Thomas Cook and its German airline Condor are prepared to play an active role in a restructuring of insolvent carrier Air Berlin.
The disclosure came as it emerged that German taxpayers are unlikely to have to pay out after Ryanair complained about a loan to keep Air Berlin going after it filed for bankruptcy protection.
The government has made a bridging loan of €150 million to the country’s second airline to keep its aircraft flying for three months and secure 7,200 jobs in Germany during negotiations over the sale of its lucrative airport take off and landing slots.
Ryanair suggested it had less to do with saving passengers’ bookings and more to do with a “conspiracy” to let Lufthansa take over choice parts and halt the Irish carrier’s expansion.
But German chancellor Angela Merkel said about the risk of taxpayers paying for a rescue: “That is quite low otherwise we would not have been allowed to grant this bridge loan . . . We can say that in all likelihood the taxpayer will not have to pay for that.”
She added that it would not have been appropriate to leave tens of thousands of people stranded at holiday resorts “because the airline would not have been able to pay for the fuel” and the tickets would have no longer been usable.
Usually when a carrier files for bankruptcy in Germany aircraft are grounded and further operations stopped.
A Thomas Cook spokesman told Reuters: “Thomas Cook and its subsidiary, the strengthened German holiday airline Condor, are standing ready to play an active role in the future of Air Berlin.”
Thomas Cook uses Air Berlin and its subsidiary Niki, which means it is in the tour operator’s interest that the German airline’s operations continue.
Thomas Cook’s comment echoed rival Tui, which has said it was involved in plans for Air Berlin’s future and supported them.
Air Berlin filed for administration on Tuesday after its main shareholder, the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, said that it would make no more financing available.
The airline carries 80,000 people a day, on mostly short-haul flights but it made a loss of about €782 million last year.
German media suggested that Lufthansa and EasyJet were being consulted on the break-up of Air Berlin.
But Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “All this is down to prevent Ryanair growing in Germany but it won’t stop us.”
Ryanair filed a complaint to the European Commission competition authorities on Tuesday.
A German economy ministry spokeswoman told Reuters: “I reject the accusation by Ryanair today that it was a staged insolvency application. We assume that the loan conforms with the law.”
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