Germany's federal court of justice has cleared Lufthansa and Air Berlin to sue the airports of Frankfurt Hahn and Lübeck for allegedly granting Ryanair subsidies in the form of lower airport charges.
Lufthansa has taken legal action against Frankfurt Hahn airport in the past, claiming that the government-owned hub allowed Ryanair preferential conditions, including "marketing support" which it alleged constituted illegal state-aid.
Air Berlin has pursued a similar, parallel case against Lübeck airport.
However, lower courts in the airports' respective regions previously rejected the two cases. These courts argued that the airports would not have been able to grant subsidies without consent from the European Commission and that it was therefore unnecessary to verify any undue support for Ryanair.
The federal court has now decided that Lufthansa and Air Berlin have the right to sue Frankfurt Hahn and Lübeck airports. It argues that the objective of the European Union rule is not only to prohibit illegal state aid but also to protect those who may be affected by market distortions due to such subsidies.
Ryanair has never sought nor received subsidies from airports, the airline says in a statement. It adds that the allegations had no foundation and the courts had "thus far" not been able to determine any subsidies.
The lower, regional courts now have to verify whether the conditions given to the budget carrier constitute illegal state-aid.
Ryanair does not receive any better conditions than other carriers at Frankfurt Hahn and Lübeck airports, says a Ryanair spokesman. He adds that Lufthansa and Air Berlin would be able to achieve the same conditions if they were to operate from those airports.