Commission probes Ryanair deal with French airport

EU competition regulators are investigating whether marketing support and airport charges deals between Ryanair and operators at France’s Carcassonne airport gave the low-cost carrier an unfair advantage in breach of EU rules.

The European Commission opened an investigation into the issue yesterday, saying it would check to see if a private investor would have been able to contract such deals.

“The commission has concerns that such arrangements could give the airline, sole commercial user of the airport, an undue economic advantage that its competitors do not enjoy,” it said.

Located in the south of France, Carcassonne airport is owned by the Languedoc- Roussillon region, and was operated by the local chamber of commerce until May 2011, when Veolia Transport took over operation.

The commission said it was also investigating subsidies granted to the chamber of commerce between 2000 and 2010 and other support to see if this had breached EU state aid rules.

The commission has, in recent months, opened investigations into various arrangements between Ryanair and airports in Germany and Austria.

It is also scrutinising similar deals between airport operators and other budget airlines across the EU.

Yesterday, Ryanair announced that its March load factor was 78%, down one percentage point from a year ago. It said March passenger traffic was down 4% against a year ago to 5.5m. The airline said passenger traffic declined due to the winter grounding of 80 aircraft.

* Reuters

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