Ryanair today (24 May) welcomed the EU General Court’s ruling on discriminatory State aid favouring Italian airlines over other EU airlines.
The Italian government granted a €130m aid package only to airlines holding an operating licence issued by Italy.
While the Covid-19 crisis caused serious damage to all airlines, many national governments, including Italy, rushed through discriminatory subsidy schemes limited to their own former flag carriers, ignoring other airlines that contribute to the economy and the connectivity of the European Union.
Ryanair is Italy’s largest airline yet was excluded by the Italian government from these schemes. Ryanair appealed the European Commission’s approval of these illegal subsidies to the EU General Court in 2021.
Today’s judgment, following on from the EU General Court’s recent annulments of the European Commission’s illegal clearances of a blockbuster €6bn aid package to Lufthansa and €1bn to SAS, are a victory for the EU internal market and are damning of the European Commission’s head-in-the-sand approach to massive and discriminatory bailouts of ailing flag carriers by EU Member States.
Ryanair’s spokesperson said: “One of the EU’s greatest achievements is the creation of a single market for air transport.
“The European Commission’s approval of the aid scheme limited to airlines with an operating licence issued by the Italian State went against the fundamental principles of EU law.
“Today’s judgment confirms that the Commission must act as a guardian of the level playing field in air transport and cannot sign-off discriminatory State aid under political pressure by national governments.
“The Court’s intervention is a triumph for fair competition and consumers across the EU.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic over €40bn in discriminatory State subsidies has been gifted to EU flag carriers.
“Unless halted by the EU Courts in line with today’s ruling, this State aid spree will distort the market for decades to come.
“Europe’s emergence from the Covid-19 crisis with a functioning single market depends on airlines being allowed to compete on a level playing field.
“Undistorted competition eliminates inefficiency and benefits consumers through low fares and choice.
“Unjustified subsidies, on the other hand, encourage ineffectiveness and will harm consumers for decades to come”.