France - Ireland

Air France files complaint against Ryanair

Ryanair can offer low prices because operating costs are low at the small regional airports that make up its network.
Ryanair can offer low prices because operating costs are low at the small regional airports that make up its network. AFP / Pascal Lachenaud

Air France has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Irish budget airline Ryanair, accusing Ryanair of attempting to win illegal subsidies in France. It is not the first time for Ryanair to be attacked for unfair business practices.

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Air France filed the complaint in late November 2009. It alleged Ryanair made the opening of new routes in France conditional on receiving financial incentives from local officials, which "was in direct violation of European regulations".

According to French daily Le Figaro, Air France claims that the Irish budget carrier received 660-million euros-worth of financial aid across Europe in 2008 in the form of reduced landing fees and airport taxes.

A Ryanair spokesperson rejected the claims, saying, "It's Air France that is getting illegal aid in terms of reduced airport taxes on its domestic routes in France."

Ryanair has been able to vastly expand its activities over recent years, carrying 65.3 million  passengers in 2009 alone. Its success stems from its business model: Ryanair has established a network of regional airports, where operating costs are very low.

Over the past few years, the European Commission has opened investigations on several occasions, following allegations that Ryanair was getting preferential treatment.

In 2008, however, Ryanair won a major victory, with a European anti-trust court overruling a Brussels decision that would have forced Ryanair to reimburse aid received from a regional airport in Belgium.

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