4 February 2004
BRUSSELS – Cut-price Irish airline Ryanair will not abandon Belgium’s Charleroi airport, at least for the time being, company boss Michael O’Leary has said.
O’Leary said Ryanair does not plan to end operations at Charleroi for the time being. He did however hint that the company might cut some routes out of the south Belgian airport.
O’Leary made the comments after the European Commission on Tuesday ordered Ryanair to pay back part of a multi-million euro handout it had received from the Belgian authorities to encourage it to develop its activities at Charleroi.
The Commission says the disputed money was illegal ‘state aid’ because the Belgians did not offer other airlines similar incentives to use Charleroi.
But O’Leary yesterday rubbished the Commission’s arguments, branding them “bizarre”. He said he will appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg to have the ruling overturned.
Until the forthcoming lawsuit is over, the Ryanair chief added that his company will not take any rash decisions about Charleroi.
“We are not rushing into anything,” he told journalists on Tuesday.
Belgium’s French speaking Walloon government, which along with Charleroi airport itself made the payment to Ryanair, said it too would challenge the Commission’s ruling at the ECJ.
For its part, the Brussels-based Assembly of European Regions, which represents regional authorities across Europe, said the Commission’s decision would be felt far beyond Charleroi. The AER said the ruling would threaten many regions’ “long term investments and their sustainable economic development”.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news