On Wednesday, Ryanair lost its first round of legal battle against COVID-specific government bailouts of state-owned airlines Air France and SAS. The airline announced immediately that it would appeal the European Union’s General Court ruling. The Irish low-cost carrier said it will now bring the matter of what it calls discriminatory state-aid to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Bailouts at ‘the expense of fair competition’
On this occasion, Ryanair has taken particular issue with a French airport tax deferral scheme applicable only to airlines registered in France. The airline is also displeased, to say the least, with the Swedish government’s aid scheme. To benefit from the scheme, airlines also needed to be registered in Sweden.
As always, Ryanair did not hold back in its criticism of government COVID-specific state-aid to national airlines. Nor did it mince words about the European Commission’s handling of the matter, which the carrier said was ‘caving in’ to national governments’ inefficient bailout policies.
A spokesperson for Ryanair shared the following in a statement seen by Simple Flying,
“We hope that the Court of Justice will overturn the European Commission’s approvals of the French and Swedish schemes, 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 and required to use State aid wisely to assist the recovery of traffic in the post-Covid world instead of bailing out their favoured airline at the expense of fair competition and consumers.”
Not discriminatory, court rules
Irish budget-carrier Ryanair has contested several instances of state-support favoring national airlines. The airline claims that they go against the EU’s single market for air transport and excludes other airlines also contributing to connectivity, jobs, and the wider economy in those countries.
However, on Wednesday, the Luxembourg-based EU General Court ruled that the state bailouts granted by the Swedish and French governments, and approved by the Commission, did not contradict EU regulations.
Referring to the French scheme, the Court said it was ‘appropriate for making good the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic’ and did not constitute discrimination. The scheme facilitated by the Swedish government was presumed to have been ‘adopted in the interest of the European Union.’
Sixteen lawsuits against the Commission
Ryanair has filed a total of 16 lawsuits against the European Commission for allowing over €30 billion ($36.1 billion) in government-supported loans or grants since the beginning of the pandemic. More than Air France and SAS, it has had issues with what it calls discriminatory aid for Lufthansa, Finnair, KLM, and TAP Air Portugal.
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Late last month, the airline filed documents against German state-aid for flag-carrier Lufthansa. If the ruling of the General Court when it comes to the French and Swedish cases is anything to go by, it may not come to much.
What do you think, will Ryanair’s other cases go the same way? Is there any point in appealing or would energies be better spent elsewhere? Tell us in the comments.