Ryanair ordered to repay subsidy

Ryanair has been ordered to repay €500,000 to a small German airport because it was an illegal state subsidy, according to the European Commission.

However, it was found to be entitled to whatever breaks it received from four other airports, including Belgium’s Charleroi, bringing to an end a 14-year long battle.

Ryanair has said it will appeal the decision on Zweibrucken airport in Germany because it operated there for a short time, carrying only 50,000 passengers. It is also appealing an order received earlier this year to repay close to €10m to three French airports.

The decisions were made under new rules that take much greater account of the size of the airport and its contribution to the local economy.

Two other airlines that use Zweibrucken airport were also ordered to repay subsidies. They were €1.2m for GermanWings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, and €200,000 for TUiFly. The airport itself was ordered to repay €47m.

It opened in around 2000 in opposition to Saarbrucken airport that had been in business for decades and was just 40km by road and 20km by air. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said they were duplicating services and described the subsidies as “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Ryanair could be affected by two other decisions made by the Commission — one finding Charleroi benefited from lower fees payable to the region and was ordered to repay €6m and increase the amount it pays in the future. The higher costs could be passed onto the carriers at the airport, of which Ryanair is the largest.

The second one involved Brussels National Airport which Ryanair has just begun to fly out of having said in the past its fees were too high. The Commission is opening an investigation into an annual subsidy it has been granted of €9m for the three years up to and including 2015. The money was passed on mainly to Brussels Air.

Ryanair’s director of legal and regulatory affairs, Juliusz Komorek, said: “Today’s decisions confirm that Ryanair’s airport agreements at Charleroi, Hahn, Alghero and Vasteras airports comply with the Market Economy Investor Principle and involve no State aid.”

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