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Ryanair loses legal bid to block government bailouts of rival European airlines

Ryanair says it will appeal the decision to the highest EU court.

Image: Sam Boal

RYANAIR HAS LOST two European legal actions, aimed at halting massive public bailouts of rival companies such as Air France and SAS.

The low-cost carrier has pursued a legal campaign across Europe to stop bailout deals for the bloc’s legacy airlines, arguing the state aid gives them an unfair advantage.

Ryanair has filed some 16 lawsuits against the European Commission and various airlines over state aid grants by European governments.

In court filings, the budget airline accused the Commission of failing to enforce EU competition laws by allowing member states to grant aid only to airlines with EU operating licences issued by their countries.

This morning, in its first rulings on Ryanair’s complaints, the General Court of the EU found that the French and Swedish bailout schemes were appropriate.

The ruling relates to two cases taken by Ryanair: one involving a tax delay for Air France and other French airlines, and another that offers loan guarantees for Sweden’s airlines, mainly SAS.

Since the start of the pandemic, Air France-KLM has received roughly €13 billion in support from the French and Dutch governments. The governments of Sweden and Denmark have bailed out carrier SAS to the tune of €1 billion.

In a statement this morning, the Luxembourg-based court said the Swedish scheme is “appropriate to remedy the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination”.

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In the Air France case, the General Court found that the tax deferral granted by the French government was “consistent with EU law”, rejecting Ryanair’s plea that the European Commission “committed a manifest error” in it assessment of the value of the scheme.

Ryanair has said that it will now appeal today’s decision to the highest court in the European Union.

The airline said it hopes that the Court of Justice will overturn the decision, “to give airlines and consumers a glimmer of hope that national politicians obsessed with their flag carriers will be sent back to the drawing board”.

— Additional reporting by AFP 

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