EU Court Rejects Ryanair's Appeals Against COVID Aid for Air France and SAS

The European Union's top court has dismissed appeals by Ryanair against state aid granted to rivals Air France and Swedish carrier SAS. The Luxembourg-based General Court ruled that EU rules were not violated when the airlines received bailouts. Ryanair had argued that the aid was unfair and had pledged to appeal against the decision at the EU Court of Justice. The airline criticized a French scheme that allowed airlines to defer paying some taxes and a Swedish loan guarantee scheme. Ryanair has filed 16 lawsuits against the European Commission over bailout packages and government help that benefited rivals including Dutch carrier KLM and Germany's Lufthansa.


However, the court stated that the French aid scheme was appropriate for remedying the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and did not constitute discrimination. Regarding the Swedish scheme, the court said the aid was "presumed to have been adopted in the interest of the European Union". Ryanair had taken issue with the European Commission for clearing a French scheme allowing airlines to defer certain aeronautical taxes and Sweden’s loan guarantee scheme for airlines. Both schemes benefited their flag carriers.


Ryanair has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the European Commission and various airlines over state aid grants by European governments. However, the Luxembourg-based general court ruled that state bailouts awarded by the French and Swedish governments – and approved by the European Commission – were in line with the bloc’s rules.

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Europe’s biggest budget carrier said it would appeal the rulings at the EU’s top court, arguing that the French and Swedish programs mainly benefited Air France-KLM and SAS AB and unfairly discriminated against other European carriers. Despite the setback, Ryanair remains committed to challenging what it sees as unfair state aid to its rivals. The airline's CEO, Michael O'Leary, has previously stated that airlines should rely on their reserves and shareholder bailouts if they are to survive.

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