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Ryanair cops another loss in battle against EU airline bailouts

written by Hannah Dowling | April 16, 2021

A Ryanair plane touches down at Dublin (Source: Ryanair)

Ryanair has officially lost its ongoing battle against a number of European Union nation-states bailing out their national airlines.

The giant European budget airline has legally challenged the European Commission’s decision to approve a number of states to financially bail out major national airlines in the bloc, namely Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

The European Court of Justice has now officially ruled against Ryanair’s challenges, and cleared Sweden and Denmark to provide financial aid to SAS, and Finland to do the same for Finnair.

The court ruled that the provision of a €600 million loan by Finland to Finnair was “necessary” in light of the significant role the airline plays in the national economy.

In a separate ruling, the EU court ruled that state aid provided to SAS by Sweden and Denmark, “given that SAS’s market share is much higher than that of its closest competitor in those two member states, the aid does not amount to unlawful discrimination”.

The court argued that these measures “comply with EU law”.

Despite the decision, Ryanair, the largest European airline by passenger numbers, said it will appeal the court’s ruling, and continue to challenge aid provisions approved for Lufthansa, KLM and airBaltic.


Ryanair has long rallied against national carrier bailouts by major nation-states in the bloc, and has argued that the notion goes against the very principle of the EU single market.

The budget carrier has estimated that Brussels has thus far approved pandemic-related state aid to the tune of €30 billion.

“Today’s judgments set the process of liberalisation in air transport back by 30 years by allowing Finland, Denmark and Sweden to give their national flag carriers a leg up over more efficient competitors, based purely on nationality,” Ryanair said in a statement, adding its intentions to appeal the decisions.

“If Europe is to emerge from this crisis with a functioning single market, airlines must be allowed to compete on a level playing field.

“Undistorted competition can weed out inefficiency and benefit consumers through low fares and choice. Subsidies, on the other hand, encourage inefficiency and will harm consumers for decades to come.”

In total, Ryanair has filed 16 cases to date to challenge the EU’s state aid rules with the European Court of Justice. The budget carrier has lost four of these cases so far.


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