Ryanair makes formal EU complaint

Olympic Airways and other major european carriers are being accused of running their operations with illegal government subsidies.

Fri, 10 Aug 2007

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has made a formal complaint to the European Commission accusing it of failing to act on what Ryanair claims is illegal state aid to rival airlines, an EU spokesperson said on Friday.

The Irish group has sent complaints to the EU’s executive arm, received this week, concerning alleged state aid to French and German carriers Air France and Lufthansa, commission spokesperson Martin Selmayr told AFP.

Last month Ryanair said it was unsatisfied with the commission’s lack of action in the cases of Air France and Lufthansa, as well as Italian group Alitalia and Greece’s Olympic Airways.

It submitted the cases to the EU competition watchdog over a year ago for action.

“These complaints involved hundreds of millions of euros in illegal state aids being granted by the French, German, Italian and Greek governments to subsidise their flag carrier airlines,” Ryanair had said at the time.

Selmayr said that no notification of formal complaint had yet been received in the cases of the Italian and Greek airlines and stressed that the commission was confident it was right in not intervening in these cases.

“We have indeed received notification of the formal complaints by Ryanair and we are now looking into these,” the commission spokesperson said. “However we are very confident that the commission has taken the right decisions.

“The commission is well-known for tackling state aid with determination whenever there is a real case.”

The commission has two months to respond to the Irish airlines complaints and if Ryanair is still not satisfied the matter could end up in the European courts.

Ryanair’s head of regulatory affairs, Jim Callaghan, has accused the commission of a twin-track approach to state aid.

“On one hand, they refuse to take action against serious violations of the state aid rules by national governments to protect their flag carrier airlines … while at the same time they launch bogus investigations against small regional and secondary airports like Charleroi,” he said last month.

Ryanair has been found guilty of breaching competition rules over subsidies to land at the Belgian airport.

The European Commission and Ryanair are already headed for a dogfight in an EU court as regulators last month blocked the low-cost carrier’s takeover of Irish rival Aer Lingus.

The commission vetoed the takeover on the grounds that the merger of Ireland’s two biggest airlines would have given the combined carrier a crushing grip on 35 routes.


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