.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based Emirates has mocked Lufthansa for its deal with Etihad. In the latest issue of its public affairs magazine, Open Skies, the airline called out the German flag carrier for its U-turn against Gulf airlines after vehement arguments against them in the row on government subsidies in aviation.

When asked about Emirates' stance on the matter, Spohr said, "They seem nervous."

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