Ryanair has secured its first favourable judgement in its ongoing campaign to overturn Covid-19 bailouts to airlines. The airline has welcomed the EU General Court’s decision that EU regulators hadn’t properly determined whether bailouts to Air France-KLM and TAP were justified.
The EU’s second-highest tribunal today (May 19) criticised the European Commission’s approval process of whether assistance given, respectively, by the Dutch and Portuguese governments to the two airlines was legitimate.
However, the court suspended the effects of the rulings – including the possible repayment of the aid, which amounts to €3.4 billion for Air France-KLM and €1.2 billion for TAP – until the regulator has re-examined both cases.
Ryanair greeted the decision by re-asserting that the “European Commission’s approvals of State aid to Air France-KLM and TAP went against the fundamental principles of EU law and reversed the clock on the process of liberalisation in air transport by rewarding inefficiency and encouraging unfair competition.”
It also described as “discriminatory” the granting of state aid to airlines during the pandemic and warned that unless it was halted, “this State aid spree will distort the market for decades to come.”
Not All Good News for Ryanair
Ryanair didn’t have it all their way, however, In a separate challenge, the Court rejected Ryanair’s assertion that a €10 billion Spanish fund used to bail out companies affected by the pandemic was in contravention of EU law, despite being approved by the European Commission.
To date, Ryanair has filed more than two dozen challenges to EU-sanctioned state aid packages. It has lost five of those challenges so far.