German authorities have rejected a claim by budget airline Ryanair of a "conspiracy" behind efforts to keep bankrupt rival Air Berlin afloat until a new owner is found.
The Irish airline lodged a complaint with European Union competition authorities after Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy protection and then received a €150m loan from the German government.
Ryanair said there was "an obvious conspiracy" between the German government, Lufthansa and Air Berlin.
The loan will help Air Berlin to keep flights running for the next three months, while it is negotiating a possible deal with Lufthansa and another unnamed carrier, reported by German media to be easyJet.
A spokeswoman for Germany's economy ministry said it was "absurd" to claim that the rescue package had been staged.
Beate Baron told reporters in Berlin that the government expects the loan to Germany's second-largest airline to be repaid.
Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after its main shareholder, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, said it would make no more financing available following years of unsuccessful turnaround attempts.
The airline, which carries some 80,000 people a day mostly on short-haul destinations, made a loss of about €782m last year.