EU takes France to court over Ryanair aid

The EU referred France to the bloc's top court on Monday for failing to recover nearly €10 million in illegal state aid received by low-cost airlines Ryanair and Transavia.

EU takes France to court over Ryanair aid
Brussels has demanded millions of euros from Ryanair over the use of several airports in France. Photo: AFP
Ireland-based Ryanair and Dutch carrier Transavia received the money from the French government in return for basing operations at several French regional airports.
The European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, ordered Paris in July 2014 to get the money back, saying it had given the companies an unfair advantage over competitors.
“The European Commission has referred France to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover incompatible aid received by Ryanair and its subsidiary Airport Marketing Services (AMS) for using Pau, Nimes and Angouleme airports, as well as Transavia for using Pau airport,” it said in a statement.
Brussels has demanded €6.3 million from Ryanair over the use of Nimes airport in southern France, €2.4 million from Ryanair and €420,000 from Transavia in relation to Pau Pyrenees airport, and €870,000 for Angouleme in central France.
It said rebates and marketing arrangements meant the airlines paid less than they should have for using the airports.
Ryanair had appealed against the recovery orders made by the French government, effectively blocking the EU action in French national courts, the Commission said.
“In order to ensure its state aid decisions are fully implemented the Commission has therefore decided to refer France to the European Court of Justice,” it said.
Last year Ryanair, which pioneered low-cost, no-frills air travel in Europe, said it had ceased operations at Pau Pyrenees in 2011 and at Angouleme in 2009.

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Ryanair demands that Air France give up French airport slots in exchange for state aid

Budget airline Ryanair urged on Wednesday that Air France be forced to give up lucrative French airport slots if it receives more state aid.

Ryanair demands that Air France give up French airport slots in exchange for state aid
Could Air France be forced to give up airport slots if it accepts more aid from the French state? Photo: AFP

Paris is in talks with European Union officials on the delicate issue of state aid to the French flagship carrier, which has already received substantial help from the government.

“Should yet another enormous and illegal state aid bailout occur, then effective remedies must be applied to ensure fair competition in the French market and to protect the interests of the French consumer / visitor,” a Ryanair statement said.

The low-cost airline is based in Ireland and regularly underscores the amount of money being allocated to keep struggling rivals in the air.

In exchange for more aid, Air France must be prepared to give up “a substantial number of its take-off and landing slots at key French airports including Paris Charles De Gaulle, Paris Orly and Lyon,” Ryanair argued.

French officials and the European Commission are currently discussing the terms of a further recapitalisation of the Air France-KLM group, which has suffered from the Covid-19 crisis.

EU officials have already indicated that in exchange for their approval, Air France should give up coveted slots at Paris' Orly airport, which is essentially saturated now.

Air France on the other hand has indicated that such a move posed a serious threat because it was counting on Orly operations to help it rebound from the crisis.

French officials want to avoid putting Air France, which was struggling even before the pandemic, at a competitive disadvantage.

Ryanair urged EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to “stand firm in her discussions with the French government.

“Either Air France gets no state aid or proper remedies should be put in place to ensure a fair and level playing field for all airlines,” it insisted.