Ryanair rules out Air Berlin bid, denouncing process as ‘stitch-up’

Ryanair chief executive Michael O' Leary on Wednesday said his airline would not make a bid for insolvent Air Berlin, slamming what he called a German "stitch-up" designed to benefit Lufthansa.

Ryanair rules out Air Berlin bid, denouncing process as 'stitch-up'
Photo: DPA

Several airlines are jostling to take over parts of Air Berlin after it filed for insolvency earlier this month, a process Ryanair has been fiercely critical of.

The chief executive of the Irish no-frills airline said at a press conference in Berlin that Ryanair would only join the scramble for assets if it “was a fair and open process”.

“But we are not getting involved in this process because it is a stitch-up,” O'Leary said.

Air Berlin filed for insolvency after main owner Etihad Airways suddenly pulled the funding plug following years of losses.

The German government then stepped in with a €150-million bridging loan to keep the carrier's planes flying for the coming weeks.

O'Leary accused the government and the two German airlines of conspiring to allow Lufthansa to take over a debt-free Air Berlin in violation of anti-trust rules, charges the government rejects.

The pugnacious Ryanair boss said awarding Air Berlin to Lufthansa would give Germany's flagship carrier control over “95 percent of the domestic market”.

This would make Lufthansa “not just a German champion but a German monster who will increase the cost of air travel for millions of Germans for the next 10, 15, 20 years”.

German newspaper Bild has reported that Lufthansa – which already leases 38 of Air Berlin's 140 planes – could buy up to 70 aircraft with as many as 3,000 crew for its low-cost subsidiary Eurowings.

Other interested airlines cited in media reports include package holiday firm TUI, British low-cost carrier EasyJet and Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor, as well as Bavarian entrepreneur Rudolf Woehrl.

German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said last week that “for competition reasons, no single company can take over Air Berlin”.

Ryanair has lodged complaints with German and European Union anti-trust authorities, urging them to investigate the “obvious conspiracy playing out in Germany”.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller on Wednesday voiced his opposition to Ryanair taking over parts of Air Berlin, calling the airline “hostile to employees.”

“If Ryanair were to come into play I would have real worries,” Müller told Tagesspiegel. “The Air Berlin employees who keep their jobs would have to accept Irish contracts and work as self-employed workers.”


Lufthansa fires up ‘jumbo jet’ for surge in German tourists bound for Mallorca

German airline Lufthansa said Friday it was taking "extraordinary measures" to meet surging bookings for the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca, deploying a jumbo jet to ferry passengers from Frankfurt.

Lufthansa fires up 'jumbo jet' for surge in German tourists bound for Mallorca
Tourists enjoy the first days of summer on the island of Mallorca. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Francisco Ubilla

The group said it had seen a jump in reservations from German sunseekers in recent weeks, as concerns about the pandemic ease thanks to falling infection numbers and vaccination progress across Europe.

To meet demand, Lufthansa said it would swap the 215-seat Airbus A321 that usually plies the Frankfurt-Mallorca route for its Boeing 747-8 “jumbo jet”.The 747, also known as the “Queen of the Skies”, can carry 364 people and is the largest plane in Lufthansa’s fleet.

The super-large planes normally fly transatlantic routes but have been
mostly grounded since the pandemic upended air travel.

READ ALSO: ‘I really needed a break’: Pandemic-weary Germans find freedom on Mallorca

“Lufthansa is taking extraordinary measures in order to respond to a significant increase in booking demand for flights to Palma de Mallorca,” the airline said in a statement.

The jumbo jet will be used for four weekends over July and August, it added, Europe’s key summer travel season.

Mallorca is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Germans and is sometimes affectionately referred to as Germany’s “17th state”.

Before the pandemic, around five million German tourists visited the island
each year.

READ ALSO: ‘Germans are coming back’: Spaniards sceptical over return of tourists