* Court approves majority of codeshares for winter
* Focus shifts to flights for summer schedule
* German transport ministry to review court decision (Adds comment from transport ministry, Air Berlin)
FRANKFURT/BERLIN, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Gulf airline Etihad said a German court ruling announced late on Thursday meant it expected to receive approval for its codeshare routes with Air Berlin in the future.
An appeals court in Germany on Thursday allowed Abu Dhabi-based Etihad to continue 26 of its 31 disputed codeshare flights with Air Berlin for the winter schedule ending in March, citing a bilateral agreement struck between Germany and Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2000.
“The court’s interpretation of the UAE-Germany Air Services Agreement also means that Etihad Airways will be able to continue with all those codeshares beyond the Winter Schedule,” Etihad, which owns 29 percent of Air Berlin, said in a statement on Friday.
Germany had previously approved the disputed codeshares but said in August 2014 it would not continue to approve them because it believed they were not covered by the bilateral agreement, prompting months of wrangling.
The court decision is good news for loss-making Air Berlin, because the codeshares, which allow Etihad to sell tickets for flights operated by the German carrier, bring it additional passengers to fill its planes and boost its sales.
Air Berlin Chief Executive Stefan Pichler said the carrier was “delighted” with the decision.
“Based on this decisive ruling, Air Berlin and Etihad Airways can face the future optimistically and will continue to grow their partnership in a sustainable manner,” he added.
The German transport ministry will review the court’s decision and reasoning before deciding on how to proceed, a spokesman said on Friday. It reiterated it was open for talks with the UAE on the traffic agreement. (Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Christoph Steitz and Mark Potter)