Ryanair has accused the German government and Lufthansa of conspiring to carve up collapsed airline Air Berlin.
Lufthansa is negotiating over buying Air Berlin planes, which are still flying following a 150 million euro German government loan.
Ryanair said there was an “obvious conspiracy” between Germany, Lufthansa and Air Berlin to carve up the assets.
The German government rejected the accusation and said its support for Air Berlin did not breach anti-trust rules.
Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy on August 15, after its biggest shareholder, the Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad, withdraw its financial support.
Over the past year Air Berlin’s passenger numbers have been in freefall. Last month the airline – Germany’s second-biggest carrier – lost a quarter of its customers compared with July 2016.
Germany’s economy minister, Brigitte Zypries, said that a deal whereby Lufthansa took over part of the insolvent airline should be struck in the next few months.
Ryanair said: “This manufactured insolvency is clearly being set up to allow Lufthansa to take over a debt-free Air Berlin which will be in breach of all known German and EU competition rules.
“Now even the German government is supporting this Lufthansa-led monopoly with 150m euros of state aid so that Lufthansa can acquire Air Berlin and drive domestic air fares in Germany even higher than they already are.”
A German economy spokeswoman said: “I reject the accusation by Ryanair today that it was a staged insolvency application.”
Ryanair has lodged a complaint with the German regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, and the European Commission.
Lufthansa said it was already in negotiations with Air Berlin to take over parts of the company and was considering hiring more staff: “Lufthansa intends to conclude these negotiations successfully in due time.”
Ryanair has in the past made other criticisms of the relationship between Air Berlin and Lufthansa.
Lufthansa has been operating 38 Air Berlin Airbus jets on its behalf under a “wet lease” arrangement. In January Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described the deal as a “joke”.
Michael O’Leary told the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche that the deal was “a takeover with the aim of dominating the market. Lufthansa controls the capacities of its most important competitor, sets the prices and decides where aircraft will start. The German authorities are doing nothing”.
Lufthansa’s interest in Air Berlin has also upset its own staff.
At its Eurowings subsidiary, unions are balloting cabin crew about industrial action after pay talks broke down – something the unions blame on Air Berlin’s collapse.
German cabin crew union UFO said: “The reasons why no solution could be worked out with Eurowings management became clear yesterday: the Lufthansa group can obtain cheap aircraft through Air Berlin’s insolvency and doesn’t need to take on its staff or their wage agreements.”
However, the demise of Air Berlin could open up the German market to more competition.
Ryanair and EasyJet have only managed to get a toehold at airports such as Berlin, Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.
Gerald Khoo, transport analyst at Liberium Capital, said: “Based on August schedules, Germany currently represents just 9% of EasyJet’s capacity and 7% of Ryanair’s, compared with 76% of Lufthansa’s, highlighting the relative importance of that market to each carrier.”
Ryanair has been targeting the German market, with new routes to and from Frankfurt.
Gerald Khooo said: “We would expect German airports to move up the list of priorities for next summer for both major low cost carriers, whether or not they attempt to pick up assets and/or staff from Air Berlin’s bankruptcy process.”
Reuters reported on August 15 that Easyjet was in talks to buy assets from Air Berlin. EasyJet declined to comment.
Lufthansa has announced that it will suspend flights to Venezuela from June 18 due to economic difficulties in the country.
The German airline also said currency controls in Venezuela made it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.
Venezuela’s economy has been hit hard by a sharp drop in the price of oil – the country’s main source of income.
The country has high inflation and severe shortages of basic goods.
In a statement, Lufthansa said that it “will be forced to suspend our service between Caracas and Frankfurt as of June 18”.
The company noted that the demand for international flights to Venezuela had dropped in 2015 and in the first quarter of the current year.
However, it said it hoped to restore services in the near future.
Strict currency controls were first imposed in Venezuela in 2003 by late President Hugo Chavez.
The restrictions were further tightened two years ago, forcing several airlines to reduce their operations in the country as they struggled to repatriate billions of dollars in revenue held in the local currency – the bolivar.
Some airlines are now requiring passengers to pay their fares in dollars.
Venezuela’s government has defended its policies, saying it must prioritize.
Caracas says it is using its foreign reserves – which are now scarce – to pay for essential items such as medicines and industrial machinery.
The search for Germanwings flight 4U 9525 victims’ bodies at the crash site has ended, French authorities say.
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is said to have crashed his aircraft in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Identification of the victims will continue with analysis of the DNA found and debris will carry on being removed.
Meanwhile reports said the European Commission took issue with Germany’s aviation authority before the crash.
Wall Street Journal said it was told to “remedy long-standing problems”.
The aviation authority, the Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA), was told in November to sort out problems including a lack of staff which could have limited its ability to carry out checks on planes and crew, the publication reports.
In light of investigators believing co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately, the way airline crew are vetted has come under scrutiny.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) “had pointed out several cases of non-conformity,” spokesman Dominique Fouda told AFP news agency.
A European Commission spokesman said: “All EU member states have findings and this is a normal and regular occurrence.
“It is part of a continuous system of oversight – findings are followed by corrective action, similar to an audit process.”
A spokeswoman for the LBA said the authority had answered several criticisms leveled at it during the audits and those responses were now being assessed by the EASA.
France’s air accident authority has said its investigations will include a study of “systemic weaknesses” that could have led to the disaster, including psychological profiling.
Lufthansa, the parent company of budget airline Germanwings, has said Andreas Lubitz disclosed that he had had severe depression in 2009 while training for his pilot’s license.
It has also emerged that Andreas Lubitz received treatment for suicidal tendencies at one point before getting his pilot’s license.
German prosecutors found torn-up sick notes at Andreas Lubitz’s home, including one covering the day of the crash.
He was also found to have researched suicide methods and cockpit security on a tablet computer in the days preceding the disaster.
Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr has said he is “very very sorry that such a terrible accident could have happened” and that the airline was utterly unaware of any health issues that could have compromised Andreas Lubitz’s fitness to fly.
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz suspected of deliberately crashing Germanwings flight 4U 9525 into the Alps had disclosed an earlier bout of depression, Lufthansa has said.
Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said last week that Andreas Lubitz had taken a break from flight school training, but refused to say why.
It has now shared emails from 2009 which show Andreas Lubitz told instructors he had suffered from “severe depression”.
Meanwhile, all human remains from the crash have reportedly been recovered.
French authorities told AFP news agency that the remains of all the victims had been removed from the remote ravine where the plane went down, but mountain troops would return to the scene on Wednesday to search for personal belongings.
The search for the second flight recorder will also continue.
A recording from the cockpit of the aircraft suggests Andreas Lubitz, 27, deliberately caused the disaster on March 24, which killed 150 people.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr previously said that the company was not aware of anything that could have driven the co-pilot to crash the Airbus A320.
“He was 100% fit to fly without any restrictions or conditions,” he told reporters.
It has now emerged, as part of the airline’s internal research, that Andreas Lubitz had sent information about his depressive episode to the Lufthansa flight school in Bremen, when he resumed training after an interruption of several months.
Andreas Lubitz subsequently passed all medical tests and eventually secured his license. He started working with Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings in 2013.
German prosecutors said on March 30 that Andreas Lubitz had received treatment for “suicidal tendencies” before completing his training.
However, Lufthansa said his medical records were subject to doctor-patient confidentiality and it had no knowledge of their contents.
The airline has set aside an additional $300 million (€280 million) to cover possible costs arising from the crash.
The money is separate from the $54,250 available to the relatives of each passenger to cover short-term expenses.
Airlines are obliged to compensate relatives for proven damages of up to a limit of about $157,000, regardless of what caused the crash. Higher compensation is possible if an airline is held liable.
None of the victims’ bodies were found intact after the plane’s 430mph impact, but different strands of DNA have been identified.
French President Francois Hollande said on March 31 that all 150 victims would be identified by the end of the week.
Lufthansa has put aside an additional $300 million to cover possible costs arising from last week’s Germanwings plane crash.
The German airline, which owns low-cost Germanwings, said the money would cover “all costs arising in connection with the case”.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said the 150 victims would be identified by the end of the week.
An access road to the crash site has been completed to help speed up the recovery of bodies.
However, rescuers have warned the operation could still take several months.
Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, President Francois Hollande praised the work of scientists at the scene in the French Alps.
“The French interior minister confirmed that by the end of the week at the latest it will be possible to identify all of the victims thanks to DNA samples,” he added.
None of the victims were found intact after the plane’s 430mph impact, but different strands of DNA have been identified at the site.
Germany says that the $300 million being put aside by Lufthansa is separate from the $54,250 (€50,000) available to the relatives of each passenger to cover short-term expenses.
Airlines are obliged to compensate relatives for proven damages of up to a limit of about $157,000 (€135,000) – regardless of what caused the crash – but higher compensation is possible if an airline is held liable.
On March 30 it emerged that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, had at one point received treatment for suicidal tendencies before getting his pilot license.
Andreas Lubitz, 27, is suspected of deliberately crashing the plane in the Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Officials in Duesseldorf said the investigation so far had revealed no clue as to his motives.
German prosecutors say he underwent psychotherapy before getting his pilot’s license and that medical records from that period referred to “suicidal tendencies.”
Lufthansa says that Andreas Lubitz’s medical records were subject to doctor-patient confidentiality and it had no knowledge of their contents.
Lufthansa also announced on March 31 that it had cancelled plans to celebrate its 60th anniversary on April 15.
On April 17, the airline will broadcast live coverage of a state memorial service at Cologne Cathedral.
Germanwings flight 4U 9525 crashed near the French Alpine village of Le Vernet on March 24, flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
The cockpit voice recorder suggested Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately after locking pilot Patrick Sondenheimer out of the cockpit.
The data recorder, which tracks the plane’s altitude, speed and direction, has not yet been found.
Lufthansa board chairman Kay Kratky on March 30 warned it may have been too badly damaged and may not be sending signals.
Andreas Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend claims the Germanwings co-pilot thought to have deliberately crashed his plane in the French Alps, killing 150 people, predicted “one day everyone will know my name”.
In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Andreas Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend recalled a comment the pilot made last year.
“One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember,” Andreas Lubitz told her.
Germanwings flight 4U 9525 crashed into the French Alps on March 24.
Andreas Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend, a 26-year-old flight attendant who flew with him for five months last year, was “very shocked” when she heard the news, the publication reports.
She is referred to only as Maria W.
If Andreas Lubitz deliberately brought down the plane, “it is because he understood that because of his health problems, his big dream of a job at Lufthansa, as captain and as a long-haul pilot was practically impossible”, Maria told Bild.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
Meanwhile, German newspaper Die Welt said that investigators had found evidence of a serious “psychosomatic illness”, and that Andreas Lubitz had been “treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists”.
Several medicines used to treat mental illnesses were found at his home, but there were no signs of drug or alcohol addiction, the publication, citing an unnamed investigator, said.
Separately, the New York Times, citing officials, reported that Andreas Lubitz had sought treatment for eye problems.
French investigator Jean-Pierre Michel also told the AFP news agency that Andreas Lubitz’s personality was “a serious lead [in the investigation] but… can’t be the only one”.
“We’re going to try to understand what in his life could have left him to carry out the act,” Jean-Pierre Michel said, adding that investigators had not discovered any “particular element” so far.
The black box voice recorder indicates that Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit and crashed the plane into a mountainside in what appears to have been a suicide and mass killing.
German prosecutors say they found medical documents at Andreas Lubitz’s house suggesting an existing illness and evidence of medical treatment. They found torn-up sick notes, one of them for the day of the crash.
They say Andreas Lubitz seems to have concealed his illness from his employers.
His former girlfriend told Bild they separated, “because it became increasingly clear that he had a problem”.
She said he was plagued by nightmares and would at times wake up screaming “we’re going down”.
She added that he became stressed when they spoke about work: “He became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure.”
A hospital in the German city of Duesseldorf has confirmed Andreas Lubitz was a patient there recently but it denied media reports that he had been treated for depression.
Andreas Lubitz’s employers insisted that he had only been allowed to resume training after his suitability was “re-established”.
A fellow member of the flight school where Andreas Lubitz took lessons said the co-pilot had known the area of the French Alps where the plane crashed from going there on gliding holidays.
French newspaper Metro News reported that Andreas Lubitz had holidayed with his parents at a flying club nearby.
French police say the search for passenger remains and debris on the mountain slopes could take another two weeks.
Relatives of some of the passengers and crew who died, including the family of the captain, have visited Seyne-les-Alpes, near the crash site.
In the aftermath of the crash, the EU’s aviation regulator, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), has urged airlines to adopt new safety rules.
In future, the EASA says, two crew members should be present in the cockpit at all times.
Lufthansa and Germanwings have taken out full-page notices in German newspapers, expressing their “deepest sympathy” and condolences for “the unfathomable loss of 150 lives”.
Andreas Lubitz was the Germanwings co-pilot who officials say locked out Captain Patrick Sonderheimer from the cockpit and deliberately crashed Flight 9525 into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard.
French prosecutor Brice Robin said Andreas Lubitz, 28, locked the doors of the cockpit after the captain went to the restroom and sent the plane into descent with 150 people on board on march 24.
Investigators will now pore over Andreas Lubitz’s background to try and ascertain his exact mental state in the days leading up to the plane crash.
Andreas Lubitz lived with his parents at their home in the western town of Montabaur, which has now become a scene of deep media intrigue.
Police officers have been patrolling the quiet town to keep reporters and photographers away from the front door.
Andreas Lubitz first took to the skies as a teenager, at the LSC Westerwald e.V. glider club in Montabaur.
He learned to fly in a sleek white ASK-21 two-seat glider when he was around 14 or 15-years-old, according to the club’s chairman Klaus Radke.
In 2008, Andreas Lubitz was accepted as a Lufthansa trainee, after obtaining his glider pilot’s license, and enrolled at the company’s training school in Bremen.
In 2014, he joined subsidiary airline Germanwings and began working as a co-pilot. He had flown a total of 630 hours before Tuesday’s fatal crash.
“He was 100% fit to fly without any restrictions or conditions,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters in Cologne.
Those who knew Andreas Lubitz have described him as a quiet but affable character who gave no indications he was harboring any harmful intent.
Klaus Radke told the Associated Press that he saw Andreas Lubitz last autumn, when he returned to the club to renew his glider license.
“He seemed very enthusiastic about his career. I can’t remember anything where something wasn’t right,” he said.
Klaus Radke rejected the prosecutor’s claims that the plane was brought down intentionally. He said: “I don’t see how anyone can draw such conclusions before the investigation is completed.”
Peter Ruecker, a long-time member of club, also insisted Andreas Lubitz seemed “very happy” during their last meeting.
“I’m just speechless. I don’t have any explanation for this. Knowing Andreas, this is just inconceivable for me,” he said.
Prosecutor Brice Robin said there were no grounds to suspect that Andres Lubitz had carried out a terrorist attack. He refused to discuss his religious background.
“Suicide” was also the wrong word to describe actions which killed so many other people, Brice Robin said.
“I don’t necessarily call it suicide when you have responsibility for 100 or so lives.”
According to new reports, one of the two pilots of the Germanwings crashed plane was locked out of the cockpit.
Early findings from the cockpit voice recorder suggest the pilot made desperate efforts to get back in, sources close to the investigation say.
The Airbus 320 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in the southern French Alps on March 24 after a rapid eight-minute descent.
Relatives of the 150 passengers and crew who died are to visit the site.
Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, will operate two special flights on March 25 – one from Barcelona and one from Duesseldorf – to Marseille, and both groups will travel on by road.
Germanwings chief Thomas Winkelmann said 72 passengers were German citizens, including 16 high school students returning from an exchange trip.
Spain’s government said 51 of the dead were Spanish.
Other victims were from Australia, Argentina, Britain, Iran, Venezuela, the US, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Israel.
On March 25, French officials said usable data had been extracted from the cockpit voice recorder but that it was too early to draw any conclusions.
Remi Jouty, director of the French aviation investigative agency, said he hoped investigators would have the “first rough ideas in a matter of days” but the full analysis could take weeks or even months.
However, the New York Times quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that one of the pilots – it is not clear if it is the captain or the first officer – left the cockpit and had been unable to get back in.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer,” the investigator said, describing audio from the recorder.
“And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
A source close to the investigation told a similar story to the AFP news agency.
An alarm indicating proximity to the ground can be heard before the moment of impact, the source adds.
Remi Jouty said the second “black box” – the flight data recorder – had not been found and he could not confirm an earlier statement by President Francois Hollande that its casing had been recovered.
The investigator said the plane’s last communication was a routine one with air traffic control.
The plane confirmed instructions to continue on its planned flight path but then began its descent a minute later.
Remi Jouty said controllers observed the plane beginning to descend and tried to contact the pilots but without success.
He ruled out an explosion, saying: “The plane was flying right to the end.”
Remi Jouty said: “At this stage, clearly, we are not in a position to have the slightest explanation or interpretation of the reasons that could have led this plane to descend… or the reasons why it did not respond to attempts to contact it by air traffic controllers.”
Families and friends of the victims are expected to arrive at the crash site at Meolans-Revels later on Thursday.
Separately, a bus carrying 14 relatives of Spanish victims left Barcelona on March 25 for the crash area, because they did not want to fly.
In France, special teams have been prepared to assist the families during their visit.
On March 25, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy visited the crash site.
Francois Hollande told his counterparts: “The French people are here shoulder to shoulder with you during this ordeal. Everything will be done to find, identify and hand back to the families the bodies of their loved ones.”
Both he and Angela Merkel said they would do everything they could to find out the cause of the crash.
Germanwings is a low-cost airline owned by Lufthansa, Germany’s main carrier.
The “black box” flight recorder of Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps with 150 people onboard, has been found, the French interior minister says.
The Airbus A320 – flight 4U 9525 – went down between Digne and Barcelonnette. There are no survivors, officials say.
The German aircraft was on its way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
The cause of the crash is not known and the plane did not send a distress signal.
Among the passengers were 16 German students returning from an exchange trip.
Germanwings, a low-cost airline owned by Germany’s main carrier Lufthansa, has an excellent safety record.
A recovery team reached the site, in a remote mountain ravine, earlier on Tuesday. Their work was called off in the evening and will resume at first light on Wednesday, the French interior ministry said.
Bruce Robin, a prosecutor from Marseille, told the Reuters news agency that he had seen the wreckage of the aircraft from a helicopter.
“The body of the plane is in a state of destruction, there is not one intact piece of wing or fuselage,” he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also flown over the crash site and described it as “a picture of horror”, the Associated Press news agency says.
Most of the dead are believed to be German or Spanish citizens.
The plane began descending one minute after it reached its cruising height and continued to lose altitude for eight minutes, Germanwings managing director Thomas Winkelmann told reporters.
Thomas Winkelmann said the aircraft lost contact with French air traffic controllers at 10:53 at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.
The plane did not send out a distress signal, officials said. Earlier reports of a distress call, quoting the French interior ministry, referred to a message from controllers on the ground.
The White House has said there is no evidence so far of a terror attack. A Lufthansa official said they were assuming for the time being that the crash had been caused by an accident.
Spain’s King Felipe, on a state visit to France, thanked the French government for its help and said he was cancelling the rest of his visit.
The Airbus A320 is a single-aisle passenger jet popular for short- and medium-haul flights.
A Germanwings Airbus A320 plane has crashed in the southern French Alps between Barcelonnette and Digne, French aviation officials and police have said.
German airline Germanwings is a subsidiary of Lufthansa.
Germanwings flight 4U 9525 had been en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf with 144 passengers and six crew.
French President Francois Hollande said: “The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors.”
He said the crash was a tragedy, adding that the area was very difficult to access.
President Francois Hollande later called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to express his sympathy, the French presidency said.
Spain’s King Felipe, on a state visit to France, thanked the French government for its help and said he was cancelling the rest of his visit.
The plane issued a distress call at 10:47 local time, the French interior ministry said, although details have not been released.
Search-and-rescue teams are headed to the crash site at Meolans-Revels, said regional council head Eric Ciotti.
French PM Manuel Valls said he had sent Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to the scene and a ministerial crisis cell had been set up to co-ordinate the incident.
The interior ministry said debris had been located at an altitude of 6,500ft.
Spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told BFM TV that it would be “an extremely long and extremely difficult” search-and-rescue operation because of the remoteness.
Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr tweeted: “We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525. My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew.
“If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors.”
The Airbus A320 is a single-aisle passenger jet popular for short- and medium-haul flights.
Germanwings wrote on its website: “We must confirm to our deepest regret that Germanwings flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf has suffered an accident over the French Alps. The flight was being operated with an Airbus A320 aircraft, and was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members. Lufthansa and Germanwings have established a telephone hotline. The toll-free 0800 11 33 55 77 number is available to all the families of the passengers involved for care and assistance. Everyone at Germanwings and Lufthansa is deeply shocked and saddened by these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew members.”
Lufthansa has cancelled the majority of its flights scheduled for Monday, April 22, due to a planned warning strike.
The German airline said about only about 30 of its flights would run as planned on Monday, out of more than 1,700 originally scheduled.
Only a select few short-haul flights will operate on Monday, such as in Berlin, where strike actions should end by 2:30 p.m. CET. In all, only 20 of the 1,650 planned Lufthansa short-haul flights on Monday will operate due to the limited flight schedule.
In addition to the cancellations in Germany and Europe, massive flight cancellations and delays are to be expected for long-haul flights beginning Sunday April, 21. Of the 50 planned flights in Frankfurt, only six will operate; in Munich, of the 17 planned flights, only three will operate; whereas, in Dusseldorf all three long-haul flights are scheduled to operate as planned.
Lufthansa has cancelled the majority of its flights scheduled for Monday, April 22, due to a planned warning strike
Flights operated by Germanwings will not be affected, says the company.
Ground staff have called a one-day strike in a pay dispute.
Last week Lufthansa rejected union demands for a 5.2% wage increase over the next 12 months.
Strikers are also looking for guarantees over job cuts.
Like many airlines, Lufthansa is looking to cut costs in the face of stiff competition from low-cost carriers and big Gulf airlines, as well as rising fuel prices.
Unions staged a similar one-day strike last month. Short “warning strikes” are a common tactic among German unions, designed to put pressure on wage negotiations.
In a statement on its website, Lufthansa said passengers should expect “massive” flight cancellations and delays that will start to affect long-haul flights from Sunday.
Lufthansa also asks passengers to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport.