Budget airline Ryanair says Germany is becoming the "banana republic of European aviation" as Lufthansa prepares to secure most of the assets of failed carrier Air Berlin.
That's according to Ryanair's chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs. Mr Jacobs 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 (£139m) 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".
Ryanair operates more than a dozen routes from Belfast International Airport, as well as flying out of City of Derry Airport.
Mr O'Brien said yesterday that 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 60% of the total German market, compared to 47% now, and 96% of the domestic air market.
Ryanair currently has an 8% share of the German market and last year said it aims to capture 20% by 2021.
Following Air Berlin's collapse, Ryanair has predicted that it will achieve that 20% 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 sale 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.