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Commission insists there's no ban on low-cost air travel after Ryanair claims

Ryanair clamed that the European Commission had a ban on use of low-cost airlines but the EC has strongly denied this. In response Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary accused the Commission of “lying”.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has rejected claims by Ryanair that its officials are banned from using low-cost airlines and said that last year 300 officials travelled on business trips with the Irish airline.

It followed a claim by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary that the Commission was discriminating against airlines such as his. Ryanair said yesterday that the Commission had a “ban on booking flights on low fares airlines or reimbursing travel expenses to/from Brussels Charleroi Airport.”

The airline released a letter from the Commission’s director for administration and payment which stated: “It is true that the terms of this contract do prevent Amex from booking tickets with low-cost airlines.”

The Commission has hit back in response to queries from TheJournal.ie but in response Ryanair accused the EC spokesperson of “lying”.

Antonio Gravili, a spokesperson for administrative affairs at the Commission, said in an email to TheJournal.ie:

Last year 300 EU officials travelled on business trips with Ryanair. It might have been more if Ryanair served Brussels, where the EU institutions are based. But it doesn’t, it serves Charleroi.

Our travel agency AMEX, (which does not have exclusivity), booked 1,696 tickets for the Commission with various low cost airlines. These are the facts.

Gravili went on to say that officials were not banned from using low-cost airlines adding that the mission guide for EU officials states that as the travel agency does not issue tickets for low-cost airlines, staff can claim expenses from bookings they make themselves.

He added that the reason that the principal travel agency Amex cannot book through Ryanair is because it does not allow bookings through the industry booking system Amadeus.

“It seems strange for an organisation to complain about an obstacle that they themselves created,” Gravili said, pointing out that EU officials also use low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, Veuling Airlines, Air Berlin, Spanair, Greenlandair.

In response, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary said in a statement this afternoon:

It is time that the Commission stopped lying about its – admitted – ban on flying low cost airlines. This ban has been confirmed by the Commission and its travel agent (AMEX) in writing, in what is yet another discrimination against Europe’s low fares airlines.

Since Antonio Gravili is able to release details of flights booked with Ryanair (just 300) and low cost airlines (just 1,686) last year by EU officials, he should now publish how many flights were booked on high fare airlines as well.

European Commission spokesperson Gravili added that sometimes booking through low-cost airlines was not ideal because of the “extremely limited flexibility” they offered but added that 80 per cent of all travel by EU officials is in economy class.

Gravili declined to comment on accusations that he was “lying” as O’Leary claimed.

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Hugh O'Connell

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