Ryanair Loses EU Bailout Challenge

Photo via Ryanair, Piotr Mitelski

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Ryanair — the Irish airline famous for its baggage fees and charging customers to print a boarding pass — is waging a war against handouts for the competition.

The discount airline has filed 16 lawsuits in EU courts challenging state aid given to rival airlines during the pandemic. So far, they haven’t been blessed with the luck of the Irish.


According to Ryanair estimates, competing airlines have been given unfair state aid to the tune of $36 billion since last March.

While Ryanair itself has accessed £600 million of liquidity from UK’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, it asserts that handouts available only to “flag carrying” carriers (those owned by or supported by sovereign states) distorts competition.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary described his view colorfully, “These are the crack-cocaine junkies of the state-aid world because their first instinct is to always go to the government for state aid. We believe that any state aid in this crisis should be transparent and provided to everybody.”

The Outcome: Yesterday the EU’s lower General Court ruled against Ryanair in two early cases. In reference to the case against France’s Air France-KLM, the court said, “this aid scheme is appropriate to remedy the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination.”

the takeaway

Ryanair immediately said it would challenge the ruling in court and has also filed to unwind bailouts in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal. So much for the friendly skies.