Ryanair boss: Germany is ‘aviation banana republic’

Mr Jacobs, pictured, and Ryanair’s chief commercial officer, David O’Brien, both blasted the sales process for Air Berlin, which collapsed into administration earlier this month after Etihad pulled support for the carrier in which it had a stake.

That saw the German government agree a €150m loan for Air Berlin to keep it in the air until its assets are sold. Ryanair has complained formally to Brussels about the sales process, from which it claims it has been excluded and previously described as a “conspiracy”.

Mr O’Brien said the sales process, which Ryanair claims favours Lufthansa over rivals, is “clearly protectionist”, “clearly illegitimate” and “will probably succeed”. Mr Jacobs claimed the Air Berlin sale is a “complete stitch-up” and that Germany is becoming the “banana republic of European aviation”.

“Germany is still the market where you have the lowest penetration of low-cost airlines,” he said. “It’s the most protected market in Europe. German consumers are also paying the highest fares in Europe.”

Ryanair has claimed that if Lufthansa acquires most of Air Berlin’s assets, that the combined group will control 60pc of the total German market, compared to 47pc now, and 96pc of the domestic air market.

Ryanair currently has an 8pc share of the German market and last year said it aims to capture 20pc by 2021.

Following Air Berlin’s collapse, Ryanair has predicted that it will achieve that 20pc market share sooner than 2021.

Mr O’Brien also said he expects Lufthansa to struggle with Air Berlin once it acquires it.

“Over time, Lufthansa will find that it has a severe case of indigestion as a result of absorbing Air Berlin,” he said.

Lufthansa and EasyJet are reportedly in pole position to snap up Air Berlin assets. A creditors’ meeting is due to be held on September 15, and final bids for the carrier will be received on September 13.

Mr O’Brien insisted that Ryanair had been excluded from the sales process. “Germany’s number one airline will take over the better parts of Germany’s number two airline, debt free, thanks to the German government,” he said.

“We are the biggest airline in Europe with the strongest balance sheet and we weren’t invited to the conversation, which is hardly surprising when you have ministers describing the need for Lufthansa as an aviation champion.”

He said Ryanair is also weighing up whether or not to make a binding bid for Alitalia assets as a deadline approaches for the sale of the failed Italian carrier.

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