MIAMI – Ryanair’s (FR) O’Leary is again up against the EU Commission on aid granted to airlines as relief amid the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Business Travel and the French financial newspaper Les Echo, FR has filed a number of legal actions – at least a dozen according to the former outlet – attacking the legality of European aid to several ailing European airlines.

Ryanair grievances concern, besides direct state aid, the indirect aid consisting in deferred payments of civil aviation taxes, which normally feeds the Civil Aviation budget, solidarity tax used to fight epidemics in poor countries as well as Eurocontrol fees destined to finance the European air traffic control.

Air France Airbus A318-100 – Photo Roberto Leiro/Airways

Where’s the Catch?

These deferred payment measures have allowed large savings for the airlines concerned and in particular for Air France (AF).

But here is the catch. The measures, in France, are applied only to carriers that hold a national license, meaning it excludes all others.

This does not sit well with FR’s CEO. The decision has brought about some teeth grinding by the more than 70 foreign airlines operating in France and legal action by FR on the ground of discriminatory practice.

Photo : Court of Justice of the European union

A Matter of Worst Impacted

For the time being, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has followed the recommendation issued by the EU Commission and rejected the case, stating that a deferred payment of one year was in line with the measures taken to fight the highly negative outcome of the ongoing crisis.

The fact that the measure was for “French only” airlines was dismissed. The EU Commission considers that French airlines have been more impacted than others by travel restrictions imposed by the government.

Ryanair has already announced its intention to bring the case to an appeals court.

Featured image: Marco Macca/Airways