Image: Ryanair

Ryanair said it has welcomed the EU General Court’s rulings on discriminatory State aid favouring Lufthansa and SAS over other EU airlines.

The German government granted a blockbuster €6bn recapitalisation aid package to Lufthansa, while the Swedish and Danish governments recapitalised SAS to the tune of €1bn.

While the Covid-19 crisis caused serious damage to all airlines, many national governments, including Germany, Sweden and Denmark, rushed through discriminatory subsidy schemes for their former flag carriers, ignoring other airlines that contribute to the economy and the connectivity of the European Union. Ryanair appealed the European Commission’s approval of these illegal subsidies to the EU General Court in 2021.

The EU General Court found the European Commission made a number of egregious errors in its approval of the aid to Lufthansa, including ignoring Lufthansa’s dominance in Germany, and failing to assess whether Lufthansa could have obtained financing on the markets instead of obtaining distortive State aid from the German government. In the SAS judgment, the General Court found that the recapitalisation measure lacked conditions incentivising swift exit of the governments. Today’s judgments 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 with deep pockets.

Single market

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 German recapitalisation aid to Lufthansa and the Swedish and Danish recapitalisation aid to SAS went against the fundamental principles of EU law. Today’s judgments confirm 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.”

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