Ryanair says France helps Air France cheat

12th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

DUBLIN, May 11, 2006 (AFP) - Irish low-cost airline Ryanair said on Thursday it had filed a complaint with the EU competition watchdog over alleged illegal aid of EUR 1 billion given to Air France by the French government.

DUBLIN, May 11, 2006 (AFP) - Irish low-cost airline Ryanair said on Thursday it had filed a complaint with the EU competition watchdog over alleged illegal aid of EUR 1 billion given to Air France by the French government.

The Dublin-based airline said that Air France benefited from an unfair system for calculating airport taxes, which resulted in charges 50 percent lower on domestic flights than on international routes out of France.

"These substantially lower charges on domestic French routes, on which Air France has an almost complete monopoly, have allowed them to make super profits on domestic routes and use this state aid to cross subsidise their international routes," said Ryanair's head of regulatory affairs, Jim Callaghan.

Air France denounced the statement by Ryanair as "a publicity show".

"Equality of treatment for airlines on French territory is total. All airlines operating on French territory, including low-costs, pay the same level of tax as Air France," a spokeswoman for the company told AFP.

Ryanair alleges that the "French government has maintained an airport charging system whereby landing and passenger charges for domestic routes are often up to 50 percent lower than on routes between France and other EU member states".

Ryanair has notified the European Commission, the EU competition watchdog with responsibility for vetting state aid given to companies by EU governments, the company said.

"Ryanair have called on the European Commission to require the French government to regularise their charging system and to force Air France to repay this illegal state aid," Ryanair said, estimating that the aid amounted to EUR 1 billion.

Ryanair was itself the target of an EU decision in 2004 which required the Walloon regional government in Belgium to recover illegal state aid given to the Irish company.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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