Ryanair (FR, Dublin Int'l) and Lufthansa Group have entered into a war of words over the latter's contractual obligations to LaudaMotion (OE, Vienna) and vice versa.

In a statement issued last week hailing the European Commission's (EC) unconditional approval of its bid to acquire a 75% stake in LaudaMotion, Ryanair accused Lufthansa of having failed to adhere to the terms of an EC ruling which allowed the Austrian carrier to resume operations.

As part of the terms and conditions for Lufthansa's acquisition of select Air Berlin assets, the German carrier was required by the EC to divest certain slot pairs and aircraft to rivals. Its bid, however, to acquire Niki (HG, Vienna) was blocked on anti-competition grounds thus forcing Niki into bankruptcy. LaudaMotion was then formed as a largescale carrier after Niki Lauda successfully bid for the assets of his namesake carrier in December 2017.

In its statement, Ryanair accused Lufthansa of attempting to sabotage LaudaMotion's operations by removing nine aircraft it was obliged to lease out as part of the EC's Air Berlin deal's terms and conditions.

Ryanair claimed Lufthansa had failed to deliver two of the 11 aircraft the EC ruling had mandated and that some of the aircraft Lufthansa had committed to deliver had been delayed until after the Summer 2018 season. As such, Laudamotion has only been able to operate a fleet of nine in-house A320 family aircraft (five A320-200s and four A321-200s) this summer season with a further ten B737-800s being wet-leased from Ryanair. This has reduced Laudamotion's ability to take up slots and offer summer-time services, Ryanair claimed.

In addition, it also accused Lufthansa Group of delaying the disbursement of over EUR1.5 million in wet-lease payments due to Laudamotion for flights which it operated for Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings (EW, Düsseldorf Int'l) in March, April, and May.

Lufthansa Group subsequently rejected Ryanair's accusations labelling them "completely unfounded".

It said in its response that it had fully complied with all EC obligations both in terms of the number of aircraft involved and their leasing terms.

It claimed that all the aircraft covered by the EU derogation decision were offered for sale to LaudaMotion by Lufthansa but that LaudaMotion had rejected this offer, preferring instead to lease the aircraft. It then countered that it was not Lufthansa that was in default on its leasing dues, but rather LaudaMotion that had recently failed – repeatedly – to meet its contractually-agreed to 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," it said.

A LaudaMotion spokesman has since commented to Austrian Aviation Net that it has initiated legal proceedings against Lufthansa over its lease termination. The case will shortly be heard under English law.

"Our lawyers are taking care of this and have initiated a lawsuit against Lufthansa's termination, which will be heard at a hearing in England this week, and a restraining order has been issued," LaudaMotion chief executive Andreas Gruber said. "In addition to the clarification in court, this is also a competition law issue, so we have also filed a complaint with the EU Competition Commission."