Ryanair has seen another win in its fight against EU government’s bailing out their national airlines, while the carrier itself faces a competition watchdog probe for its policies on refunds during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Ryanair won its challenge against the European Commission’s decision to approve a German €550 million state-guaranteed loan to local charter airline Condor.
The Luxembourg General Court officially annulled the EU’s decision, citing “inadequate statement of reasons”, however did not require the company to repay the aid currently, pending a new decision by the European Commission.
It marks the third win for the budget airline behemoth, as it continues to legally challenge a slew of EU decisions to approve state aid to airlines, which Ryanair argues is not only illegal, but goes against the very principle of the EU single market.
“If Europe is to emerge from this crisis with a functioning single market, airlines must be allowed to compete on a level playing field,” Ryanair said.
“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.”
Ironically, at the same time, Ryanair is currently under investigation by the UK competition watchdog, along with rival British Airways, for their customer refund policies amid the COVID pandemic.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced, also on Wednesday, that it was launching an investigation into whether the two airlines had broken consumer laws by refusing to offer refunds to customers who had to cancel their tickets over changing travel restrictions.
Instead, British Airways only offered customers a refund in the form of travel credit, or the ability to re-book to a future flight, while Ryanair only provided the option of re-booking.
The CMA said it is concerned that by failing to offer people their money back when they are no longer legally allowed to take that flight, both airlines may have breached consumer law.
The competition watchdog is now seeking to resolve its concerns directly with the airlines, which could include seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected customers.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said, “While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.
“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”
In response to the announcement, Ryanair said it welcomed the probe.
“Ryanair has approached such refund requests on a case by case basis and has paid refunds in justified cases,” it said.
“Since June 2020, all our customers have also had the ability to rebook their flights without paying a change fee and millions of our UK customers have availed of this option.”