Ryanair has received approval from the European Commission to acquire a 75 per cent stake in Niki Lauda’s new Austrian low-cost airline Laudamotion, but it claims attempts to restart services are being hindered by Lufthansa.
The Irish carrier already owns a 24.9 per cent stake in the Formula One motor racing legend’s airline, which was established after Lauda won a bidding war with International Airlines Group for the assets of his former airline Niki – including 15 Airbus aircraft – after Air Berlin went bust last year.
Ryanair says it plans to work with Laudamotion to offer competition and lower fares for passengers in Austria, Germany and Spain, where the majority of the airline’s flights will operate when it re-starts services.
However, Ryanair says Laudamotion is “under threat” by Lufthansa, which it claims is attempting to keep the nine aircraft it was required to hand over to Lauda by the European Commission in order to be approved to buy Air Berlin’s remaining assets.
The carrier claims Lufthansa has failed to deliver two of the 11 aircraft it agreed to hand over, which it says means Laudamotion cannot start some of its operations for the summer 2018 season as it originally intended.
Ryanair also says Lufthansa delayed more than €1.5 million in wet lease payments due to Laudamotion after it operated flights for Lufthansa in March, April and May.
Laudamotion will lease 10 B737s from Ryanair to operate a 19-aircraft fleet this summer.
Juliusz Komorek, chief legal and regulatory officer at Ryanair, commented: “We urge the EU competition authorities to take action and prevent any further attempts by Lufthansa to damage competition through its anti-consumer behaviour.”
In a statement, Lufthansa refuted Ryanair's claims, saying: "Lufthansa has fully complied with all EU Commission obligations regarding the required transfer of aircraft to Laudamotion. This is true of both the number of aircraft involved and their leasing terms.
"All the aircraft covered by the EU derogation decision were offered for sale to Laudamotion by Lufthansa. Laudamotion rejected this offer, preferring to lease the aircraft instead.
"Laudamotion has recently failed – repeatedly – to meet its contractually-agreed lease payment obligations.
"As the Eurowings Group needs aircraft, Lufthansa has exercised its contractually-agreed right of termination because of a violation of contractual terms by Laudamotion, and has terminated the lease agreements on nine aircraft due to the non-payment of the lease amounts involved."