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.
British low-cost airline EasyJet has cancelled hundreds of flights as the second day of strike action by French air traffic controllers took its toll.
The airline did not operate 331 flights after cancelling 248 on April 8.
Some passengers have been stranded in European cities after Easter breaks, prompting Easyjet to operate five “rescue” flights on April 10.
The additional flights will run from London’s Luton to Paris, Paris to Barcelona, Barcelona to Luton, London’s Gatwick to Madrid, and Marrakech to Gatwick.
EasyJet says it will put larger aircraft on routes that have been most affected to allow more passengers to get home.
A spokesman said the “unnecessary” strike had caused “considerable and disproportionate disruption for passengers and airlines across Europe”.
Rival Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel more than 500 flights over the last two days.
“We again call on the EU [European Union] and French authorities to act now and prevent thousands of travelers being held to ransom by these French [air traffic control] workers,” the Irish low-cost airline said.
Air France said it was operating one-in-four flights to and from Orly airport in Paris, about 40% to and from cities in the rest of France, and 50% of medium-haul flights to and from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.
No long-haul Air France flights were affected on April 9.
Air traffic controllers are planning further industrial action from April 16 to 18 and from April 29 to May 2 – both key holiday periods.
Roger Rousseau, head of the SNCTA union that represents French air traffic controllers, said: “We can assure our passengers that we are doing everything possible to limit the inconvenience of this strike on them.”
Among the issues upsetting members is that the retirement age will be raised from 57 to 59.
Ryanair has canceled more than 250 flights to France due to a planned strike by French air traffic controllers.
Further cancellations are likely, the low-cost airline warned.
The SNCTA union of air traffic controllers told the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGCA) that the strike would take place on April 8 and 9.
“Disruption is expected over the whole country,” the DGCA said.
The Authority has asked airlines to cut their schedules for flights to and from France on April 8 by 40%.
The SNCTA says it is unhappy about offers made by the state on new working conditions and retirement plans.
The union has also called on its members to go on strike between April 16-18 and April 29- May 2.
“We sincerely apologize to all customers affected by this unwarranted strike action and we call on the EU and French authorities to take measures to prevent any further disruption,” said Ryanair in a statement.
“It’s grossly unfair that thousands of European travelers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French ATC [air traffic control] workers.”
Ryanair is offering to transfer customers’ tickets to other flights or provide refunds.
Air France says that it expects to operate almost all its long-haul flights and 60% of its medium-haul flights to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Travelers booked on short- and medium-haul Air France flights on April 8 or April 9 can choose to travel between April 10 and April 15 instead, it said.
“Expect cancellations and major delays,” warned the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation on Twitter.
Ryanair has raised its annual profit forecast after seeing net income more than double for the Q2 2014.
Second quarter profit rose to 197 million euros ($266 million) compared to 78 million euros a year earlier, the budget airline company said.
Ryanair has raised its annual profit forecast after seeing net income more than double for the Q2 2014 (photo Wikipedia)
Chief financial officer Howard Millar said: “We’ve made a lot of service improvements over the last six or seven months and we’re seeing the benefits.”
The rise comes after profit warnings by rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.
Ryanair, which is Europe’s biggest budget airline, began promoting a more customer-friendly image late last year.
The airline raised its profit forecast for the year to March 2015 to a range of between 620 million euros to 650 million euros, up from a previous estimated range of 580 million euros to 620 million euros.
Ryanair has also said that it plans to aggressively raise capacity this winter by 8% and build its business-friendly routes.
Two Ryanair jets collided on the ground at London’s Stansted Airport.
One plane was approaching the stand and the other was “pushing back” when the incident happened at about 06:45 BST.
The wing-tip of one plane and the tail-cone of another “made contact”, said Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely.
Two Ryanair jets collided on the ground at London’s Stansted Airport
No passengers or crew were injured, an airport spokesman confirmed. The Air Accident Investigation Board is investigating.
Essex Police said it had conducted “routine breath tests” on both pilots after the incident, but there was no evidence of alcohol consumption.
Robin Kiely said passengers were put on other planes after a three-hour delay.
He said Ryanair’s engineering team were “investigating, and will repair both aircraft and return them to service as soon as possible”.
The crash involved a plane heading to Warsaw and an aircraft from Frankfurt Hahn that had just landed. Both were Boeing 737-800 models, which can carry up to 189 passengers.
One passenger on the Warsaw-bound flight said on Twitter: “Huge loud crashing noise and totally felt the crush sitting at the back. Thank God it only hit the wing as if it was the body of the plane it’d been apocalypse.”
The ongoing French air traffic controllers strike is causing further disruption for European travelers.
More than a quarter of flights from France’s busiest airports had to be cancelled on Wednesday amid protests at plans for a single European airspace.
Controllers say the plans will affect public safety and working conditions.
Airlines based outside France have also suffered upheaval. Ryanair was forced to cancel more than 240 flights on Wednesday, while EasyJet scrapped 128.
Air traffic workers elsewhere in Europe were expected to join the French strikers by working to rule, picketing and distributing leaflets.
Major French airports, including Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux were all said to have been affected by the three-day strike called by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).
The French Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) said the strike action had intensified on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of about 1,800 flights for a second day in France. “Nearly 100%” of France’s air traffic controllers were participating in the strike, it added.
On Tuesday, the DGAC said it had asked airlines to cancel 50% of their services and advised travelers to contact them for further information.
The ongoing French air traffic controllers strike is causing further disruption for European travelers
Flights through French airspace were also expected to be axed on Wednesday, and passengers bound for other European destinations were told to prepare for delays of up to four hours.
The budget airline Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel 200 flights on Tuesday and would cancel another 250 on Wednesday as a result of the strike action.
A statement called on the European Commission to remove air traffic controllers’ right to strike.
“It is grossly unfair that thousands of passengers had and will have their plans disrupted as a result of Europe being held to ransom by tiny numbers of French air traffic controllers,” it added.
The rival airline, EasyJet, also said it had cancelled 256 flights since Tuesday.
The ETF has said the strikes aim to “stop a never ending process of liberalization, deregulation and cost-cutting in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) industry”.
It said the European Commission’s so-called SES2+ proposals to update the Single European Sky (SES) project and amend the rules governing the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would “jeopardise safety and the number and quality of jobs”.
The European Commission estimates that inefficiencies in the way Europe’s air traffic is managed add 42 km (26 miles) to the average flight, forcing planes to burn more fuel and generate more emissions. The system causes delays and costs airlines and customers 5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) annually, it says.
It wants to centralize air traffic controls, rather than leave each member state to monitor its own skies. The commission says this could triple airspace capacity, cut costs and reduce delays.
On Tuesday, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told the European Parliament: “The time has come for more decisive action. If we leave things as they are, we will be confronted with heavy congestion and chaos in our airspace.”
Irish low-cost airline Ryanair should have fully compensated a passenger whose flight was cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud in 2010, the EU’s top court has said.
On such occasions there is no limit – in time or money – to the airline’s duty to look after its passengers, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled.
Denise McDonagh had a 7-day wait for a Faro-Dublin flight on Ryanair and said she spent nearly 1,130 euros on a hotel, food and transport.
Her compensation has not yet been paid.
Ryanair had argued the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano was so extraordinary that normal rules should not apply.
But the judges’ ruling – now binding across the EU – said such events “constitute ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which do not release air carriers from their obligation to provide care”.
The EU regulation on passenger rights “does not provide for any limitation, either temporal or monetary, of the obligation to provide care to passengers whose flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances”, the ECJ said.
Ryanair should have fully compensated a passenger whose flight was cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud in 2010
“Thus, all the obligations to provide care to passengers are imposed on the air carrier for the whole period during which the passengers concerned must await their re-routing.”
Much of north Europe’s airspace was closed for more than a week in April 2010, as the volcano spewed dust into the atmosphere.
Aviation officials feared the dust could stop jet engines – an unacceptable hazard – and Denise McDonagh was among the thousands left stranded.
The ECJ ruling on Thursday said an Irish court must decide the amount of compensation to which Denise McDonagh is entitled. Her case had been referred to the ECJ by the Dublin Metropolitan District Court, which had sought clarification of EU law.
The passenger is entitled to “reimbursement of the amounts which proved necessary, appropriate and reasonable to make up for the shortcomings of the air carrier”, the ECJ said.